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Marco Bellocchio’s elegant mob drama “The Traitor,” about the first high-ranking member of Cosa Nostra to break the Sicilian Mafia’s oath of silence, was the big winner at Italy’s 65th David di Donatello Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Oscars.

“The Traitor” scored six statuettes including best picture, director, and actor honors. 

The prizes were announced – but not physically given out – during a no-frills ceremony conducted in primetime on pubcaster RAI by star host Carlo Conti in an empty studio with talents appearing in live web platform link-ups. The event served as a collective rebirth rite just when local coronavirus lockdown restrictions slowly begin to lift.

“My wish is for the Italian film community to start working again,” Bellocchio, who is a revered veteran auteur, said speaking from his home, before adding: “I’m 80, and I also hope to make a few more movies.” 

“The Traitor,” which Italy’s IBC Movie and Kavac Film produced with RAI Cinema and international partners, had a nice run at the Italian box office last year and was released by Sony stateside in January. The pic starring Pierfrancesco Favino as Tommaso Buscetta, who in 1984 decided to start cooperating with prosecutors after a war within Cosa Nostra caused the killing of members of his family, also won nods for best screenplay, editing and supporting actor.

The supporting actor category marked the evening’s greatest upset since Roberto Benigni was favored for his role as Geppetto in Matteo Garrone’s “Pinocchio” but lost out to Luigi Lo Cascio who in “The Traitor” plays Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore Contorno.

Benigni, however, easily won as the David ceremony’s funniest participant when he called this year’s event “The Covid di Donatello” before going on to urge the country’s film community to keep “the doors of dreams open.”

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella in a message read by Conti also expressed his solidarity with the country’s film industry, which employs roughly 200,000 Italians. Mattarella said he was confident it would find a creative impetus similar to the one that “generated Neorealism after the war.”

During the ceremony the roughly 4,000 movie theaters across Italy lit up their billboards in a flash-mob staged to signal their presence and intention to reopen as soon as possible.

The best actress David went to Jasmine Trinca for her role as a hardheaded single mom in “The Goddess of Fortune” by Ferzan Ozpetek. Trinca in her acceptance speech lamented the lack of strong female roles in current Italian cinema that was blatant at this year’s prizes.

First-time director honors went to Phaim Bhuiyan for “Bangla,” a Rome-set interracial romancer that’s travelled widely. Bhuiyan dedicated the prize to Italy’s “second generation” immigrants.

The best documentary David went to Agostino Ferrente’s “Selfie” in which two Italian guys growing up in Camorra-blighted Naples turn cellphone cameras on themselves. Oddly, unlike other directors, the winner in the documentary category was not considered worthy enough to get any speech time.

The previously announced best foreign film prize went to Korean helmer Bong Joon-ho for his multiple Oscar-winning “Parasite.”

The Davids also paid tribute to this year’s centennial of the births of late great auteur Federico Fellini and comic actor Alberto Sordi.

Veteran comic stage and screen actor Franca Valeri was awarded a Special David. She is known by Italians for a seven-decade career comprising many memorable roles in films by great directors such as Fellini, Mario Monicelli, and Dino Rosi, often playing in tandem with Sordi.

Here’s the complete list of David Awards winners:

PICTURE

“The Traitor,” Marco Bellocchio

DIRECTOR

Marco Bellocchio, “The Traitor”

DEBUT DIRECTOR

Phaim Bhuiyan, “Bangla”

SCREENPLAY

Ludovica Rampoldi, Marco Bellocchio, Valia Santella Francesco Piccolo, “The Traitor”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Maurizio Braucci, Pietro Marcello “Martin Eden”

PRODUCER

Matteo Rovere, Andrea Paris “Romolus & Remus: The First King”

ACTRESS

Jasmine Trinca “The Fortune Goddess”

ACTOR

Pierfrancesco Favino “The Traitor”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Valeria Golino, “5 is The Perfect Number”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Luigi Lo Cascio “The Traitor”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Daniele Ciprì, “Romolus & Remus: The First King”

EDITING

Francesca Calvelli, “The Traitor”

DOCUMENTARY

“Selfie,” Agostino Ferrente

SCORE

Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, “Il Flauto Magico di Piazza Vittorio”

ORIGINAL SONG

“Che Vita Meravigliosa,” Antonio Diodato “The Fortune Goddess”

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Dimitri Capuani, “Pinocchio”

COSTUME DESIGN

Massimo Cantini Parrini, “Pinocchio”

MAKEUP ARTIST

Dalia Colli, Mark Coulier, “Pinocchio”

HAIR ARTIST

Francesco Pegoretti, “Pinocchio”

DIGITAL EFFECTS

Theo Demiris, Rodolfo Migliari, “Pinocchio”

SOUND

Angelo Bonanni, Davide D’Onofrio, Mirko Perri, Mauro Eusepi, Michele Mazzucco, “Romolus & Remus: The First King”

AUDIENCE AWARD

“Il Primo Natale,” Salvo Ficarra, Valentino Picone

BEST FOREIGN FILM

“Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho

SPECIAL DAVID

Franca Valeri