Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God” kicked off its theatrical rollout with a gala event Tuesday evening in the director’s native Naples, the city to which he returned after 20 years to shoot his most personal film.
“I am as excited as I was at my wedding,” said Sorrentino ahead of the red carpet screening in the central Cinema Metropolitan attended by some 400 guests including Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini and players from the 1980s SSC Napoli soccer team, once led by late great champ Diego Maradona who, as the film reveals, involuntarily saved Sorrentino’s life.
Sorrentino underlined that he was particularly pleased, and also anxious, about the Naples premiere — which was followed by a reception at Naples’ Teatro San Carlo opera house — because “here the film can be understood in all its nuances; a test that is not easy to face.”
The city of Naples also took center stage in comments made by “Hand of God” actor Toni Servillo, who lashed out against French newspaper Le Figaro for allegedly describing the Southern Italian port city as being “Third World.”
“I would not be able to live anywhere else; I deeply love this third world,” said the actor, who has starred in six Sorrentino films, including his Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty” and the director’s Naples-set debut “One Man Up” in 2001, in which Servillo played a cocaine-addled club singer.
In “The Hand of God,” the 62-year-old actor plays the father of a goofy kid named Fabietto, Sorrentino’s alter-ego, who starts harboring a passion for filmmaking in the tumultuous Naples of the late 1980s.
The autobiographical drama, produced by Fremantle’s Italian outfit The Apartment for Netflix, debuted at Venice, where it won the Grand Jury Prize as well as an acting award for 21-year-old lead Filippo Scotti, who plays Fabietto.
“The Hand of God,” which is Italy’s contender for best international feature film at the upcoming Oscars, will be going out on 250 Italian screens on Nov. 24, released by Netflix, followed by limited theatrical releases in the U.S., U.K. and several other still unspecified global territories on Dec. 3. The movie will launch on the platform on Dec. 15.