Paolo Sorrentino won the Foreign Language Oscar, as it was known then, in 2014 with his film The Great Beauty. He returns to the frame this year with The Hand of God, perhaps his most personal picture, which is nominated for Best International Feature. This lightly fictionalized tale of Sorrentino’s own youth in Naples, as he grappled with family tragedy, celebrated Diego Maradona’s arrival at his local football team, and took his first steps into his love of cinema, stars newcomer Filippo Scotti as Fabi Schisa, a teenager struggling to find his place in the world.
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For Sorrentino, that love of cinema is important now more than ever. Joining Deadline’s Contenders Film: The Nominees event with Scotti, Sorrentino said that cinema was a universal, accessible language that needed to be preserved. “Cinema has this big power to connect people and let them feel more united,” he said. “Whatever the culture of the movie, there are elements people can recognize in all of the places of the world. Like feelings, fear, love, pain. And let’s not forget that cinema is a popular art. It’s not an art for the elite, it’s for everybody.”
The Hand of God won the Silver Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival, where it made its world premiere last summer. The film was made with Netflix, and Sorrentino praised streamers for helping make cinema more accessible. “Thanks to the platforms, cinema can arrive everywhere to everybody. Cinema has a big, big power, and that’s the reason why the people who make movies have a responsibility for what we say and what we think, and how we put it on the screen.”
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For Scotti, who leads the movie in almost every scene, playing a version of the young Sorrentino was a big responsibility. “I realized that I was the main character and I would have to hold all the weight of the movie on my shoulders,” he said. “But the first time I doubted myself, Paolo told me, ‘Don’t worry. Follow me and trust me and we’re going to do a great job together.’ “
Check out the panel video above.
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