Italy has submitted Paolo Sorrentino’s Venice Grand Jury Prize winner The Hand of God to represent the country for the Oscars’ International Feature Film category. The selection marks a natural continuation on the lauded title’s trajectory. After debuting on the Lido, it went on to play at the Telluride and London film festivals, among others. The Netflix drama will release theatrically in Italy on November 24, followed by select cinemas in the rest of the world December 3 and will hit the streaming service December 15.
Sorrentino previously won the Oscar in this category with 2013’s The Great Beauty. This is the second time he will represent Italy, which has taken the top prize 11 times (and also received three honorary awards from 1947-1950).
Sorrentino’s most personal work to date, The Hand of God is the autobiographical story of the filmmaker’s own youth and the tragedy of losing his parents as a teenager. Set in 1980s Naples, the film centers on Fabietto Schisa (newcomer Filippo Scotti, who won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress in Venice). Fabietto is an awkward Italian teen whose life and vibrant, eccentric family are suddenly upended — first by the electrifying arrival of soccer legend Diego Maradona, and then by a shocking accident from which Maradona inadvertently saves Fabietto, setting his future in motion.
At Deadline’s Contenders Film: London event earlier this month, Sorrentino said, “For 20 years, I did a precise kind of movie and I was a little bit tired about that… When I turned 50, I thought it was the right moment to change everything, to change the producer, the crew, the tone, the style. Even the cinema can run the risk to be a routine.” He added, “I had this story I was scared to do because it’s very personal, but because it’s a painful story — even if there is a part of comedy — I thought it was a good idea to share my pain with a potential audience and see if that pain was only about me or also about other people.”
The decision to submit the film was made by the selection commission at Italy’s national cinema body ANICA. Included on the committee is Venice Film Fest chief Alberto Barbera.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on December 21 will announce its shortlist of 15 films that will advance to the next round for the International Feature race.
Here’s the latest list of Oscar International Feature submissions: