In a new series, Variety meets the directors of the films shortlisted for the International Feature Film Oscar to discuss their journey to the awards, what they’ve learned so far and what caught them off guard.
Paolo Sorrentinowho won an international Oscar for ‘The Great Beauty’ in 2014, is back in contention with the autobiographical film ” God’s hand “, which marks the director’s return to cinema in his native Naples 20 years after his debut, “One Man Up”.
This netflix The original Italian film is the story of a clumsy child named Fabietto who begins to have a passion for cinema in the tumultuous Naples of the late 1980s. Sorrentino put it on, “It’s a story of destiny and family, of sport and cinema, of love and loss.”
What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film, having already won this award once?
It is a great honor and a great responsibility to represent my country again. To be a candidate for the second time fills me with joy because it means that the first time was not just a stroke of luck. This second candidacy indicates a continuity in my work and a level that is worthy to say the least.
What has been the most difficult aspect of your campaign so far?
The Oscar campaign is very stimulating and fun. But at the same time, it’s tiring and a lot of work. You travel a lot and change places very quickly. The most complicated part this year unfortunately has to do with the limitations due to the pandemic.
I believe you went to the United States to support your film. How was it?
Good. The film is well received. It arouses curiosity and emotions. And people laugh, which was one of my simple goals.
Although you are shortlisted in the international features category, the best image category has always been devoid of non-English language features. “Parasite” (2019) was the first winner in history. Do you feel that international films are siloed in American media and film criticism?
The Oscars are an award that was born and developed in the United States. So I think it’s only natural that most of the attention goes to English language films. But of course, not being American, I hope that phenomena like “Parasite” can happen again. Anyway, I think there’s a lot of interest from American industry and film critics in foreign films.
Are there ways to improve this process as it relates to awards season?
Frankly, I don’t know what to answer. This is a question that should be addressed to the rewards managers. I’m just trying to make a good movie.
When trying to get Western ‘consumer’ audiences to watch an international feature film, the focus seems to be on the length of a film. In other words, critics often criticize “foreign” films for being too long. But when something like “Avengers: Endgame” is three hours long, Marvel fans are thrilled and say it could last longer if they wanted to. Do you find that fair?
I can only speak from my personal experience. “La Grande Beauté” lasted two hours and twenty minutes, but I never received any criticism regarding its length. “The Hand of God” is two hours and ten minutes long, and even then I haven’t heard any particular complaints about the length of the film. A film has its necessity, its rhythm, its breadth and its length which reflect these needs. If a film is well done, it can be very long and satisfy anyone.
You represent your country to a US awards body (although there are international voters). How do you feel about being this representative?
It is an honor, but also a burden. You never feel quite up to representing an entire country.
Were there any aspects of “The Hand of God” to which critics and audiences in Italy and the United States reacted differently?
Generally speaking, no. However, sometimes certain characters that seem realistic to us Italians can seem unreal or grotesque to foreigners. But this is quite normal, each of us only has a deep knowledge of our own culture.
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