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Italy selects The First Beautiful Thing for Oscar race

Paolo Virzi’s bittersweet comedy The First Beautiful Thing (La Prima Cosa Bella) has been selected as Italy’s candidate to the foreign Oscar.

Set both in 1971 and in the present day, the film focuses on a young man played by Valerio Mastandrea returning home to say good-bye to his mother played by Stefania Sandrelli, a former beauty queen who is now dying of cancer.

Produced by Indiana Films (whose partners include Fabrizio Donvito, Marco Cohen, Benedetto Habib and Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino) with Motorino Amarante and Medusa, which also distributed, the film has taken a respectable local box office of $8.9 m (E 6.6 m) equaling 1.1 admissions –  landing it into the sixth slot among Italian films in the local box office chart this year while it has taken 17th place on the year’s over all standing to date.

Intramovies holds world sales to the film, which has been sold in Australia, New Zealand and the Latin American territories of Chile, Colombia, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina with advanced negotiations in place with Germany.

The film was nominated for 18 David of Donatello awards this year but took home only three statues in the screenplay category as well as best actor (Micaela Ramazotti) and best actor (Valerio Mastrandrea).

The First Beautiful Thing was one of ten candidates that made it to a final vote, decided Wednesday at Anica, the Italian motion pictures organization and knocked out such strong contenders as Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love, starring Tilde Swinton as a Russian accented Italian speaker and which has grossed close to $5m in the US via Magnolia Pictures and seen a slew of sales via The Works International, as well as Ferzan Ozpetek’s Fandango-produced comedy Loose Canons, also a box office draw this year and which took the audience prize at Tribeca – and finally the powerful holocaust drama The Man Who Will Come by Giorgio Diritti based on real events in the Italian village of Marzabotto and which took The International Rome Film Festival’s top audience prize in the last edition. All three films have also been sold to numerous international territories.

The selection committee is made up of Oscar winners Gabriele Salvatores and Dante Ferretti, critics Alberto Crespi, Roberto Escobar and Alessandra Levantesi, journalist Gloria Satta, producers Conchita Airoldi, Angelo Barbagallo, Aurelio De Laurentiis, Adriano De Micheli, Mario Gianani and Fulvio Lucisano, distributors Paolo Ferrari and Andrea Occhipinti as well as the Italian Culture Ministry’s director of cinema, Nicola Borrelli.

The Oscar nominations will be announced Jan 25 in Los Angeles.

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