Oscar winning director Giuseppe Tornatore's The Unknown (La Sconosciuta) will be the Italian candidate to the Oscars, in a reportedly tight race which gave eight votes to Tornatore's Northern Italian set noir, and seven to Daniele Luchetti's Certain Regard entry My Brother Isan Only Child (Mio fratello e' figlio unico).

The votes were cast seven times by 15 members of a selection committee from ANICA, Italy's motion pictures organisation in collaboration with API, the independent producers organisation before Tornatore's film received a majority of votes.

Gaetano Blandini, Italy's director of Cinema for the Culture Ministry - and on the selection committee himself - attributed the lengthy voting procedure was a 'mark of the strength of the films in competition.' Blandini also announced that $211,812 (Euros 150,000) would be made available towards film's Oscar campaign.

Tornatore's film also topped this year's David of Donatello awards -Italy's top film honours - securing prizes in five categories, including best film.

The other films up for consideration were Andrea Molaioli's The Girl by the Lake (La ragazza del lago), Rosso come il cielo by Cristiano Bortone, Saturno Contro by Ferzan Ozpetek, and Black Sun by Krzysztof Zanussi.

The 15-member selection committee included director Gianni Amelio, Dante Ferretti, Gabriella Pescucci, producer Lionello Cerri, distributor Andrea Occhipinti, and Gaetano Blandini, as well as critics, costumers and others industry professionals.

Tornatore last won the Foreign Oscar race in 1989 with Cinema Paradiso. The Unknown - which world premiered at the first edition of the Rome Film Festival last year was Tornatore's first film after a five-year hiatus.