Medusa enjoying Rome spotlight

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ROME --Films from Italian distributor Medusa -- owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- are becoming critics' picks at the RomaCinemaFest, with Giuseppe Tornatore's "La Sconosciuta" (The Unknown) attracting rave reviews Thursday.

Medusa brought three major titles to Rome after boycotting last month's Venice International Film Festival, reportedly because that festival did not select any Medusa films for competition.

In addition to "La Sconosciuta," other Medusa films attracting attention in Rome are Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" and psychological drama "Viaggio Segreto" (Secret Journey), from Roberto Ando. "The Departed" screened earlier in the festival. "Viaggio Segreto" premieres Friday.

Of the three films, only "Viaggio Segreto" is a candidate for the Rome event's Marcus Aurelius prize for best picture.

Tornatore usually shies away from festivals, but RomaCinemaFest organizers said the 50-year-old Sicilian decided to bring "La Sconosciuta" to Rome in a show of support for the event.

The local media praised the film more than any screened so far at the RomaCinemaFest, with La Repubblica exclaiming "Tornatore's Triumph!" and Il Messaggiero calling the film "a work of genius."

Buzz surrounding the film overshadowed the Thursday premieres of fellow Italian product "La Strada di Levi" (Primo Levi's Journey), from Davide Ferrario, and Pablo Trapero's Argentine drama "Nacido y Criado" (Born and Bred).

Meanwhile, Fredi Murer's Swiss film "Vitus," that country's entry in the Academy Awards foreign-language category, made its international debut Thursday to a packed house.

"La Sconosciuta" is Tornatore's first film since the Oscar-nominated "Malena." The director is best known for his 1989 classic "Cinema Paradiso."

According to distributor Adriana Chiesa, the film has been sold in seven territories: Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Japan, the Middle East, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The company said that deals for several other territories, including the U.S., Germany, Spain and Switzerland, were still being discussed.

The film is opening Friday in Italy amid a massive publicity campaign.
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