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Italy has selected Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea as its submission for the 2017 best foreign-language Oscar race.
The documentary explores the migrant crisis from the island of Lampedusa, the first point of land for vessels arriving from Libya. The film is seen mainly through the eyes of a young boy from a fishing family and a local doctor who treats new arrivals. The film picked up the Berlin Golden Bear earlier this year.
Rosi said that his goal upon making the film was to draw attention to the crisis. “It’s not acceptable that people die crossing the sea to escape from tragedies,” he said when accepting his prize in Berlin.
Meryl Streep, as president of the Berlin jury, said the film is “deliberate storytelling that allows us to consider what documentary can do. It is urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking.”
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi even brought 27 DVDs of the film to a European Council migration summit in Brussels, with one dedicated to each of the European Union’s heads of states.
Kino Lorber is releasing the documentary in the U.S. It recently played in Telluride and Toronto and will play in New York Film Festival before opening in late October.
Rosi previously won the Venice Golden Lion for his documentary Sacro GRA, making him the only documentary filmmaker to win the top prizes at two major European festivals.
Over the course of Oscar history, 28 Italian films have been nominated for the best foreign-language award. With 14 wins, Italy holds more foreign-language Oscars than any other country. Federico Fellini won four, more than any other director. Paolo Sorrentino last won the honor for Italy in 2014 with The Great Beauty.
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