Italy names 'Baaria' as Oscar hopeful

Giuseppe Tornatore's epic coming-of-age story

ROME -- Giuseppe Tornatore's epic coming-of-age story "Baaria" has been selected as Italy's hopeful for a 2010 foreign-language Oscar nomination, the Italian cinema and audiovisual association Anica said Tuesday.

It is the fourth time Tornatore has had a film tapped for the honor by Anica. Three years ago, Anica selected Tornatore's "La sconosciuta" (The Unknown Woman) as Italy's hopeful, and in 1995 it selected "L'uomo delle stelle" (The Star Maker), though it was not chosen as a candidate by the Academy either time. But in 1990 his "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" won the foreign language honor.

"Baaria," the most expensive Italian film ever made, has already had a banner year, as the first Italian film in a generation to open the storied Venice Film Festival, where is screened in competition and won the coveted Pasinetti collateral prize.

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The film tells the story of three generations in Tornatore's hometown of Bagheria in Sicily (the town's name is pronounced "Baaria" in the local dialect).

Italy has won the foreign language prize ten times, more than any other country, and it has received 27 nominations, behind only France, which has 34 nominations to go along with nine wins). But the country has not produced a winner in more than a decade, since Roberto Benigni's "La Vita e Bella" (Life is Beautiful) took home the award in 1998.

The official nominations for the foreign language Oscar are scheduled to be released in January.