Oscars: Italy Selects 'Dogman' for Foreign-Language Category

Lead Marcello Fonte picked up the best actor award in Cannes for the film, which also swept Italy's Silver Ribbon awards.

Italy has chosen Matteo Garrone’s Dogman as its submission for the 2019 best foreign-language Oscar.

The film, which debuted in Cannes to rave reviews, is a modern fairy tale set in the Camorrah-ridden Castel Volturno outside Naples, about a friendly dog groomer (Marcello Fonte) who goes to hell and back after being lured into crime by village terror Simone (Edoardo Pesce).

Fonte picked up the best actor award in Cannes. The film subsequently swept Italy’s Silver Ribbon awards, winning best picture, best director, best producer (Garrone along with Paolo Del Brocco for Archimedes and Rai Cinema), best set design, best sound, best editing, best casting and best leading actors for Marcello Fonte and Edoardo Pesce. 

The Hollywood Reporter called the film a "perfected version" of Garrone’s previous work, culminating in an “expressive finale that shows the impossibility of ridding the world of the devil.” The raw set design and cinematography recall the best of Italy’s neorealist works, and the director seamlessly blends comedy into the horrific in his quest to uncover what draws a good man to evil.

It was chosen by a selection committee set up by ANICA from a long list of 21 submissions, beating out films including Happy as Lazzaro by Alice Rohrwacher, The Place by Paolo Genovese, and On My Skin by Alessio Cremonini.

Local critics have voiced concern that Academy voters may be biased against the violence portrayed in Dogman after failing to nominate Garrone’s 2008 masterpiece Gomorrah, winner of the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes.

Gomorrah, which broke ground in portraying modern crime in Italy, paved the way for many more filmmakers to explore the hinterlands around Naples. It was nominated for a Golden Globe after sweeping several top European awards events. 

Last year Italy submitted Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra. In 2017, it submitted Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea, which ultimately earned a best documentary nomination.

Paolo Sorrentino last won the Oscar for best foreign-language film for Italy in 2014 with The Great Beauty. Surprisingly, Sorrentino’s latest film, Loro, his Silvio Berlusconi biopic, was not on the long list of entries this year.

Italy holds the record for most foreign-language film Oscar wins with 14 (including three honorary prizes) over 31 nominated movies.