Italy Sends Gianfranco Rosi’s ‘Fire at Sea’ to the Oscars

Fire at Sea
Films We Like

By Pat Mullen

Italy breaks with convention by sending Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) as its official submission in the Academy Awards race for Best Foreign Language Film. The Hollywood Reporter breaks the news that Rosi’s doc, which won the Golden Bear at Berlin earlier this year, is Italy’s selection to rep the country in the Oscar horse race. Italy is the top performer in the category with 14 wins, including the recent Oscar for Paolo Sorrentino’s Fellini-esque drama The Great Beauty in 2013.

Fire at Sea sees Rosi meditate upon the arduous journey that thousands of migrants fail to make as they try to find a new life in Italy. The film observes the waters off the shore of Lampedusa as Rosi offers a portrait of life that viewers might take for granted. The film features imagery that is startling, breathtaking, and challenging. (Read the POV review of Fire at Sea here.)

Documentary submissions in this category are rare, so Italy’s choice is quite the gamble. Recent doc contenders in the Best Foreign Language Film Race include Paraguay’s first-ever submission of Cloudy Times last year, Portugal’s José Saramago doc __José and Pilar_ in 2011 and Wim Wenders’ Pina in 2011, the latter of which didn’t make the cut but landed a nomination in the feature documentary category.

Other contenders in this year’s race include Canada’s polarising Cannes Grand Prize winner It’s Only the End of the World by Xavier Dolan, Paul Verhoeven’s punch in the face Elle featuring a tour de force performance by Isabelle Huppert, and Maren Ade’s Cannes comedy Toni Erdmann from Germany, which is an early favourite. The deadline for submissions closes October 3 and a shortlist of nine contenders will emerge in December.

Fire at Sea opens in Toronto at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Oct. 21.

FIRE AT SEA (Trailer) from filmswelike on Vimeo.