Italy has picked Matteo Garrone’s moving migration drama Io Capitano to represent the country in the 2024 Oscars in the best international film category.
The feature, which follows the trials of two Senegalese teenagers trying to make it from Dakar to Italy — across the Sahara desert and over the Mediterranean Sea — premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the best director Silver Lion for Garrone and the best new actor prize for lead Seydou Sarr. The Hollywood Reporter picked the film as one of the 15 best movies of this year’s fall festivals.
Io Capitano is especially timely given the new hard line towards immigration taken by Italy’s far-right government under Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Speaking at the U.N. this week, Meloni called for tighter controls on migration, saying she would not allow Italy to become “Europe’s refugee camp.”
Io Capitano was picked by an Oscar committee overseen by the Italian cinema organization Anica. It beat out other short-listed contenders including Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera, Nanni Moretti’s A Brighter Tomorrow and Kidnapped from Marco Bellocchio, all of which premiered in Cannes this year.
Italy is always a front-runner in the best international feature race, having won the Oscar in this category, previously known as best foreign language film, 11 times, though the last Italian win came a decade ago, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty in 2013. Sorrentino’s The Hand of God, nominated in 2022, was Italy’s last Academy Award nom. Garrone has twice been nominated for a BAFTA — for Gomorrah in 2009 and Dogman in 2019 — but has yet to score an Oscar nomination.
The deadline for submission for the best international film category is Oct. 2. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the films on the 2024 Oscar shortlist on Dec. 21. The five nominees in the category will be announced on Jan. 23. The 95th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 10.