The 94th Academy Awards ceremony will take place on March 27 and The Hand of God, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is among the nominees

With The Hand of God, Paolo Sorrentino is in the running for his second Oscar in the Best International Feature category. His latest movie has also received two BAFTA nominations in the Film not in the English Language and Casting categories. Sorrentino’s movie will be in good company at both awards ceremonies. As a matter of fact, both committees have selected two more Italian nominees: Luca as Best Animated Feature and Massimo Cantini Parrini for the costumes of Cyrano.

Paolo Sorrentino and The Hand of God

Maradona mural

A Maradona mural in Naples

The Hand of God marks a surprisingly introspective shift for the Italian director. If you have seen movies such as The Great Beauty, Il Divo, or The Young Pope and The New Pope series, you may identify Sorrentino with opulent, decadent worlds infused with irony. But his tenth feature film is completely different: The Hand of God is a highly auto­biographical coming-of-age story that shows Sorrentino’s emotional side.

The movie follows a teenage boy, Fabietto Schisa, growing up in the Vomero neighbourhood, a middle-class part of Naples. It is set in the 1980s, when Argentinian football star Diego Armando Maradona joined SSC Napoli. And, in a mix of sacred and profane also typical of the Neapolitan culture, “the hand of God” is both a reference to Maradona’s handling goal at the 1986 FIFA World Cup and what saved Fabietto’s (and Sorrentino’s) life. In the movie, the Schisas have just acquired a chalet in Abruzzo to spend the holidays away from the chaos of the city when an accident takes the lives of Fabietto’s parents. It was only by chance that he was still alive: had he not begged to go and watch a Napoli game, he would have died with them.

Maradona meant a lot to the city of Naples and Napoli supporters; however, he meant even more for Fabietto as, after his family tragedy, he also became a symbol of dreams coming true and an inspiration to follow his dreams. As a result, after the lazy days of the first part of the movie, we see Fabietto finally taking control of his life and working to become a filmmaker.

The Great Beauty of friendship


The great beauty of Rome

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, The Great Beauty won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014 becoming the first Italian film to receive the award since Life Is Beautiful in 1998. Set in Rome, it is a tragicomedy of Italy’s leisured classes as seen through the eyes of jaded writer Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo). Gambardella is a 65-year-old cynical dandy who is famous for having written one promising novel in his 20s. Stuck in a creative rut, he has decided to become the king of socialites until a stranger presents himself at his door with a revelation that moves him profoundly and makes him think about starting to write again.

His roles in Sorrentino’s movies Il divo and The Great Beauty earned Toni Servillo two European Film Awards for Best Actor (in 2008 and 2013), but they have known each other for over 20 years and have made six movies together. It all began with One Man Up (2001). At that time, Sorrentino was a young director and Servillo an acclaimed actor and theatre director. For this reason, Servillo hesitated to read the screenplay until Sorrentino told him that he had already given his role to another actor. It proved to be the right strategy: as soon as Servillo read the screenplay he decided to work with Sorrentino.

Respect and friendship grew together and their collaboration continued with The Consequences of Love, where Servillo is a middle-aged loner who has lived in a luxurious hotel in Switzerland for the last eight years. In Il divo he played Giulio Andreotti, while in Loro he interpreted the roles of Silvio Berlusconi and his friend Ennio Doris. Last but not least, Sorrentino chose Servillo also for the part of Fabietto’s father in The Hand of God.

More than cinema

Paolo Sorrentino is also the author of two brilliant novels, Hanno tutti ragione and Gli aspetti irrilevanti. Moreover, in 2012 he published a collection of tales titled Tony Pagoda e i suoi amici.