The Italian Almanac

Carlo Verdone

Italian Movies - May 16

Italian films, for years maligned even in their own country, are enjoying a renaissance, with box office booming and critical accolades rolling in. According to Italian cinema monitoring company Cinetel, some 34% of Italian box office receipts have come from local films over the first four months of this year, compared with 23% for all of 2005 and less than 15% in most years.

Figures have been buoyed by such commercial successes as Carlo Verdone's "My Best Enemy," Fausto Brizzi's "Night Before Finals," Nanni Moretti's "The Caiman," Michele Placido's "Crime Novel," and Cristina Comencini's "Don't Tell" -- all of which have raked in more than EUR5 million ($6.4 million). "My Best Enemy" heads the pack, approaching EUR20 million ($25.7 million) in ticket sales.

Italian productions are garnering critical acclaim abroad too. Earlier this year "Don't Tell" was the first Italian film nominated for the foreign-language Oscar since Roberto Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful" won seven years earlier. And films from Italy will have a strong presence at the Cannes Film Festival, which opens this week, including two movies in competition.

"Italian cinema just seems to have woken up after a long slumber," says Paolo Ferrari, head of Warner Brothers-Italia and the newly elected president of the Italian Association of Cinematographic Audiovisual and Multimedia Industries. "There are a lot of factors in play, but once it gets started, the newfound quality feeds on itself. It inspires more quality."

Italian television tells a similar tale of local success: Some estimates are that four out of five films shown during primetime on national networks are Italian, compared with an estimated one in five or less a decade ago.