Matteo Garrone’s ‘Io Capitano,’ Italy’s Oscar Candidate, Acquired for North America by Cohen Media (EXCLUSIVE)

Matteo Garrone’s ‘Io Capitano,’ Italy’s Oscar Candidate, Acquired for North America by Cohen Media (EXCLUSIVE)

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Cohen Media Group has bought all North American rights to “Io Capitano,” a lushly-lensed, stirring immigration drama by “Gomorrah” director Matteo Garrone. Sold worldwide by Pathé Films, the critically acclaimed movie is Italy’s official Oscar entry and is slated to be released theatrically in early 2024.

With Cohen Media Group as its North American distributor, “Io Capitano” has strengthened its position in the awards season. The movie world premiered to stellar reviews in September at Venice Film Festival, where it was greeted with a 13-minute standing ovation and won the Silver Lion for Garrone and best emerging actor for Seydou Sarr.

“Io Capitano” went on to win the best European film award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. The movie is also vying for best film and director at the European Film Awards this weekend.

Reminiscent of “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Io Capitano” tells the epic story of a teenage boy who, together with his cousin, decides to leave Dakar in Senegal and make his way to Europe. Embarking on an odyssey, the young man must overcome a series of obstacles, from the plight of the desert to the horrors of detention centers in Libya and the dangers of the sea.

Shot over 13 weeks in Senegal, Italy and Morocco with a cast of non-professional actors, the uplifting film explores the ambiguities and contradictions of human beings, in which the hopes, dreams and ambitions of the main characters turn into a struggle for survival. Due to his humanist message, the film received a special screening at the European Union parliament in November.

“Io Capitano” has earned unanimous praise in the festival circuit, including in Variety. Guy Lodge described it as a “complete odyssey” and said it was “hard not to get caught up in the film’s great emotional range.”

Garrone is best known for directing the organized crime saga “Gomorrah.” He penned “Io Capitano” with Massimo Gaudioso, Massimo Ceccherini and Andrea Tagliaferri, based on true stories of emigration from Africa to Europe.

“‘Io Capitano’ is a major cinematic achievement from a master director, a film that shines a light on the very real dramas playing out in the world today,” said Cohen Media Group’s Robert Aaronson.

Charles S. Cohen, chairman and CEO of Cohen Media Group, added, “Matteo Garrone’s powerful film is a testament to human endurance — and to cinema’s ability to make individuals’ struggles the concern of us all.”

The deal was negotiated by Aaronson and Marie-Laure Montironi, executive VP of international sales at Pathé. Montironi said Pathé is “confident that the film has found the ideal home to become both a success in the U.S. and a serious Oscar contender, and will go as far as possible considering the fantastic audience response we have witnessed in the previous weeks.” The executive pointed out Cohen Media Group was as “high-quality distributor of foreign films for North America.”

Garrone is also looking forward to seeing his movie reach the U.S. thanks to Cohen Media Group and their theaters. “They will give the possibility to the U.S. audience to live the experience of this epic journey on the big screen,” Garrone said.

“Io Capitano” is produced by Garrone and Paolo Del Brocco. Co-producers are Ardavan Safaee, Joseph Rouschop and Valerie Bournonville. Producers are Archimede with RAI Cinema and Tarantula with Pathé, Logical Content Ventures.

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