Gabriele Salvatores is an Italian director whose Mediterraneo won an Academy Award for best foreign film in 1992. He was born in Naples on June 30, 1950, but moved to Milan with his family as a teenager. Salvatores studied at the Piccolo Teatro and, at just 23, founded Teatro dell’Elfo, a theater still in operation today. In the theater he founded, Salvatores staged classic plays and original works, making it an important part of Italian alternative culture in the 1970s. In 1983, Salvatores directed his first film, Sogno di una notte d’estate, [Sogno di una notte d’estate – 1983] a film adaptation of a rock musical inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 1987, he shot Kamikazen – Ultima notte a Milano, about a fictional group of comics trying to make it big. It starred a group of young Milanese actors who would reappear in Salvatores’ films. His first hit came in 1989 with Marrakech Express, [Marrakech Express – 1989] about a group of friends who escape everyday life on an epic road trip. Similar themes are found in his next film Turné, [Turné - 1990] set in the theater world and in his most acclaimed film, Mediterraneo [Mediterraneo – 1991] which unfolds on a Greek island during World War Two.
Mediterraneo won an Academy Award for best foreign film and brought Salvatores international fame. In the years following Mediterraneo, his success waned. Both Puerto Escondido, which visited the theme of escaping from ordinary life, and South, a political film with a western feel, received lukewarm reviews. After directing some commercials video clips, Salvatores wrote and directed Nirvana, [Nirvana – 1997] a science fiction film that explored the thin line between real and virtual worlds. His next film was Teeth, the dark, surreal story of a dentist with hideous teeth. By now Salvatores had fully abandoned his old themes. He continued with in this experimental vein with Amnesia in 2002. A year later, I’m Not Scared, [I'm Not Scared– 2003] a thriller about a child kidnapping came to movie screens. Adapted from Niccolò Ammaniti’s novel of the same name, it was his biggest hit since Mediterraneo. The director proved his versatility with noir film Quo Vadis, baby? [Quo Vadis, Baby? – 2005], which also launched a television spin-off in 2008. The same year, Salvatores released As God Commands, another film based on an Ammaniti novel.
His innovative storytelling and talent for cinematography make Salvatores an unusual figure in Italian cinema.