VENICE, Italy : Italian film-maker Paolo Sorrentino turns personal with "The Hand of God", a movie about his own coming of age in 1980s Naples after losing his parents as a teenager.
Presenting the film at the Venice film festival, Sorrentino said that as he turned 50 last year he had finally felt able to tell the story of his crowded, playful family and how his life was upended by his parents' accidental death.
"Maybe I have made it now because I have the right age. I thought I was old and mature enough to face such a personal film," he said. "A dear colleague told me I never make anything that is very personal, and I thought it was a challenge to grasp."
He added that the fear of tackling such a delicate theme quickly melted away on set.
"I am fearful in life, but in films I am quite brave... here the bravery that was required was a little bit different. The bravery came out in writing the screenplay rather than in the filming."
The film is named after Diego Maradona's description of his famous goal against England at the 1986 World Cup. The late Argentine footballer - who went on to play for Naples in the mid-1980s and became an instant local hero - looms large in the movie.
"I think Maradona had semi-divine powers," Sorrentino said half-jokingly, adding that one of his biggest regrets was not to have been able to show the film to the footballer, who died last year.
Sorrentino, who was 17 at the time, was in Naples to see Maradona play on the night his parents were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning at the family's ski house.
He gave the role of his father to Toni Servillo, a long-time collaborator, while his young self is played by Italian newcomer Filippo Scotti, who he said displayed "that same shyness and awkwardness that I remember having as a 17-, 18-year-old lad."
Servillo, one of Italy's most acclaimed actors who has worked with Sorrentino for the past 20 years, said he was moved to play the director's dad, but added that despite the painful memories, the atmosphere on the set was at times hilarious - and the film is peppered with outright funny scenes.
A Netflix production, "The Hand of God" is one of 21 titles vying for the top Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival, which ends on Sept. 11.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Jonathan Oatis)