The history of Italian cinema began just a few months after the Lumière brothers had discovered the medium, when Pope Leo XIII was filmed for a few seconds in the act of blessing the camera.
A new generation of directors has helped return Italian cinema to a healthy level since the end of the 1980s. The sign-bearer for this renaissance is Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, for which Giuseppe Tornatore won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1990. This victory was followed two years later by another, when Gabriele Salvatores's Mediterraneo won the same prize. Another exploit was in 1998 when Roberto Benigni won three oscars for his movie Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella) (Best Actor, Best Foreign Film, Best Music).
Other recent films of note include: Jona che visse nella balena directed by Roberto Faenza, Il grande cocomero by Francesca Archibugi, Il mestiere delle armi by Olmi, L'ora di religione by Marco Bellocchio, Il ladro di bambini, Lamerica, Le chiavi di casa by Gianni Amelio, Io non ho paura by Gabriele Salvatores, Le fate ignoranti, La finestra di fronte by Ferzan Özpetek, La bestia nel cuore by Cristina Comencini.
In 2007 American director Quentin Tarantino said "New Italian cinema is just depressing. Recent films I've seen are all the same. They talk about boys growing up, or girls growing up, or couples having a crisis, or vacations of the mentally impaired." He received criticism from the Italian media and actress Sophia Loren who said "How dare he talk about Italian cinema when he doesn't know anything about American cinema?"