S Durga director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Chola has been selected for the prestigious Venice Film Festival (August 28-September 7). The Malayalam-language movie, whose English title is Shadow of Water, is among 19 international productions picked for Horizons, which runs parallel to the main competition category. Four awards are given for Horizons titles, including for best feature.

The festival line-up was announced on Thursday. Chola is the only Indian film in the section.

Chola is a “magical realist drama” about “two teenagers who run away to visit the big city, but end up having to spend the night in a bare bones motel, where their nightmare begins”, Screen Daily reported. The film has been produced by Shaji Mathew and stars Nimisha Sajayan and Joju George. Sajayan’s credits include Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum (2017) and Eeda (2108), while George was most recently in Virus (2019).

Chola has some thematic similarities with S Durga, which explores the nightmarish journey of a couple who hitch a ride on a lonely night somewhere in Kerala, Sasidharan told Scroll.in. “This film is trying to analyse the individual’s mindset, so in that way, it is different, and the treatment too is totally different,” he added. Sasidharan hopes to release Chola over the next few months.

The other Indian presence at Venice is Gitanjali Rao’s animated feature Bombay Rose, which will inaugurate the Critics’ Week sidebar section. Rao’s film explores the interlinked stories of a pair of flower sellers and a former background dancer in Hindi films.

Sasidharan’s credits include the acclaimed Ozhivudivasathe Kali (2015). S Durga (2017), previously titled Sexy Durga, was given the International Film Festival of Rotterdam’s Tiger award, which is aimed at “discovering, raising the profile of and rewarding up-and-coming international film talent”, according to the festival website.

S Durga was initially refused a censor certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification and was dropped from the International Film Festival of India’s programme. The film was eventually released in March 2018.

While working on Chola, Sasidharan completed the independent feature Death of Insane. The 2018 production explores intolerance and censorship.

S Durga (2017).

Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel is the jury president at Venice this year. Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth, starring Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche and tracing a mother-daughter relationship, is the inaugural title. Giuseppe Capotondi’s art world-themed The Burnt Orange Heresy, starring Claes Bang, Mick Jagger and Donald Sutherland, will close the festival.

The main competition titles include The Truth, Todd Phillips’s Joker, Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy, Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness, Oliver Assayas’s Wasp Network, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, James Gray’s Ad Astra, Atom Egoyan’s Guest of Honor, Haifaa Al-Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate, Robert Guediguian’s Gloria Mundi, Pablo Larrain’s Ema, Lou Ye’s Saturday Fiction and Steven Soderbergh’s The Laudromat.

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in directing and acting respectively will be awarded to Pedro Almodovar and Julie Andrews.

Also read:

In ‘Sexy Durga’, a man and a woman try to hitch a ride at night in a Kerala town. Bad idea

Gitanjali Rao’s animated film ‘Bombay Rose’ is headed to the Venice Film Festival – here’s why

In ‘S Durga’ director’s new film: Censorship, intolerance and moral policing