The powerful social drama, restored by the Film Heritage Foundation, is set in rural India, and tells the story of a young widow ostracised by her community

The restored version of Girish Kasaravalli's 1977 debut film, Ghatashraddha (The Ritual) will be screened at the Venice International Film Festival, scheduled to be held at Venice Lido in Italy from August 28 to September 7, 2024. The powerful social drama, set in rural India, tells the story of a young widow ostracised by her community due to strict social norms. Ghatashraddha earned critical acclaim upon its release, winning three major awards. It marked the arrival of Kasaravalli, a pioneer of India’s Parallel Cinema movement, which drew inspiration from Italian Neorealism.

The film has been meticulously restored by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s Film Heritage Foundation. Film Heritage Foundation (FHF). The modern audiences can experience its visual and emotional impact as they were intended. This restoration is part of a broader effort to preserve and promote India’s rich cinematic heritage. Based on a novella by acclaimed Kannada writer U.R. Ananthamurthy, Ghatashraddha tackles complex issues, including the plight of widows, the rigidity of tradition, and the clash between individual desires and social expectations.

Kasaravalli’s sensitive direction and evocative imagery capture the beauty and harshness of the rural landscape. FHF has also restored Shyam Benegal’s Manthan, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and subsequently made created history with countrywide release in 100 theatres across India.

Ghatashraddha: Part of 18 restored masterpieces

The festival will see world premiere screenings of 18 film restorations of masterpieces completed over the past year from film libraries, cultural institution and productions around the world. “The programme of Venice Classics includes the commemoration of several important anniversaries,” the Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera, said in a release.

“First and foremost, the centennial of the birth of Marcello Mastroianni, the most beloved and celebrated Italian actor in the world, whom we will see in The Night (La notte), one of Michelangelo Antonioni’s finest films. It has been 50 years since the death of Vittorio De Sica, who in The Gold of Naples (L’oro di Napoli) in 1954 directed a remarkable tribute to Naples, in six episodes inspired by six short stories by Giovanni Marotta. One hundred years have gone by since Columbia Pictures was founded: The Big Heath by Fritz Lang and His Girl’s Friday by Howard Hawks are two of the masterpieces restored by Sony Pictures Entertainment, selected by Venice among the many films of the Majors that have contributed to making the history of American cinema so great. And it was 35 years ago that Peter Brook enthralled the audiences and critics gathered in Venice for the Venice Film Festival with his fascinating film version of the eponymous Indian epic poem The Mahabharata,” he added.

The contingent of restored Italian films also includes Nanni Moretti’s Ecce Bombo, which inaugurated the director’s first participation in the 1978 Cannes Film Festival, and helped to bring him international recognition, and Swept Away (Travolti da un insolito destino in un azzurro mare d’agosto) by Lina Wertmüller, which was one of the highest-grossing box-office hits in Italy during the 1974-75 movie season. Three other films will complete the contingent of American film restorations: Bend of the River, considered to be one of Anthony Mann’s masterpiece westerns, the luxuriant Technicolour of Blood and Sand by Rouben Mamoulian, and Model by Fred Wiseman, whom the New York Times termed as “one of the most important and original filmmakers working today”.

Other restored gems from around the world

The cinematic geography of Venice Classics is as usual quite varied. France provides two undaunted classics, such as Jeux interdits by René Clement (Golden Lion at the 1952 Venice Film Festival) and La peau douce by François Truffaut, greeted with some reservations when it was released but worthy of being considered one of his greatest films. From Japan comes The Man Who Left His Will on Film, one of Nagisa Oshima’s masterpieces, and All Mixed Up (also known under the title of Swastika) by the prolific director Yasuzô Masumura, who studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, and was a student of Fellini, Visconti and Antonioni.

South America will be represented by one of the major classics of new Brazilian cinema, Roberto Santos’s The Time and the Change of Augusto Matraga. Europe’s contingent includes Denmark’s Pusher, Nicolas Winding Refn’s debut film — the first chapter in an influential trilogy that was highly successful at the box-office, and which also had the merit of introducing the great actor Mads Mikkelsen, in his debut screen role. The restored and uncut version of Flocons d’or by Werner Schroeter, presented in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival and then distributed with one of its finest episodes edited out, will also be screened at the festival. It has been restored by the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf.

Director and screenwriter Renato De Maria (Hotel Paura, Paz!, The Front Line, The Ruthless) will chair the Jury of Film Students which — for the eleventh year — will award the Venice Classics prizes for the respective competitions for Best Restored Film and for the Best Documentary About Cinema. The Jury chaired will be composed of 24 students, each of them recommended by professors of film studies from various Italian universities, DAMS and from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. Since 2012, Venice Classics has presented at the Venice Film Festival a selection of the best restorations of film classics. Curated by Barbera in collaboration with Federico Gironi, Venice Classics also presents a selection of documentaries about cinema or its practitioners.

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