The 27th Raindance Film Festival launched its programme yesterday. Here's some of the things we can look forward to...
The Raindance Film Festival returns to London 18-29 September for its 27th edition. Against a backdrop of divisive politics and global turmoil, Raindance uses the medium of cinema to amplify the voice of indie filmmakers with compelling stories to tell. Whether it’s honest narratives from trans people, exposing environmental crimes, or tales of vulnerable individuals forced by fate to make risky choices, Raindance is a champion of the underdog, the marginalised, and the independently minded. With features, documentaries, short films, industry events and immersive VR experiences, Raindance is a place to see the kind of fascinating, multi-faceted characters who thrive in today’s crazy world of indie film.
The 27th Raindance Film Festival includes 90 feature films, with 13 World Premieres, 10 International Premieres, 9 European Premieres and 54 UK premieres. The programme also includes 108 short films, 19 music videos, and 30 VR experiences.
Elliot Grove, Raindance founder says: “Raindance is happening from 18 September – no ifs no buts. Despite Brexit uncertainty, we’re bringing the boldest and freshest talent from the world of indie filmmaking to the heart of London. Raindance is proud to have a global vision, not a narrow one, and this year’s festival has an incredible range of stories from Britain and across the world. And remember that Raindance means Raindance.”
OPENING & CLOSING NIGHT GALAS
Raindance opens 18th September with the World Premiere of KROW’S TRANSFORMATION (dir: Gina Hole Lazarowich, Canada), documenting Canadian transgender model Krow Kian. A successful female model as a teen, the film charts Krow’s transition over a 3-year period, including Krow walking the catwalk for Louis Vuitton’s iconic SS19 show in Paris – his first show since transitioning to a male. The film incorporates conversations between Krow and his mother, plus stories from other trans people in Krow’s circle. Krow Kian and director Gina Hole Lazarowich will attend this gala premiere at Vue West End in Leicester Square, the Home of Entertainment. A party at Café De Paris will follow, featuring Guilty Pleasures.
A special gala, the World Premiere of EVERYBODY FLIES (dir: Tristan Loraine, Beth Moran, UK) sees former British Airways captain turned documentary filmmaker Tristan Loraine exposing the cocktail of toxins that make up the air on commercial passenger aircraft.
The festival closes 29th September with the UK Premiere of post-modern comedy AREN’T YOU HAPPY (dir: Susanne Heinrich, Germany). The debut feature from Susanne Heinrich brings together theory, feminism, humour and a bubblegum pop palate of colour as we follow a girl roaming a city looking for a place to sleep.
EMPOWERED WOMEN FROM EUROPE AND BEYOND
This year’s festival image is a linear reinterpretation of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus – a symbol of love and beauty, but equally defiant and empowered. That’s because in the year of Brexit, Raindance’s continent focus is Europe, with an emphasis on strong and empowered European women. Key titles include A REGULAR WOMAN (dir: Sherry Hormann, Germany). Inspired by tragic real-life events, it tells the story of a vibrant Turkish woman living in Berlin who is murdered at 23 by her youngest brother in an ‘honour’ killing. Including director Q&A. A dark coming-of-age tale, LUNA (dir: Elas Diringer, France) follows a young French woman who, during a night of drunken revelry with her friends, helps them gang rape a male stranger – but must grapple with her conscience when she falls in love with him. Including director Q&A. A romantic, melancholy comedy, AURORA (dir: Miia Tervo, Finland) captures a relationship between a commitment-phobic party girl and an Iranian man running from death. An independent comedy with a lighter shade of dark, EMMA PEETERS (dir: Nicole Palo, Belgium/Canada), focuses on a would-be actress who, believing that 35 is the expiry date for actresses, sets her mind to commit suicide on her 35th birthday.
The strand VIVA VOCE tells stories of women across the globe. A favourite at this year’s Berlinale, hybrid documentary BY THE NAME OF TANIA (dir: Mary Jimenez, Bénédicte Liénard, Belgium/Netherlands/Peru) combines the true testimonials of many women forced into prostitution, creating one poignant central character. British director Tom Wilson focuses on a teenage girl who struggles to emancipate herself from her Roma community, clashing with her family, her teacher and her evangelical Baptist upbringing in the World Premiere of MATTHEW MARK LUKE JOHN (dir: Tom Wilson, Romania). Including director Q&A.
Last year, Raindance became the first “Top 50” film festival to adopt the F-rated system (the F is given to any film written, directed or featuring women in significant on-screen roles – films meeting all three criteria are awarded a Triple F-Rating). Raindance is committed to all aspects of inclusion both onscreen and behind the camera, and continues to incorporate the F-rating this year. Over one-third of this year’s features are F-rated (30 films, up from 27 in 2018), including the F-rated opening night film, and the Triple F-rated closing night film. F-rated shorts have increased from 35 in 2018 to 58 this year.
STRANDS & MORE FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS
New horror strand SCREAMDANCE includes DARK, ALMOST NIGHT (dir: Borys Lankosz, Poland), a sinister tale of disappearing children, based on Polish novelist Joanna Bator’s Nike Award winning novel. Not only do LGBTQ+ subjects take top billing with this year’s opening night gala, the QUEER strand adds more colour to the Raindance rainbow with films including FAMILY IN TRANSITION (dir: Ofir Trainin, Israel), documenting an Israeli family whose lives change completely after their father tells them that he’s a transgender woman. QUEERING THE SCRIPT (dir: Gabrielle Zilkha, Canada) documents the power of fans in shaping LGBTQ+ representation on TV, from Xena to The L Word to Pose.
Within the ABSURDITIES strand, the anthology film 7 REASONS TO RUN AWAY (FROM SOCIETY) (dir: Gerard Quinto, Esteve Soler, David Toras, Spain) shows the absurdity of life via seven dark and comedic stories of a dysfunctional society. Another absurd comedy, GREENER GRASS (dir: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, USA) explores the world of competitive suburban soccer moms. Both include a director Q&A.
The ARTY strand includes the World Premiere of DRIVEN TO ABSTRACTION (dir: Daria Price, USA), documenting at $80 million hoax that brought down New York’s oldest and most venerable gallery. A highlight of the SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA music strand, ARA MALIKIAN: A LIFE AMONG STRINGS (dir: Nata Moreno, Spain) documents this regarded violinist who escaped war-torn Beirut aged 14 and has lived a nomadic life ever since.
A collection of films with political and social issue, the POLITICO strand includes JIRGA (dir: Benjamin Gilmour, Australia), following an ex-soldier who returns to Afghanistan to find the family of a civilian he accidentally killed during the war.
Gael García Bernal’s second feature as director, CHICUAROTES (dir: Gael García Bernal, Mexico) follows two teenagers who are driven by desperation and a lack of options in their Mexico City neighbourhood. More Mexican flavour can be savoured in SXSW jury prizewinner NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY (dir: Elizabeth Carroll, USA/Mexico), a docu-portrait of this British-born Mexican food guru and environmental activist
THE BEST OF HOME-GROWN
British features include HURT BY PARADISE (dir: Greta Bellamacina, UK), a Francis Ha-style indie comedy by first-time feature director Greta Bellamacina, who also stars as a young mother trying to succeed as a poet in modern-day London. Followed by director Q&A. A former footballer turned gig promoter is out of his depth in SCHEMERS (dir: David McLean, UK). In the documentary THIRST FOR JUSTICE (dir: Leana Hosea, UK), a BBC journalist turned filmmaker exposes water pollution in the United States, focusing on a Native American community whose water is contaminated by uranium – part of the DIRTY WORLD strand of films exploring environmental issues. Followed by director Q&A. ON THE PRESIDENT’S ORDERS (dir: James Jones & Olivier Sarbil, UK/USA/Philippines) documents the bloody campaign against drug dealers and addicts in the Philippines. An access-all-areas music documentary, MY VIEW: CLEM BURKE (dir: Philip Sansom, UK) looks back on the career of the world-renowned drummer for the band Blondie.
DISCOVER NEW INDIE TALENT
Central to Raindance’s mission is the discovery of new indie talent from every corner of the globe. Features made by first-time filmmakers include PLATFORM (dir: Sahar Masayebi, Iran), the story of three sisters from a poor background who join the Iranian national Wushu team. ORAY (dir: Mehmet Akif Büyükatalay, Germany) portrays a man torn between his faith, everyday reality and identity as he tries to rebuild his life in a new Muslim community in Cologne. A boy shuts himself away from his friends and family after the death of his classmate in A DOBUGAWA DREAM (dir: Asato Watanabe, Japan). A mother is forced to enter the world of high-end prostitution when her husband’s addiction to escorts leaves them penniless in ALICE (dir: Josephine Mackerras, Australia/France). A waiter unwittingly becomes entangled in the mysterious disappearance of his neighbour in THE WAITER (dir: Steve Krikris, Greece). An upbeat Latin American roadtrip, the documentary MIGUELITO (dir: Sam Zubrycki, Australia/Puerto Rico/Colombia/USA) asks what happened to the boy who in 1973 had a successful but short-lived music career. These screen in competition for Best Discovery award.
The Raindance Film Festival awards system honours features and documentaries in 8 categories: Best International Film, Best UK Film, Best Director, Best Performance, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Discovery, Best Documentary. Awards partner STAMP will provide over CAD $100,000 on post-production prizes for winning filmmakers in all categories.
The jury comprises Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton (winners of the Academy Award® for Best Live Action Short Film For The Silent Child), David Yates (director, Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises), Kacey Ainsworth (Eastenders, Granchester), Babou Ceesay (Eye In The Sky, Dark Mon£y), Ed Skrein (Deadpool), Ella Balinska (Charlie’s Angels), Susan Wokoma (Year of the Rabbit), Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy), Hugh Skinner (W1A, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), Billy Zane (Titanic), Tom Ellis (Lucifer), Ruth Bradley (Grabbers, Humans), Chloe Pirrie (The Game), Nathaniel Martello-White (Cla’am), Josh Dylan (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), Dan Smith from the band Bastille, and awardwinning singer songwriter Emeli Sandé.
ACADEMY AWARD® QUALIFYING SHORTS PROGRAMMES
Raindance is now a triple Oscar qualifying festival. As of this year, the recipients of Raindance’s Best Animation Short and Best Documentary Short join Best Live Action Short in being eligible for consideration in the Short Film category of the Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run (provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules). Short programmes include Queer, Radical Agenda, Relative States and Way Out East, with highlights including NIMIC, the new short starring Matt Dillon by Oscar-winning Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Favourite).
RAINDANCE IMMERSIVE – IN PARTNERSHIP WITH BOSE (26 – 29 SEPTEMBER)
Raindance Film Festival continues to champion creators who are pushing the artistic development of the new mediums of Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality. The Immersive strand held between Wednesday 26th - Sunday 29th September, will host the annual showcase, Gallery of Immersive Stories and Interactive Worlds, Summit, and Awards Ceremony that celebrates the creativity, ingenuity and artistry expressed in immersive storytelling over the past year. Bose will host a special masterclass educating creators about Bose AR, a first-of-its-kind audio Augmented Reality (AR) platform, combining the power of next-generation Bose audio products with innovative mobile apps.
This year’s Raindance Immersive selection features 30 awe-inspiring experiences, created by acclaimed directors and creators such as Eliza McNitt (Drip Drop), Celine Tricart (Look Again), Sutu (Heart of Darkness), Sean Murray (No Man’s Sky: Beyond); fashion designer and artist Paula Canovas Del Vas (See, Saw – Seen); emerging directors and writers such as Luisa Valencia (Afterlife), Samantha Kingston (Anonymous), Ben Fredericks (Playing God), James Hunt (The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets), and many more.
Visitors to the Gallery will encounter an extraordinary Mixed Reality (MR) experience starring David Attenborough (Rise of Animals with David Attenborough) and breathtaking Virtual Reality (VR) experiences starring Colin Farrell (Gloomy Eyes), Lucy Boynton and Taron Egerton (Glimpse), Viola Davis, Julius Tennon and Mary Chieffo (Operation Othello: I Am Not What I Am), Geraldine Chaplin (Memoria: Stories of La Garma), and contemporary artist Miwa Komatsu (INORI).
Visitors will also get to play VR games such as Doctor Who: The Edge Of Time (Maze Theory) starring Jodie Whittaker, allowing fans to pilot the iconic TARDIS; No Man’s Sky: Beyond (Hello Games), a multi-player adventure for up to 32 space travellers, taking place in a procedurally generated universe; The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets (Fast Travel Games) inviting audiences to solve the mystery of the stolen pets by exploring wonderful miniature worlds; and The Infinite Hotel (Italic Pig), putting players in an elevator in which they must respond to the needs of hotel guests, even when things become chaotic.
Technologies within the spectrum of Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality continue to rapidly evolve, enabling artists to push the boundaries of storytelling in bold and daring ways. Reflecting the latest trends in the industry, the Festival will showcase experiences that experiment with the latest technologies such as eye tracking (Drip Drop and Look Again), artificial intelligence and voice control (Ray Sparks), and combine Virtual and Augmented reality into transmedia multiplayer experiences (The Holy City).
Festival-goers will also get to try innovative audio AR experiences created by the Bose AR community, showcasing the power of Bose AR-enabled products such as Bose Frames, Bose Headphones 700 and QC35 headphones II.
Raindance invites audience members to participate in art installations and experiences that utilise a wide spectrum of immersive techniques including an interactive theatre performance with live actors in VR (A Box In The Desert), a room-scale VR experience that mixes immersive soundscapes with scent and touch (Cosmos Within Us), and a multi-person, room-scale VR installation that blends fashion with art (See, Saw – Seen).
The selected experiences are nominated for Raindance Immersive Awards that recognise creative excellence and technical achievement across 10 categories:
1. Best Immersive Game
2. Best Interactive Narrative Experience
3. Best Cinematic Experience
4. Best Animated Experience
5. Best Documentary Experience
6. Best Immersive Audio Experience
7. Artistic Achievement
8. Audio Achievement
9. British Award: Best UK Experience
10. Discovery Award: Best Debut Experience
The winners of the immersive awards will be in competition for the festival’s special award, Spirit of Raindance: Best Immersive Experience of the Festival.
The winners will be selected by an international panel of jury members comprised of luminaries such as Vicki Dobbs Beck, executive in charge of ILMxLAB; Alice Taylor, Vice President, StudioLAB at THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS; Curtis Hickman, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at THE VOID, and many more.
The artwork for this year’s Raindance Immersive strand was created in Virtual Reality using Tiltbrush illustration tool by the award-winning artist Sutu (a.k.a. Stuart Campbell), the creator of VR documentaries such as Inside Manus for SBS, Mind at War for RYOT Films, The Battle of Hamel for the Australian War Memorial and Future Dreaming for NITV. He has also been commissioned by Marvel, Google and Disney to create VR art for properties such as Doctor Strange and Ready Player One.
INDUSTRY PROGRAMME (19 – 29 SEPTEMBER)
Raindance’s industry programme traditionally runs 5 days, but new this year it will run for the full duration of the festival, beginning at 10:30am every day with a brunchtime talk – a perfect wake up for film industry professionals. Industry highlights include the German Films collaboration TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN, a cross-comparison of up-and-coming British and German talent, with participants including actors Maria Dragus and Christian Friedel, and director Anca Miruna Lazarescu. INDUSTRY MINDS examines mental health & the film industry, and THE TIP OFF PODCAST probes three investigative documentary filmmakers about their process, including how to protect sources, in two special live editions of the podcast. Presented by Lumix, A CINEMATOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS WITH ZORAN VELJKOVIC gets the inside story on this years Raindance trailer. Presented by Mandy.com A CASTING DIRECTOR MASTERCLASS WITH MANUEL PURO gives an insight from the casting director of films including Moon, Elements and Northern Soul. In the script to screen event ANATOMY OF A REEL WITH… SIMON RUMLEY the indie screenwriter of films including Crowhurst presents an honest side-by-side comparison of one of his scripts and the finished film. IT TAKES AN INDUSTRY TO RAISE A BABY debates the sacrifices filmmakers have to make regarding childcare, Further industry panels question how indie VOD platforms compare with market leaders like Netflix, and the reality of green filmmaking with BAFTA’s Head of Sustainability. And of course there’ll be LIVE!AMMUNITION! – an opportunity to pitch to film industry executives in front of an audience.
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