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Dancing The Raindance
Twenty years ago when Raindance founder Elliot Grove proposed the name for a festival he had in mind that would be devoted to indie films to take place in his adopted city of London, little did he realize how the organization would grow in the past two decades to become one of the pre-eminent festivals and filmmaker training programs on the continent. In a clear nod to the successful profile of the Sundance Film Festival (although with a specifically British nod to the drizzly UK weather), Grove set out to build audience appreciation and industry respect for the indie film scene, both for films produced outside the country and within the British film industry ranks as well. Twenty years on, he has definitely succeeded in both goals. In addition to the 19th edition of the Raindance Film Festival, which opens this week, the organization also hosts the annual British Independent Film Awards that recognize the best in local indie cinema in December, as well as providing on-the-spot training for fledgling filmmakers in the UK and, increasingly, around the globe.
This year’s Raindance Film Festival, which runs from September 28 to October 9, boasts a line-up of feature films, which includes over 90 UK premieres from 36 countries and more than 30 international premieres, and a prolific program of nearly 150 short films. Festivities begin on September 28, with the UK premiere of ANOTHER EARTH, the critically-acclaimed existential sci-fi hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, directed by Mike Cahill. The film, which was distributed in North America by Fox Searchlight, deftly combines sci-fi suspense with a strong dramatic story of redemption and ultimate sacrifice. Brooklyn-based band Fall On Your Sword, who composed the original score for the film, will perform at the Opening Night After-Party. The film will open in the UK later this year. The film chosen to close the Festival on October 9 is the “‘slacker romance” BONSAI, the sophomore effort of cult Chilean director Christian Jimenez. The movie adaptation of the much lauded Chilean novel of the same name, inspired by the Marcel Proust memoir Remembrance of Things Past, centers on the ill-fated love affair between two college students.
New British independent cinema is one of the highlights of every Raindance Film Festival, and this year’s Homegrown strand is presenting a record 10 world premieres, including the mockumentary BLACK POND from young filmmakers Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley, which stars two-time BAFTA winner Chris Langham and award-winning stand-up Simon Amstell in his acting debut; ACTS OF GODFREY, a world premiere presentation written and directed by Johnny Daukes, which stars Simon Callow, Harry Enfield and Iain Robertson; A THOUSAND KISSES, a psychological thriller written and directed by Dana Lustig, with a cast that includes Dougray Scott , Jodie Whittaker, Emilia Fox and veteran actor David Warner; the supernatural thriller HOLLOW by director Michael Axelgaard; and the teenage drama SEAMONSTERS, directed by Julian Kerridge. North American Indies also have a supportive home at Raindance, and this year’s strand includes such anticipated titles as AFTER FALL, WINTER, the sequel to writer/director Eric Schaeffer's 1997 hit FALL; and GABI ON THE ROOF, a comedic portrait of young New Yorkers, directed by Lawrence Michael Levine.
Raindance will host an impressive roster of new films from the Balkans, marking a new generation of European filmmakers to watch, most taking their films to London for the first time. Among the anticipated highlights are TILVA ROSH, a Serbian skater film by Nikola Lezaic that follows two young skaters who spend their days filming their daring stunts while battling for the attention of the same girl; MONTEVIDEO—TASTE OF DREAM, Serbia’s biggest-ever box office hit, directed by Dragan Bjelogrlic; JUST BETWEEN US, an erotic tale of infidelity between their brothers and their wives from Croatia; SEVDAH FOR KARIM, a contemporary drama about three films in post-war Sarajevo by Bosnian director Jasmin Durakovic; PUNK IS NOT DEAD, a rock n roll redemption story from Macedonian filmmaker Vladimir Blazevski ; and THE ENEMY, a paranormal war thriller directed by Dejan Zecevic.
The Way Out East series will showcase the latest cult offerings from Japan, including KAIDAN HORROR CLASSICS, two programs of short films from leading Japanese cult directors Ochiai Masayuki, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Lee Sang-il and Tsukamoto Shinya. Also high on the must-see list are the international premieres of SYNCHRONICITY (Joe Tanaka) and COME AS YOU ARE (Kota Yoshida). This year’s Raindance also spotlights an especially strong raft of documentaries, most making their European or UK premieres. In addition to the 94 feature films, 137 shorts will also screen, from budding filmmakers inside the UK, around Europe and all over the world. In fact, the full palette of Raindance film offerings, in addition to the many professional seminars, chic after-parties and special events, make it one of the coolest events on the London film scene. The action unfolds at the Apollo Cinema in the heart of London’s Piccadilly Circus. You may need an umbrella because of the drizzle, but the fine films on tap this year will certainly challenge, inspire and entertain those who make the journey. For more information, visit: www.raindance.co.uk
Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor
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