Lyndon Wells attended the event for Top 10 Films and recalls his top 10 “moments” including seeing feature films Orion, Prank & Dusky Paradise as well as masterclasses and talks with Ken Loach and writer of 21 Grams and Babel Guillermo Arriaga.
Over the last week the 24th edition of The Raindance Film Festival has been in full swing in London. The festival mission statement “is to discover new talent from wherever it may come”. The festival is a celebration of independent cinema and is truly international in its approach and submissions.
The festival continues to grow and received a record number of submissions from 98 countries. The festival promotes extreme topics in extreme ways and looks to endorse filmmakers with fresh and risky ideas.
This has been my first real experience of navigating a film festival and you can discover my top 10 lessons here. But in this list I am going to present my top 10 experiences from the festival. This list is far from exhaustive and I did miss a lot of the competition winners, as it is impossible to see everything. However, I give you a flavour of the festival and I would recommend seeking out the best it has to offer in the future.
So here is Top 10 Films’ roving reporter giving his Top 10 at Raindance…
10. Feature Film: Orion
This was a rookie mistake from me. Going to see a film based on name recognition, Orion stars David Arquette and Lily Cole. In a post-apocalyptic collapsed civilisation, prophecies on a saviour’s arrival unleashing the chained maiden held by a cannibal shaman start to become true. This is definitely an experience more than a narrative film. The camera work is nausea-inducing not staying still, very frantic and becomes difficult to focus. The score is arresting and odd and the message confused. This is representative of what many dislike about independent cinema, but it is an ambitious failure that is creatively unique. Not a film I’m in a rush to endure again.
9. Feature Film: Prank
I found with a festival your experience depends a lot on your mindset when you see a film. I saw this immediately after Orion and it couldn’t be more different. A French-Canadian film about Stefie, a lonely young boy who becomes embroiled in pranks with three other teenagers. As they plan a big prank beyond anything they have done previously who will turn out to be the victim? This is a funny and sometimes cruel coming of age story about peer pressure and the loss of innocence with a great cine-literate edge.
8. Short Films
The festival features a huge number of short films from aspiring film makers often with their first feature. Unfortunately I did not see any of the festival winners but I did see Running Eagle. A beautifully bleak portrayal of a young Indian girl on the run from a North Dakota oil patch determined to get her home back.
7. Documentary: Growing Up Coy
The official winner of Best Documentary; it highlights a primary festival aim of endorsing LGBT within the film industry. It follows a young Colorado family engaging in a very public legal battle and landmark civil rights case as they fight for their six-year-old transgender daughter. This controversial topic tackled the question “How far would you go to fight for your child’s equal rights”. It’s a fascinating and sometimes difficult watch with a wonderfully human message.
6. Documentary: Five Days On Lesvos
My personal favourite documentary, from the few I managed to see at the festival, explores very recent events. Filmed as suggested in a meagre five days on the Greek island it captures the experience of the people on the frontline of this modern European Crisis. In 2015, one million refugees fled to Europe by sea and this film highlights the collective failure of the European response. Another solemn exploration of the human condition.
5. Guillermo Arriaga Masterclass
Now this isn’t an event I managed to get to but I heard very good things. This highlights the greater aim of the Raindance Film Festival that is about more than just showcasing films. This ran over two days featuring the acclaimed Oscar and BAFTA-nominated writer of 21 Grams and Babel. I imagine many relished the opportunity to explore his complex methods on the principles of story structure and dramatic tension.
4. Industry Talks
This is another aspect of the multi-layered festival that goes behind the world of filmmaking. It aims to create debate and interest in many far-reaching areas of this huge industry. There was a great panel discussing women filmmakers, but others included a Brexit panel, product placement and TV series vs films. This generated a lot of discussion and exposure to the inner workings of the film industry, but also provided tips to encourage filmmakers to reach their potential.
3. Feature Film: The ShepherdThis was the big winner of the festival receiving best film, director (Jonathan Cenzual Burley) and actor (Miguel Martin) awards. The Spanish-UK co-production explores corporate greed as a poor but happy man living with his dog and sheep refuses to sell his run down home and land to a construction company. A very worthy winner made to a very high standard, but not my personal favourite.
2. Feature Film: Dusky Paradise
This film stood out for me as my personal favourite, a film an accomplished filmmaker would be proud of, let alone a first time writer/director (Gregory Kirchhoff). It follows Jacob, a young man with a truly apathetic attitude, living in his deceased parents’ holiday home with their turtle. This comedy-drama is a sweet and realistic portrayal of finding a way back into life where much more is said during the silent periods.