Audience attendance reached a record-breaking 10,396, a 39% increase from 7,468 in 2016, while new temporary venue Vue West End was embraced by filmmakers and audiences alike
This year marked the 25th Anniversary of the Raindance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the UK, in keeping with this milestone, this year saw record breaking attendance at the festival. This follows an interesting summer in terms of US blockbusters, with sales predicted to be down by 15%. Raindance proved there is a growing appetite for original independent content, as an antidote to CGI heavy superhero franchises, in particular, that dominated movie screens this summer.
The Festival welcomed over 1,000 international and British filmmakers to present their work from across the Raindance programme, including features, shorts, VR, webfest and music video strands. The programme presented more Premiere Galas than ever before, with a rise in the number of World, International, European and UK premieres – this year’s premiere highlights include the UK Premiere of Opening Night film Oh Lucy! starring Josh Hartnett, the International Premiere of Closing Night film Stuck, as well as the UK Premiere of You Are Killing Me Susana, starring Gael Garcia Bernal, and the UK Premiere of Black Butterfly, starring Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
There was also an increased specialised programme of workshops, panel discussions, master classes with Academy Award winning Special Effects Supervisor Paul Franklin and critically acclaimed director Ate de Jong (Drop Dead Fred), as well as pitching events for film fans and prospective filmmakers alike to take part in. Two of the most popular industry events included the Festival’s third Co-production Forum which focused on the relationship between the UK and Italian film industries, as well as China Day, which featured a day of screenings and panel discussions on how filmmakers can access the Chinese markets.
VR returned to the festival with the VR Arcade, which allowed audience members to experience the latest advances in storytelling, the Raindance VRX Summit included talks and panel discussions with creators across all mediums including filmmakers, game developers, animators, sound designers, musicians, Quill and Tilt Brush artists; and The Raindance VRX Market was a platform to meet funders and pitch projects in development.
The Festival’s unique Web Series was an opportunity to tap into the online video industry. Highlights included Tom Kingsley’s BBC Three YouTube series Pls Like, starring comedian’s Liam Williams and Tim Key; I Gotta Be Me, about a frustrated soap star who joins a Rat Pack tribute act as his hero Sammy Davis Junior; as well as Millenial Theory an Instagram series that follows two halfwits who believe themselves to be enlightenment gurus; Think Nathan Barley meets Eckhart Tolle.
There was no shortage of special guests attending their premieres, including Josh Hartnett for Oh Lucy!, J.K. Simmons for I’m Not Here, Alice Eve for Bees Make Honey, Johnny Rotten for The Public Image Is Rotten and Giancarlo Esposito for the closing night film Stuck, to name but a few.
Emanuele Crialese was the guest honour for this year’s retrospective series; the festival screened two of his most iconic films Golden Door and Terraferma, as well as an In Conversation With event which featured a Q&A with Crialese and festival founder Elliot Grove.
This year’s In-Competition films were judged by an impressive panel of British talent including Sean Bean (Game Of Thrones, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy), Christopher Ecclestone (Thor, Dr Who), Jack O’Connell (Money Monster, Unbroken) and Celia Imrie (Bridget Jones series, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie) to name but a few, as well as leading industry members such as Ex-BIFA director Johanna Von Fischer and acclaimed Spanish producer Rosa Bosch.
The Constitution was the biggest winner of the Festival, receiving three awards: Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Performance for Nebojša Glogovac. A film about loss of community, The Constitution follows four people who live in the same building, but avoid each other because of the differences in their assets, sexual habits, nationality and religion.
Best Director was awarded to Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak for Maya Dardel, a film about a Famous writer who claims on NPR that she intends to end her life and offers the opportunity for male writers to compete to become executor of her estate.
Jason Wingard’s In Another Life was awarded Best UK Feature. Set against the backdrop of the Calais jungle camp, the film follows Syrian refugee Adnan as he battles to be reunited with his wife in the UK.
Best Documentary went to RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save The Planet, which follows internationally celebrated river conservationist Mark Angelo on an around-the-world journey by river that uncovers the dark side of the fashion industry. Raindance has also added a Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary award for The Family I Had, which was narrowly pipped to the post, about a mother recalling how her brilliant teenage son came to shatter their idyllic family through one horribly violent and shocking act.
Rayhana’s I Still Hide To Smoke received the Discovery Award for Best Debut Feature. The film set during the 1995, Algerian Civil War, follows Fatima, a middle-aged masseuse who runs a hammam where all local women meet to cleanse their bodies and spirits. Some do it for the men and the Koran, and some come just to hide from them, washing away the pain caused by the patriarchal society they live in.
The Film of the Festival Award went to Hector Valdez’s Peaches. The film, set somewhere in the Carribean, in a future that never was, follows a man who will find any means necessary to fix what happened when his girlfriend decides to leave him after a disastrous anniversary getaway.
The film generated a lot of buzz during the Festival, particularly from Raindance Founder Elliot Grove who stated that, “We chose Peaches as Film of the Festival because of the spirit in which it was made. A retro-futuristic voyage, this film interweaves time travel, whilst firmly rooted on 70’s Hollywood’s vision of the future. The film cleverly interweaves style and synthesised music rooted firmly in the 1970s to create a relentlessly upbeat movie with characters that are hilariously oblivious to the complexities of basic morality.”
As a result of this win and as per Raindance tradition, Hector Valdez will be asked to direct next year’s Official Festival Trailer.
At the annual Raindance Film Festival Awards, the competition winners announced were:
Best Film – The Constitution
Best Director – Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak (Maya Dardel)
Best Performance – Nebojša Glogovac (The Constitution)
Best Screenplay – Rajko Grlc and Ante Tomic (The Constitution)
Best UK Feature – In Another Life
Best Documentary Feature – RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save The Planet?
Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary Feature – The Family I Had
Discovery Award – I Still Hide To Smoke
Film of the Festival Award – Peaches
Best Short of the Festival – Game
Special Jury Mention for Best Short of the Festival – Viola, Franca
Best UK Short – Cla’am
Best Documentary Short – Riders of the Well of Death
Best Animation Short – Flutter
Best Music Video – Terror
RAINDANCE VRX AWARDS
Best Interactive Narrative VR Experience – Manifest 99
Best Mobile Interactive VR Experience – Virtual Virtual Reality
Best Cinematic Narrative VR Experience – Alteration
Best Documentary VR Experience – First Impressions
Best Animation VR Experience – Dear Angelica
Best Music VR Experience – Beethoven’s Fifth
Best Branded VR Experience – The Chainsmokers: Paris
Best Sensual VR Experience – Through You
Best Social Impact VR Experience – Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon,
Best Sound Design VR Experience – Reeps One: Does Not Exist
Special Prize: Best Storytelling in Virtual Reality – Arden’s Wake
RAINDANCE WEBFEST AWARDS
Best International Series – Jezabel
Best Writing – Adventures of a Broken Heart (joint winner)
Best Writing – Bertrand (joint winner)
Best Directing – Restoration
Best Lead Actor – Hélène Kuhn (Jezabel)
Best British Series – Pls Like
Best Ensemble Cast – Bruce
Achievement In Production – Bruce
This year Guy Ritchie was awarded the Raindance Auteur Award for his achievement in filmmaking and ongoing contribution to the film industry, and the prestigious Spirit of Raindance Award was received by the critically acclaimed UK director Simon Hunter, and was presented by Raindance Festival Founder, Elliot Grove.