Archive for the ‘Raindance’ Category

Raindance Film Festival 2033

The 31st Raindance Film Festival, the UK’s leading indie film festival returns to the heart of London’s West End frrom 25 October– 4 November 2023.

OPENING GALA: DAY OF THE FIGHT (dir: Jack Huston, Canada)

UK Premiere. Debut feature. Award-winning British actor Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire, American Hustle, House of Gucci) makes his directorial debut with this story of a once-renowned boxer who takes a redemptive journey through his past and present, on the day of his first fight since he left prison. This formidable drama stars Michael Pitt alongside a cast including Ron Perlman, Joe Pesci, and a cameo from Steve Buscemi. Director Jack Huston will take part in a post-screening Q&A, followed by a gala opening party at the Waldorf Hilton.

CLOSING GALA: UN AMOR (dir Isabel Coixet, Spain/Catalonia)

Coixet’s cinema is an acquired taste and her latest Un Amor is based on Sara Mesa’s bestselling novel. Award-winning actress Laia Costa plays a young woman who escapes her stressful life in the city and relocates to rural Spain. When she accepts a disturbing sexual proposal, it gives rise to an all-consuming and obsessive passion. Nominated for the Golden Seashell at San Sebastián Film Festival, it’s a striking account of existential doubt and the transformative power of carnal desire.


Raindance is honoured to welcome Catalonia as the special guest this year. Closing gala Un Amor is presented as part of this special focus in partnership with Catalan Films and Institut Ramon Llull, along with the UK Premieres of Upon Entry, Tender Metalheads and La Singla (more details below). A dedicated Shorts Programme Catalan Collection will further showcase the vision, ambition, and vibrancy of Catalan filmmakers. Special sessions during Raindance’s Industry Programme will also champion Catalonia’s film industry.


PARACHUTE (dir: Brittany Snow, USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. The directorial debut by actress Brittany Snow (Hairspray, Pitch Perfect) won her the “Thunderbird Rising” award at SXSW. Lead actress Courtney Eaton (Yellowjackets) also picked up a prize at SXSW for her powerful performance as a young woman with an eating disorder and addiction issues.

ALL THE COLOURS OF THE WORLD ARE BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE (dir: Babatunde Apalowo, Nigeria). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of the “Best Feature” Teddy at Berlin, it portrays two men who develop a deep affection for each other when they first meet in Lagos – but in a society which considers homosexuality taboo, they feel the pressure of social norms.

UPON ENTRY (dir: Alejandro Rojas, Sebastián Vasquez, Spain/Catalonia). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Acclaimed at festivals including Málaga and Tallinn, it follows a young couple as they move from Spain to the United States, only to face an unpleasant inspection and gruelling interrogation when they enter New York airport’s immigration area.

ONLY THE GOOD SURVIVE (dir: Dutch Southern, USA). International Premiere. Debut feature. Multi-award-winning actress Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always) plays a young woman who, after a heist gone wrong results in the deaths of three of her friends, finds herself in the custody of the smalltown sheriff in this impressive genre-bending horror/thriller.

MOUNTAIN ONION (dir: Eldar Shibanov, Kazakhstan). UK Premiere. Debut feature. This Venice Film Festival prize-winner follows an 11-year-old boy who finds his mother in the arms of a truck driver, and so he travels from Kazakhstan to China to find what he believes is the only thing that can help his father save the situation and become a strong man: Gold Viagra.

LOST SOULZ (dir: Katherine Propper, USA). International Premiere. Debut feature. A young rapper leaves everything behind and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery, music, and friendship in this slow-burning Texas-bound roadtrip movie.

STORM (dir: Erika Calmeyer, Norway). UK Premiere. Debut feature. After her son drowns in an accident, a mother tries to restart her and her daughter’s life in this tough and powerful drama – only for rumours to surface that the daughter pushed her brother into the water.

THE LAND WITHIN (dir: Fisnik Maxville, Kosovo/Switzerland). UK Premiere. Debut feature. The “Best First Feature” winner at Tallinn, it follows an adopted boy living in Switzerland who returns to his native Kosovo at the request of his cousin, to help identify the exhumed bodies from a mass grave in their childhood village. Lead actress Luàna Bajrami won the Raindance 2021 “Best Director” award for her directorial debut The Hill Where Lionesses Roar.

ALL THE SILENCE (dir: Diego del Rio, Mexico). UK Premiere. Debut feature. An actress and sign language teacher learns that she is soon to become deaf. Despite having deaf parents, deaf friends, and a deaf girlfriend, she refuses to accept a world without sound.

BLOOD FOR DUST (dir: Rod Balckurst, USA). UK Premiere. With a cast including Kit Harington, Josh Lucas and Stephen Dorff, it tells of a struggling travelling salesman who finds himself on a dangerous path after a chance encounter with a former colleague.

CLASHING DIFFERENCES (dir: Merle Grimme, Germany). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of the “Young German Cinema” award at Munich Film Festival, the all-female cast tell the story of a white feminist organisation who, in a clumsy attempt at diversity, invite a group of queer and BIPOC women to participate in their conference.

HEAVIS TENDRES/TENDER METALHEADS (dir: Joan Tomas, Spain/Catalonia). UK Premiere. Debut feature. An animated tale of two teenage boys in 1990s Barcelona who take refuge in their friendship and heavy music, escaping the grey world in which they live.

PALIMPSEST (dir: Hanna Västinsalo, Finland). UK Premiere. Debut feature. From the Venice Film Fest Biennale Cinema College, this Benjamin Button-esque sci-fi drama follows two elderly roommates who are selected for a medical trial that makes them younger, giving them a second chance at life while retaining the memories of their past life.

PETT KATA SHAW (dir: Nuhash Humayun, Bangladesh). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Having directed the multi-Oscar® qualifying horror short Moshari, this self-taught filmmaker brings more ancient South Asian folklores to life in this supernatural anthology film – perfect viewing for Halloween.

SWEET SIXTEEN (dir: Alexa-Jeanne Dubé, Canada). World Premiere. Debut feature. Adapted from the late Suzie Bastien’s 2018 play, eight 16-year-old girls unveil themselves through eight bittersweet monologues.

WHITE PLASTIC SKY (dir: Tibor Bánóczki, Sarolta Szabó, Hungary). UK Premiere. Sarolta’s debut feature/Tibor’s 2nd feature. This bold and visually striking animated film follows a young couple living in a barren, post-apocalyptic Budapest in the year 2123, struggling for food and life as they survive along with the rest of humanity beneath a huge white dome.


SATAN WANTS YOU (dir: Steven J. Adams, Sean Horlor, USA). UK Premiere. 2nd feature. The provocative story of how the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s was ignited by Michelle Remembers, a bestselling memoir co-written by a psychiatrist and his patient, which made lurid claims about Satanic ritual abuse.

DUSTY & STONES (dir: Jesse Rudoy, USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. This remarkable debut intimately chronicles the ride of Gazi “Dusty” Simelane and Linda “Stones” Msibi, two struggling country music singers from Swaziland who journey to Texas hoping for their big break.

SEX WITH SUE (dir: Lisa Rideout, Canada). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of “Best Documentary” at the Canadian Screen Awards 2023, it chronicles the life of nurse-turned-sex-educator Sue Johanson, whose popular radio and TV programmes offered sex education from a pleasure-driven, feminist perspective.

LA SINGLA (dir: Paloma Zapata, Spain/Catalonia). UK Premiere. 3rd feature. Romani flamenco dancer Antoñita Singla lost her hearing just days after her birth, so learned to dance by watching her mother clapping. In the 1960s she was considered “the best flamenco dancer in the world” – but ironically, she was more famous internationally than in Spain. This is her fascinating life story.

WE ARE GUARDIANS (dir: Chelsea Green, Rob Grobman, Edivan Guajajara, Brazil/USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, this is a poignant portrayal of a group of native people who endeavour to save what is left of the Brazilian Amazon.

ANOTHER BODY (dir: Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of the “Special Jury Award” at SXSW, it documents a college student’s search for justice after she discovers deepfake pornography of herself circulating online.

AURORA’S SUNRISE (dir: Inna Sahakyan, Armenia). London Premiere. 3rd feature. Combining archive footage with animation to tell the true story of a teenage refugee turned Hollywood star: 14-year-old Aurora lost everything during the Armenian Genocide, but after fleeing to New York her story became a media sensation, leading to a starring role as herself in the 1919 film Auction of Souls.

OMAR AND CEDRIC: IF THIS EVER GETS WEIRD (dir: Nicolas Jack Davies, Germany/UK). World Premiere. 2nd feature. Having worked with the likes of Coldplay, Elbow, PJ Harvey and Mumford & Sons, this Grammy-nominated director charts the intimate, artistic and personal relationship between Omar Rodriguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala of American progressive rock band The Mars Volta.

THE BOOKS HE DIDN’T BURN (dir: Claus Bredenbrock & Jascha Hannover, Germany). World Premiere. Debut feature. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons, this documentary takes an eye-opening look at history by examining the remains of Adolf Hitler’s private library.

LONG DISTANCE SWIMMER: SARA MARDINI (dir: Charly Wai Feldman, UK). UK Premiere. Debut feature. When former pro swimmers Sara Mardini and her sister Yusra arrived in Germany from war-torn Syria, they were Europe’s most celebrated refugees. Now Sara is facing a 20-year prison sentence for volunteering with a Greek NGO, helping other refugees. Screening in association with Migration Matters Festival.

SISTERS INTERRUPTED (dir: Caroline Sharp, UK). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Highlighting the medical injustices that people face, this documentary follows two sisters as they both battle forms of epilepsy and together fight for access to a treatment that could save both their lives.

RED HERRING (dir: Kit Vincent, UK). London Premiere. Debut feature. Tackling themes of mental health, love and society, a filmmaker enlists his family on an intimate and darkly humorous journey to help them come to terms with his terminal illness.

EMBERS (dir: Christian Cooke, UK). World Premiere. Debut feature. The first feature by British actor Christian Cooke, he also stars alongside a cast including Ruth Bradley (Humans, Ted Lasso) in this story of a sexual surrogate who is employed to help a high-security psychiatric patient overcome his intimacy issues so he can make parole.

SILENT ROAR (dir: Johnny Barrington, UK). London Premiere. Debut feature. Chosen to open this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, this charming coming-of-age drama follows a young surfer on the Isle of Lewis as he deals with unresolved grief following his father’s death.

THE PORTRAIT (dir: Simon Ross, UK). European Premiere. Debut feature. After her husband is devastated by a tragic accident, a devoted wife becomes obsessed with a mysterious portrait that resembles how he once was. This eerie thriller stars Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) and Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen (Sideways).

CATCHING DUST (dir: Stuart Gatt, UK). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Erin Moriaty (The Boys) and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad, Terminal List) play a repressed wife and her criminal husband hiding out in the Texas desert, when a couple from New York suddenly arrives with dangerous consequences for them all.

WARHOL (dir: Adam Ethan Crow, UK). World Premiere. Debut feature. The lives of a controversial America shock jock, a desperate deaf girl, a homeless ex-soldier, and a scared young gang member intertwine in this tale of choice, consequence, and redemption.

RESTORE POINT (dir: Robert Hloz, Czech Republic/Slovakia). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Raindance asked top critics to select and champion a film, and this special “Critics Pick” is selected by Variety’s Guy Lodge. Set in 2038, a female detective investigates the case of a murdered couple when a restoration team is able to bring one of them back to life.

TYPIST ARTIST PIRATE KING (dir: Carol Morley, UK). Special pre-release London Premiere. Kelly Macdonald (No Country For Old Men, Operation Mincemeat) and Monica Dolan (Appropriate Adult) play two women whose friendship grows as they hit the road in an electric car looking for endings and reconciliation. Co-starring Gina McKee (Our Friends In The North, My Policeman).


Marcel! (2022)

Dir.: Jasmine Trinca; Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Maavane Conti, Giovanna Ralli, Umberto Orsini, Valentina Cervi, Valeria Golino; Italy 202, 93 min.

Cruelty to animals and their tragic deaths features in many indie and arthouse films underlining our important bond with these vulnerable creatures. This year dogs and donkeys bare the brunt of man’s callous behaviour and MARCEL! is not exception.

Actress turned director Jasmine Trinca;s debut feature is an absurd, surrealistic comedy in the style of Fellini, but with, literally, much more bite. The titular Marcel is a canine, obsessively loved by street performer Alba Rorwacher, much to the chagrin of her daughter Maavante Conti, who just wants to be loved by her mum, and not always parked with grandparents Giovanna Ralli and Umberto Orsini.

Told in ten chapters, the story of this dysfunctional family is grim as well as fascinating. As far as mothers go, Rohrwacher is a nightmare: not only does she neglect her daughter, but she lets her pet dog Marcel sit at the dinner table, feeding him carrots. She is also a fan of divination, throwing coins around with great gusto – and to add to her talents she acts as a medium. An elderly admirer brings her flowers, and attends all her performances in the town square. Her daughter is forced to watch, but not allowed to play her saxophone, which would certainly enhance her mother’s amateurish performance.

Marcel soon goes missing, And no prizes for guessing the outcome or culprit involved in his disappearance. Later, mother and daughter drive to a county fair, were the child has to act Marcel’s part, before discovering the the macabre reality. Not having had much success with their act, the two then travel to visit family; a cousin (Cervi) is well aware of Rohrwacher’s shortcoming as a performer. Proceedings are livened with one family member fancying themselves as a hunter with the whole living room full of stuffed animals, a wild boar being next prey on the agenda.

Rohrwacher is a wonderful eccentric, Trinca calling her a “Buster Keaton disguised as a panther”. But the main reason why this often unstructured script comes together is Maavane Conti, who can be wonderfully expressionless and unfazed by the most turbulent of circumstances. Her limpid blue eyes seem to be cast out of marble, and she manages to remain obdurate in deflecting the guilt her mother accusingly projects on her with grandfather claiming:”it was your father’s dog”. Said father is absent, presumed dead, having left some dark drawings which make the flat even more gloomy.

DoP Daria d’Antonia creates the right ambience for this madcap trip, the colours being as crass as the action. Director Trinca is already planning ahead, hoping that Conti will be her “Antoine Doinel”. At least she rely on the actors baling her out, because MARCEL! has even at just 93 minutes offers too little substance. Quirky it certainly is, but if only the episodically nature could be replaced by more cohesion. Still, a stunning ending shows that Trinca is not short of of ideas. AS



Little Axel (2021) Raindance Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Fabien Greenberg, Bard Kjøge Rønning; Documentary with Axel Joachim Jensen, Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Broomfield, Axel B. Jensen; Norway 2021, 57′

A new and heart-breaking documentary about Axel Joachim Jensen (*1960), who has spent more than forty years in Oslo’s Gaustadt Psychiatric Hospital, being treated with anti-psychotic drugs. Best known for being the son of Norwegian writer Axel Buchardt Jensen (1932-2003), aka the Norwegian Jack Keouac, and Marianne Ihlen, muse of Leonard Cohen, who both died a few months apart in 2016, his life has been tragic, to say the least.

In the 1960s, the Greek island of Hydra was a paradise for sex, alcohol and drugs and haven where artists and would-be artists had the time of their lives. When Marianne Ihlen and her new-born son Axel Joachim Jensen arrived on the island, Marianne presumed that Axel sr would be there to raise his son. But the author had already left with another female admirer leaving Marianne and Axel in the lurch. Enter Canadian writer and poet Leonard Cohen, who would for over twenty years be Axel’s more or less caring father. Cohen paid Alex’s eduction at the anti-authoritarian Summerhill in Suffolk, and later in a much stricter Swiss boarding school.

But Axel, like many children in the artist colony, roamed free from an early age. Kids were present at the parties, and the partner changes, and Axel started smoking when he was seven. Later he turned to hashish and, when he met his biological father Axel sr for the first and last time as a young teenager, Axel sr then introduced him to LSD, profoundly affecting his emotional development.

When Axel jr was nine, he and a friend of his – just three years older – travelled 260 km around Greece without any supervision. India was his next traumatic playground, at the tender age of fifteen. By his late teens he was institutionalised in Gaustadt after spending time with Cohen in New York where the international star spent the nights at the famous Chelsea Hotel. His relationship with Ihlen had ended after eight years, but the two remained friends ’til the end of their lives.

Filmmaker Nick Broomfield, who directed Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love, is one of many witnesses interpreting the environment where Axel jr and other children grew up. But the main reason why Axel went off the rails was his father, author Axel. B Jensen, whose comments on marriage and child-rearing are bizarre to say the least. He was a patient of the anti-establishment psychiatrist David Cooper, who rated his mental state as borderline.

As for Axel Jensen’s legal guardian, who encouraged his ‘participation’ in the documentary, one can only guess for motives: Axel comes across as a shell of a person, after being prescribed forty years (and counting) of mind-altering drugs. His mother was the only person who regularly visited him in Graustadt, but she too had a new family to look after.

Little Axel’s childhood may have had an enviable childhood but his personality was simply too sensitive to withstand the abrupt changes his life took. This is one of most depressing documentaries for a long time exploring unintentional childhood neglect leading to lifelong psychiatric care. Poor Axel was well-nourished and provided for materially but deprived of the stable and unconditional love he deserved. AS


Pamfir (2022)

Wri/Dir.: Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk; Cast: Oleksandre Yatsentyuk, Stanislaw Potiak, Solomiia Kyrylova, Yelena Khoknahlatkina, Miroslav Makoviychuk, Ivan Sharan, Oleksandr Yarema; Ukraine/France/Poland/Chile/ Germany/Luxembourg 2022, 102 min.

Pamfir may look like the typical gangster movie, but it turns out to be quite different from any other genre outing: a noirish fairytale Western where the Indians have been replaced by wild beasts from the past. It all unfolds during the folkloric Malanka festival in the wild and inhospitable western part of Ukraine’s Romanian borderlands around where the director grew up, .

Leonid (Yatsentyuk), also known as Pamfir – which means stone returns home to his village after a stint in Poland. His wife Olena (Kyrylova) and teenage son Nazar (Potiak) have really missed him and their re-union is emotional. But not so with his father Pamfir’s (Makoviychuk), who lost an eye after a fight with his son. Victor’s grandmother (Khoknahlatkina) tries, with the help of her younger son Victor (Sharan), to bring the feuding men together, but the feud continues.

It soon turns out the whole family have been involved in smuggling contraband to Romania, with Pamfir as the ringleader, earning the nickname of “Godfather”. He now wants to go straight but his attempt to reintegrate into mainstream society are scuppered when his son Nazar burns down the local church, destroying not only Pamfir’s documents bit making his father liable to pay compensation. Working with his sidekick , “The Rat”, he continues his illegal trading with Romania unnaware of being watched by another gangster who goes by the name of Oletsa (Yarema) and his men. Oletsa not only runs the smuggling operations, but also the church. Oletsa’s men attack Pamfir, asking the crimelord to do “one last run” to pay back his debts. But, as usual, there is a snag: the tunnel, leading to Romania is narrow, and only Nazar will be able to get through.

The focus then turns to Olena whose back-breaking job at her father in law’s factory, keeping the family afloat, also contributed to the loss of her first child. She now becomes more and more instrumental in ending Pamfir’s smuggling career once and for all.

DoP Nikita Kuzmenko’s heightens the atmosphere of terror that propels Pamfir in primal almost poetic journey. The camera is constantly on the prowl in long tracking shots through foggy woods encompassing vast widescreen landscapes and ancient forests that belong in a fairytale. And this is exactly what the director is aiming for: the villagers’ straw costumes during the carnival celebrations; their wooden masks, garishly painted, bring to mind the ghastly ritual of pagan festivals and the fear generated by The Wicker Man. The ghastly brutality of this atavistic festival resurges through Pamfir’s effort to liberate himself from the violence of the modern day. Gorgeous to watch, full of twisty revelations, PAMFIR is a stunning feature debut. AS

In Cinemas 5 May 2023 |

Winners (2022)

Dir/Wri: Hassan Nazer. UK. 2022. 85 mins.

Cinema Paradiso comes to mind and is actually mentioned in this sunny tribute to cinema and the Iranian directors past and present from award-winning filmmaker Hassan Nazer. It follows the adventures of a young film fan who comes across a shiny Oscar like statuette in the dusty wasteland surrounding his village in the remote desert of Kavir, and decides to trace its owner. The film also stars Mohammad Naji from Majid Majidi’s 2007 Song of Sparrows another delightful drama that also charmed the birds off the trees.

Iranians love their cinema so much so that there are no less than three newspapers dedicated entirely to the subject. And this delicate lyrical fable echoes with the spirit of Iranian cinema and filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi , Majid Majidi, and many who languish in prison. Hassan Nazer made the film in Scotland where he arrived as a refugee two decades ago.

It opens when keen cineaste and Afghan refugee Yahya (Parsa Maghami) watching Jafar Panahi’s 2015 Golden Bear-winning Taxi while his widowed mother is imploring him to go to bed. During the day he works for Nasser Khan (Naji hiding from the authorities) on one of Tehran’s scrapyards for a minimum wage. In the dusty rubble he then discovers the statuette which has already had a colourful history of its own, that started in the back of a taxi and finished in the middle of the road via the local post office. Nazer packs a great deal into his charismatic feature and the joie de vivre it generates makes it a success. MT


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