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Categories: Features

We were invited by the wonderful people at Raindance Film Festival to come and sample everything that the world renowned event had to offer and we were very happy to accept.

A whirlwind of features, shorts, webs series, VR experiences and music videos and suddenly the 12 days of the Raindance Film Festival were over! The 25th year of celebrating independent cinema did not disappoint and the record-breaking number of submissions from over 200 countries made this year’s Raindance truly it’s most diverse and illustrious yet.

The staggering number of submissions were collated by a star-studded panel of industry professionals and this year’s winners have finally been chosen and announced. The lucky winners received prizes from the festival’s sponsor, Urban Post, who donated $10,000 CDN in audio/video production services to the winners for the Best Film, Best Discovery and Best UK Film.

Raindance has long been heralded for its unwavering support of independent cinema, from all genres, mediums and formats interpreted by filmmakers across the world. Alongside its traditional celebration of feature-length cinema, this year the festival included a LGBT and China Day, had a Music Strand and continued with its VRX Awards, Market and Summit with the help of their VR partners Facebook 360 and Blend Media.

The largest winner of the festival this year was The Constitution by Director Rajko Grlic, snapping up the prizes of Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Performance for leading Serbian actor Nebojša Glogovac. From a team of filmmakers from Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia and Slovenia, the feature depicts the trials of Vjekoslav, a Croatian professor, the son of a fascist extremist officer who at night is known as the elegant and refined, Katarina. One night Katarina is badly beaten by a gang of homophobic, neo-Nazis and is helped by her neighbour, Maja (Ksenija Marinković), a nurse and the wife of Ante (Dejan Aćimović) a Serbian police officer, who prides himself on his nationalism and strict adherence to the Croatian Constitution.

The film is a beautifully direct and poignant feature, depicting the punitive actuality of xenophobia and antiquated prejudices within modern Croatia. When Vjekoslav and his alter ego Katarina’s world collide with that of Ante and his wife’s, it becomes an intimate and honest exploration of marital, sexual, religious and national prejudices, a harsh reality check for those of us who take our civil liberties for granted.

Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyak won Best Director for their stunningly captured film, Maya Dardel. Starring the incomparable Lena Olin, she shines as a famous, novelist and poet who announces on NPR that she plans to end her life and is looking to find a male heir. The film is a compelling consideration of the complexities of working within a creative field, especially as a woman and a successful one no less, and ultimately the price that intelligence pays on mental health.

A directorial triumph, the film is a visual delight, set in the stunning location of expansive and desolate Californian mountains, the pair have created a film that feels fantastical yet documentarian, whimsical and yet honest. Enjoy its vibrancy of colour, the sense of loneliness in its modern pastoral backdrop and the effortless cynical elegance and jovialness of its conflicted protagonist and the unease of her inconsistent lust and abhorrence over life.

From the UK, In Another Life by Jason Wingard won the Best UK Feature award, a docu-drama following the strife of Syrian refugee Adnan as he attempts to be reunited with his wife in the UK whilst stuck in the Calais refugee camp known as ‘The Jungle.’

In Another Life is a socially and politically relevant exploration into the plights of refugees across the world and Europe’s failure to help those fleeing war-torn countries in search of a simple, better life. Instead of unequivocal understanding and empathy for our common man, many of those forced to abandon their homes have been met with fanatic xenophobia and irrational hatred. An awakening experience, demanding its audience to recognise our role and our countries’ roles within the inconceivably flippant treatment of those who have already had lives exponentially and unimaginably worse than our own.

Within the documentary features, special mention went to Katie Green and Carlyle Rubin’s The Family I Had, which documents the harrowing tale of Charity Bennett, whose thirteen-year old son murdered his four-year old sister. A moving and emotional journey into the traumatic recent history of one woman’s life, her battle with guilt and mourning for her children and despite all, her unwavering love for her family, despite the unspeakable atrocities they have committed against one another.

A truly touching film, however, the winner for Best Documentary went to RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save The Planet?, a harrowing look into the reality of the fashion industry’s impact on our rivers. Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley and following international river conservationist Mark Angelo, the film is a ground-breaking examination of the irresponsible disposal of toxic chemicals, frivolously caused by the manufacture of our clothes, and its truly disastrous effects on humanity.

The Discovery Award for Best Debut Feature went to Rayhana’s I Still Hide To Smoke set in the 1955 Algerian Civil War it highlights the oppressive patriarchal society within Algeria and the shockingly irrelevant place of women within that society. Women seek solace within a hammam run by middle-aged Fatima, where they meet to cleanse their bodies and spirits. A variety of ages, backgrounds, social standings, figures and political ideologies meet within Fatima’s hammam and find that their differences are incomparable to the prejudices they face from men and the society in which they live. A brave film that disregards social etiquette in order to unabashedly present the issues within Algeria that are still felt today.

The most talked about feature of the festival was Hector Valdez’s Peaches, which won the Film of the Festival Award. Set in the Caribbean in a not-to-distant imagined future, the film follows the desperate trials of a man driven to the extremes in order to repair his girlfriend’s decision to leave him after their catastrophic anniversary holiday.

Raindance Founder Elliot Grove has expressed his love and admiration for the film and its deserved win, stating: “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.”

Within the short film category, Jeannie Donohoe’s Game, produced by Lexus and The Weinsten Company, Marta Savina’s Viola, Franca, and Nathaniel Martello-White’s Cla’am were the winners of Best Short, Special Jury Mention for Best Short and Best UK Short.

Game follows a new kid in town as he amazes at a high school basketball try-out, Viola, Franca surrounds the bravery of one 17-year old girl as she unexpectedly changes the course of history within 1965 Sicily and Cla’am is a disturbing and surreal comedy about the sudden and epic gentrification of one particular London borough.

Riders of the Well of Death won the Best Documentary Short, about a gang of daredevil Indian drivers, and Flutter took home the Best Animated Short, set in a world where everyone can defy gravity.

The Best Music Video Award was won by Terror from indie-pop act, Steady Holiday, which surrounds the story of a woman who finds a creature living in her house and it inability to die.

Within the new tradition of the VRX strand, Arden’s Wake by Eugene Chung won The Special Prize for Best Storytelling in Virtual Reality, which surrounds a young woman as she lives with her father in a lighthouse overlooking an expanisve and lonely sea.

The festival has been a delight and a plethora of amazing features, shorts, VR experiences and web series have graced the screens of Leicester Square this year. Raindance seems to keep improving with age and I for one am exciting to see what’s in store for independent cinema next year.

For the full list of winners please see below and we hope you enjoyed the festival as much as we did!

 

https://www.raindance.org/festival/

 

https://www.instagram.com/raindance_film_festival/

 

https://twitter.com/Raindance?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

https://www.facebook.com/RaindanceFilmFestLondon/

 

Francesca Amoroso

Francesca is currently a Camera Assistant, working and living in London. She is an MA Film Studies graduate from UCL and writes about film in her spare time.

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Posted on Oct 7, 2017

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