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The 6th Raindance Film Festival: Coming Into Its Own

The 6th Raindance Film Festival: Coming Into Its Own

The 6th Raindance Film Festival: Coming Into Its Own

by Laura Macdonald

As October came to a close, the Raindance Film Festival‘s tagline,
“Independent Film, Worth Fighting For,” was proven beyond a doubt. Not
only did Raindance, long time ragamuffin of the British Film Industry,
break all records for attendance and revenue at their home the Metro
Cinema, but it founded the first ever British Independent Film Awards
(BIFAs). The Festival is now in its sixth year and is purposely slotted
during the run-up to MIFED, the European Market that takes place in
Milan, Italy during the first week of November. Acquisition executives
from all around the globe warmed up their engines at Raindance and the
London Screenings, with 335 of them making their way to Soho and running
off with 14 of the 45 features that the festival showcased. The features
and 153 shorts that were screened came from 22 different countries,
while the execs traveled from the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Japan, Korea,
France, Italy, America, Mexico, Bermuda, Denmark and the UK, among many
more corners of the globe.

Raindance director Elliot Grove arrived in London from Toronto, Canada,
and saw a real need to showcase independent film not just from within
Britain, but internationally. Seven years later, Raindance stands out as
a shining light of indie film within the metropolis of film production
that is London. On reflection Grove mused that “Probably the best film
we had this year was ‘Commedia Infantil‘ which was shot using street
urchins in Mozambique and is an absolutely brilliant film with a Swedish
director that used Portuguese money.” Sadly, the international scope of
this year’s fest somewhat overshadowed the British indies which just
weren’t of a consistent quality.

Miramax has, however, shown strong interest in two UK films, one called
Sugar Sugar,” Bradley Souber’s strong debut about going after the girl
of your dreams, and “Gorgeous,” Robin Asprey’s film about an embalmer
who falls for someone she shouldn’t. Justin Baldwin’s debut effort “Cash
in Hand
” acquired a MIFED agent, but the big British news is that “Urban
Ghost Story
,” Genevieve Jolliffe’s chilling tale of guilt with an eerie,
supernatural backdrop, looks likely to sign a distribution deal. Grove
believes this is one of the best British independent films in the last
couple of years and told indieWIRE that the head of the company that is
showing such strong interest in distributing “Ghost Story,” saw the film
at Raindance.

The opening night film was Jake West’s “Razor Blade Smile,” which
attempted to give the well explored vampire theme a different twist by
taking the vampire queen into the modern world and exposing how she
lives her life, using her own kooky narration. The film will soon be
released in England and was certainly full of laughs as it tried not to
take itself too seriously. The fest’s closing night gala screened Lance
Mungia’s “Six String Samurai” in all its “Star Wars” meets “Wizard of
Oz” and “Mad Max” vibe. Sadly, funds didn’t allow for any free drinks at
either parties, but filmmakers and attendees still chatted away into the
night and enjoyed themselves. The best thing about having the Metro
Cinema as base camp, was the bar that allowed everyone to make merry in
between screenings and also permitted beer and wine in the theaters.

Grove told indieWIRE that the reason for the lack in British quality was
partly due to distribution timing. Ken Loach’s breathtaking film “My
Name Is Joe
” that took home four BIFAs, and Todd Haynes’ “Velvet
” for example, were both opening theatrically within a matter of
days following Raindance. He did note, “the thing that was absolutely
staggering this year was the quality of American indies such as ‘Broken
‘ (Scott Ziehl’s LAIFF award winning, heart wrenching film) and
Stratosphere Entertainment‘s [Adam Bernstein’s] ‘Six Ways to Sunday‘.”
Both these films acquired some non-U.S. distribution at Raindance and
were audience favorites. Other US indies that are probably well known to
many fest goers, but not to British audiences, included Adam Goldberg’s
overlong but classy “Scotch & Milk,” Jim McKay’s gritty, documentary
style “Girls Town,” Doug Pray’s excellent grunge doc “Hype,” Jimmy
Smallhorne’s challenging “2 x 4” and Eleanor E. Gaver’s madcap “There’s
No Fish Food in Heaven
,” which stars Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, Tea
Leoni and Debi Mazar.

The panels were all programmed during the weekend that fell in the
middle of the fest. These covered the nuts and bolts of independent
filmmaking from Financing Strategies to Packaging and Dealmaking, as
well as Guerilla Marketing and Pitching to Music in Film. These were all
well attended and attracted a whole host of experts and well known
attendees from all corners of the British Film Industry. However, the
highlight was unequivocally Troma King Lloyd Kaufman’s “Everything I
Learned About Filmmaking I Learned From the Toxic Avenger.” This is the
title of his new book which has recently been released in the States,
but is still looking for a UK publisher.

Kaufman’s intelligent, hysterical presentation included some great
excepts from his book, but was actually dominated by a demonstration of
his company’s first DVD. It not only played one of Troma’s self
proclaimed ‘classic movies,’ but provided a wealth of interactive
information about the company and a director’s narrative on the film
itself. He was particularly irreverent and scathing about Hollywood and
its supposed independent arms, calling them “divisions of giant,
devil-worshipping conglomerates.” What came across more than anything
else, however, was his divine love for movies. He traveled from New York
on his own coin and presented Elliot Grove with his second Troma Diploma
that pronounced Raindance one of the last true bastions of independent
film. He finished by saying that Troma had survived only because it
lives by Shakespeare’s famous words, “To thine own self be true.”

Other film highlights included the Danish film “Wildside,” directed by
Simon Staho whose last film, “Pusher,” was one of Raindance’s biggest
hits in 1997. “Wildside” looks likely for distribution and had audiences
in the palm of its hand. “Dharma Blues,” made by one of Greece’s biggest
directors, Andreas Thomopolous, left many in the audience weeping and
was snapped up for UK distribution soon afterwards. The Belgian film,
Left Luggage” starring Isabella Rossellini and directed by actor Jeroen
Krabbe was another favorite while the slickly shot US film “Pep Squad
had the Troma stamp of approval and audiences laughing. The shorts
programs were full of gems and with the weather aptly dominated by rain,
attendees were more than happy to spend all day jumping in and out of

It is safe to say that Raindance has achieved a great level of
credibility this year, having been viewed by many in the industry with
wariness since its inception. There were no awards given by the
festival, as the BIFAs were allowed their first trial run. Perhaps an
Audience Award for the festival might be appropriate in the future.
Grove received phone calls from Ken Loach, Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, all
exclaiming their ongoing support for Raindance and the BIFAs, and
offering their help if needed, indicating that the strength of the
British film industry’s support is there for the asking. Word of mouth
was good enough to bring quality filmmakers from all over the world this
year, so next year looks set to be a corker.

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