With the arrival of woolly scarves, even more rain and ridiculously early tubs of Christmas chocolates, the British autumn heralds one more calendar highlight – the Raindance Film Festival, the home of all things indie film. With over two-hundred individual projects being screened across ten days, London will play host to a plethora of filmmakers; both familiar and bright new faces alike. Whilst Britain can boast an impressive selection of submissions, both feature-length and short, it is the international presence that truly makes Raindance such a celebrated and diverse festival. With contributions spanning across the globe, from Israel to Argentina, this year’s nominations for the title of Best International Feature look to have set the bar higher than ever. Cue the next wave of filmmakers to keep an eye on!
Nominations for Best International Feature
#1. Refugiado COUNTRY: ARGENTINA/COLOMBIA, DIRECTOR: DIEGO LERMAN
The trailer for Refugiado opens with the heart-warming peal of children laughing, the camera focusing on a wild-curled youth playing with his doting mother – a stereotypical picturesque scene. Then all shifts as Laura and her son Mati are forced to adopt a lifestyle on the run as they flee from their abusive husband and father, hell-bent on pursuing them from fleeting refuge to refuge. Despite such frightening and troubling times, the duo find moments of peace in each other’s company, only further cementing the special bond of love between them as mother and son. With as much tension oozing from the trailer as that of a Hollywood A-Lister thriller, Refugiado looks to be a great watch, and will no doubt impress during screenings.
#2. The Light Shines Only There COUNTRY: JAPAN, DIRECTOR: MIPO, O
Grieving the loss of his loved one in a mining accident, the directionless Tatsuo becomes reinvigorated with life after meeting the beautiful and mysterious Chinatsu, who, despite appearances, carries many burdens of her own. Whilst providing a glimmer of light and happiness in each other’s lives, they are soon hit with the stark realisation that their love cannot protect them from even harder times yet to come. An exploration into humanity and dependent tendencies, streaked with heartbreak and loss, this beautiful entry from Japan will definitely strike a chord with both audiences and critics alike.
#3. Wild Canaries COUNTRY: USA RUNTIME: 98 DIRECTOR(S): LAWRENCE MICHAEL LEVINE
Infectiously amusing, Wild Canaries is a zany “who-dunnit?!” submission hailing from the USA. Centered around a frazzled New York couple, Barri and Noah, events in their average apartment block soon turn thrilling when Barri grows suspicious of the death of the elderly lady next door. Cue stake-outs and break-ins, close calls and slapdash adventure as the lovably awkward couple strive to uncover the truth; a sizable inheritance passing to the eldest son being at the top of their suspicions as a motive for murder! As they uncover the truth, they stumble across new directions in their own personal lives, too.
#4. Standing Aside, Watching COUNTRY: GREECE, DIRECTOR: YORGOS SERVETAS
With her money spent and failing to make any headway with her acting aspirations abroad, Antigone, a young Greek woman, returns to her hometown. She finds it dilapidated, graffiti-ridden and in the hands of corrupt individuals. There are few smiles among the familiar faces. When she finds solace in the arms of a younger lover embroiled in the corruption, she becomes entangled in the dangerous web of the struggling town, leaving her at the mercy of many unsavoury characters. Incredibly dark and exposing a side of Greece rarely shown, this submission is full of the gritty realism that independent filmmaking captures so well.
#5. Monument to Michael Jackson COUNTRY: SERBIA/GERMANY/MACEDONIA/CROATIA, DIRECTOR: DARKO LUNGULOV
When thinking of the King of Pop, you think leather, sparkles, packed stadiums and heaving dance floors…not of a derelict town in the Balkans. But that is exactly where the audience will be taken in this endearing feature, Monument to Michael Jackson. With his marriage crumbling along with the rural town around him, the optimistic Marko embarks on a mission to draw tourism and new hope into their lives through the construction of a monument to Michael Jackson, then preparing for his 2005 comeback tour. Understandably, controversy broils around the proposition, and despite Marko’s determination and love for his idol, there are a great many obstacles he must overcome in order to win back his wife and breathe new life into the community. With such a charming culture-clash style premise, I’m sure this submission from director Lungulov will capture the hearts of festival-goers.
#6. Misunderstood COUNTRY: ITALY, DIRECTOR: ASIA ARGENTO
This Italian submission follows Aria, a young girl neglected by her warring parents in the process of a volatile divorce. Increasingly desperate to gain attention of any kind from them, Aria becomes a troublemaker; altering her appearance, smoking, drinking and falling in with the wrong kind of crowd. A coming of age tale but with the absence of the overprotective parents, Misunderstood looks to be a highly personal journey into self-discovery, albeit a journey of change achieved not for Aria’s own benefit, but instead to be merely noticed by those supposedly closest to her. This metamorphosis from child to adulthood for all the wrong reasons will no doubt tug at the heartstrings and puts this submission in good standing for Best International Feature.
With such a diverse selection of films nominated – from tales of heart-ache and loss, to amateur espionage and bucolic statues of Michael Jackson – Raindance’s panel of judges will have their work cut out for them in deciding which film deserves the title of Best International Feature. The wide range of genres on display make comparing these submissions side-by-side troublesome. My own picks, however – from watching these trailers alone – would have to be Wild Canaries and Monument to Michael Jackson. Capturing levity amidst the struggles of ordinary everydaylife; a collapsing local community, or an imperfect union – without the seemingly inescapable Hollywood inclusions of abductions, explosions or schoolboy horror – is hard to achieve, and yet these two independent films appear to have captured such a refreshing take on comedy with ease. I look forward to watching how these films are received by both the judges and casual festival attendees. Which film the judges will deign the Best International Feature is tough to call…one thing for sure though, is that it will not be an easy decision to make!