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Raindance keeps getting younger – just how do they do that???

As the 32nd edition of the UK's favourite indie film festival approaches, we look at their impressive programme, and discuss with their team their focus on first and second features, the move to a sultry June, and much more!

Now firmly on its third decade, the Raindance Film Festival has decided to shine the spotlight on nascent talent. They began the transition last year, when 31 out of 37 feature films were made by first- and second-time filmmakers. This year, they have gone one step further: 90% of the films in the three competitive sections are debuts, while the remainder are sophomore features, evoking Raindance’s familiar slogan: “discover and be discovered”. Raindance founder Elliot Grove explains: “we continue our campaign of championing new voices and the edgy, under-the-radar films that we at Raindance love so much. Come and join our midsummer celebration of the very best new indie cinema and see what you discover. All we are saying is give film a chance”.

The action this year takes place four months earlier, between June 19th and 28th, at various London venues: the Curzon Mayfair, the Curzon Soho, Prince Charles Cinema and Genesis Cinema. The event also includes the House of Raindance industry hub, the Raindance Immersive Summit (June 18th and 19th), at Wonderville (on Haymarket), the 9th Raindance Immersive, a Short Films Competition, and much more.

We asked Artistic Directors Malaika Bova and Martyna Szmytkowska, as well as Executive Director David Martinez a few questions about this year’s Raindance, their new strategy, and how these changes affect their truly audacious and international programme.


DMovies – Raindance has now become a festival entirely devoted to first- and second-time directors. Please tell us more about this decision!

Martyna Szmytkowska – For us, the Raindance Film Festival has always been about discovering new talent. When we started our journey as the festival’s Artistic Directors we wanted to embrace that. We envisioned a festival which shines a spotlight on emerging filmmakers, and now in our second year we are making progress towards that objective; re-shaping Raindance into the premier platform for budding filmmaking talent.

That’s why we show shorts, which is mostly where most filmmaking careers start, and debut features, where filmmakers take their first step into full length forms. There are also second features; those are very often the most daunting ones to make, as filmmakers are still forming their identity as creators.

Malaika Bova – Not only are we giving these films a platform but we are carefully tailoring a festival experience that caters for their needs. We select jury members on their relevance and track record in supporting and championing emerging talents. We are designing an industry programme that offers insight in the most relevant topics for these filmmakers, (finance/production/sales/distribution) and offers networking opportunities with key members of the industry (sales agents, distributors, financiers and producers). Our media partnerships are aimed at providing the right visibility for these films, as they need to be reviewed and highlighted but also encouraged and protected while they make their first appearances in front of the public.

It’s also worth saying that we still do include experienced filmmakers. Each year we have special screenings, galas, retrospectives and Country in Focus, and these include films beyond first and second features. It’s the main competitions (Discovery, Documentary and International this year) which are solely reserved to emerging filmmakers.

DMovies – With this new focus, what are the challenges/ most significant changes in the workflow? For example, has this impacted the number of submissions?

MB – It hasn’t. We consider submissions from all levels of experience, and have prominent off-competition spots (including Opening and Closing night) for more experienced directors. We watch all submitted films with great interest. Each one of them is reviewed by a minimum of two pre-selectors and programmers. We could not do this without the help of an incredibly supportive team, and we are very grateful for their passion, care and understanding while watching our titles.

Submissions they feel deserve a shot for a spot in the programme are then reviewed by a senior member of the programming team, and if they think it is worth further consideration the film will be discussed by all seniors. It’s a very careful puzzle, crucially driven by a determination to be fair.

DMovies – Raindance has moved from October to June. Is a sultry London a better place for film?

MS – It definitely makes for a better occasion to don a summer dress, or a linen suit, to a sultry Raindance party, and we are planning a few.

MB – Our objective in moving dates was to distance ourselves from the crowded Autumn season, when numerous major film festivals are happening, both around the world and in London. We thought why not create an alternative time in the calendar for enthusiasts of independent cinema to appreciate films, rather than for everything to be crammed into one season of the year. We believe that distributing film events throughout the year benefits not only our own festival but UK filmmakers, London film audiences and the broader film community. It doesn’t mean we will stay in summer. We are testing the water this year.

DMovies – You announced your Guest of Honour nation (Germany) during the Berlinale. Is this the result of a partnership with the Film Festival, or with the German Films Service?

David Martinez – We are honoured to have Germany as our Guest of Honour, a result of our long-standing friendship with German Films. This fruitful collaboration has welcomed and supported many emerging talents from Germany for years at Raindance. Now, on its 70th anniversary, we have joined their celebrations by creating a dedicated and deserved focus on their prominent film industry.

DMovies – ED tablet manufacturer MangoRX is once again your headline sponsor. Is this reflected in your films? Should we expect some hard and sweaty action?

MS – Sponsors are obviously crucial for the existence of the festival as they help us to thrive. However, the selection process is a strict one and very much independent of any external factors, including funds. What is most important to us is the quality, content and originality of the film. And of course, you can expect a lot of action from Raindance films. Our programme doesn’t shy away from controversy, both in visual style and subject matter.


And below are the films from the three competitive strands. Click on the movie titles in order to accede to the existing reviews so far. You can book your tickets for the 32nd edition of Raindance (for the films and various events) now by clicking here.



1. Arni (Dorka Vermes, Hungary):

A lonely outsider working for a travelling circus, Árni’s days revolve around feeding the animals and doing odd jobs. When the circus gets a new python, the creature piques Árni’s curiosity. This bleak, visually rich feature was one of four selected for the 11th edition of Biennale College Cinema, and was nominated for the Queer Lion.

2. Cat Call (Rozália Szeleczki, Hungary):

Trapped in a world of her own imagination, a woman can never fall in love because she pictures the death of each man she finds attractive. But everything changes when a talking cat starts courting her.

3. Falling into Place (Aylin Tezel, UK/Germany):

German actress-turned-director Aylin Tezel makes her directorial debut and stars opposite Chris Fulton (Outlaw King, Bridgerton, The Witcher) in this arthouse rom-com set in Scotland and London over a brief winter weekend. 606 Distribution are set to release the film in the UK later this year.

4. It’s Burning (Erol Afsin, Germany):

In this hard-hitting German-set tale of hate crime, an Arab family encounter a man in a playground, where things unfortunately escalate when he attacks the mother due to her headscarf. This leads to a court case, where everything changes.

5. National Anthem (Luke Gilford; pictured at the top of this article):

This love story and a western for a new world stars Charlie Plummer (Bifa nominated Best Actor for Lean On Pete) as a young construction worker who joins a community of queer rodeo performers in New Mexico, each in search of their own version of the American dream.

6. Satu – Year of the Rabbit (dir: Josh Trigg, UK):

Set in Laos and featuring local actors, this sumptuously shot coming-of-age film follows an orphan child labourer on a journey in search of his long-lost mother.

7. Sisterhood (Nora el Hourch, France):

Three inseparable teenage girls attract public outcry after they post a video on social media identifying the assailant who attacked one of them. This potent coming-of-age drama explores issues including class division and feminism.

8. Sleep (Jason Yu, South Korea):

The final film role for acclaimed Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun (from Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, 2019), starring alongside award-winning actress Jung Yumi (Train to Busan, Kim Ji-young: Born 1982) playing a young expectant wife who must figure out how to stop her husband’s nightmarish sleepwalking habits before he harms himself or his family.

9. The Heirloom (Ben Petrie, Canada):

Having wrote, directed, and performed in the acclaimed short Her Friend Adam, and appeared in indie films including BlackBerry and Tito, Ben Petrie directs his first feature: the simple and quirky tale of a desperate filmmaker, seized by inspiration when he and his girlfriend adopt a traumatised rescue dog. Petrie also co-stars along with his regular collaborator Grace Glowicki.

10. The Quiet Maid (Miguel Faus, Spain; pictured above):

In this cathartic Spanish thriller, a young Colombian woman works as a maid for a wealthy, privileged and difficult family. She is quiet and discreet, as she was told, until she sees a way to take revenge.



1. Animal (Sofia Exarchou, Greece):

A multi-award winner at Thessaloniki film festival, it portrays a group of performers as they spend an increasingly wild summer working at a busy all-inclusive island resort under the hot Greek sun.

2. Body Odyssey (Grazia Tricarico, Italy/Switzerland):

Co-starring Julian Sands in his final film, it follows a female bodybuilder who is obsessed by an ideal of perfection and beauty. As she trains for a world championship, her coach monitors every detail of her disciplined daily actions,

3. Cuckoo (Tilman Singer, Germany/USA):

This bold twist on the final girl trope stars Hunter Schafer (The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Euphoria) as a 17- year-old who is forced to leave her American home to live with her father and his new family as they move to a resort in the German Alps.

4. Don’t Hang Up (dir: Manfredi Lucibello, Italy):

Receiving an unexpected and confusing phone call from an ex-boyfriend whom she hasn’t heard from since their breakup, a woman sets off in her car, hoping to reach him in time – without ever hanging up the phone.

5. Endless Summer Syndrome (Kaveh Daneshmand, Czech Republic; pictured below):

Nominated for Best First Feature at Tallinn Black Nights, in this French-set thriller a mother’s sense of duty takes a macabre turn when she learns that her husband may be having an affair with one of their two adopted kids.

6. Kathleen in Here (Eva Birthistle, Ireland):

Acclaimed actress Eva Birthistle (Ae Fond Kiss, Brooklyn) expands on her award-winning short Kathleen Was Here by directing this tale that depicts the ongoing problems surrounding young adults who age out of care.

7. My Killer Buddy (dir: Gianluca Santoni, Italy):

A boy cultivates the idea of finding a paid killer to save his mother from his father’s violence – so he approaches a local petty criminal in this original and touching tale of domestic violence told from a child’s perspective.

8. The Strangers’ Case (Brandt Anderson, Jordan):

Tragedy strikes a Syrian family in Aleppo, starting a chain reaction of events involving five different families in four different countries. Winner of the Amnesty International Film Prize at Berlin, it’s a familiar yet sadly topical story told from numerous perspectives by a cast including César-winning actor Omar Sy in roles such as refugee, doctor, people smuggler, coast guard.

9. What You See Of Me (Isabelle Caps-Kuhn, Germany):

World Premiere. Debut feature. A couple stumble into an open relationship. But the light-hearted experiment gradually turns into a flurry of jealousy and unforeseen feelings. >> DOCUMENTARIES: powerful and relevant narratives.



1. Avant-Drag (Fil Ieropoulos, Greece):

Following its special jury award-winning world premiere at Thessaloniki, this visually vibrant tale follows ten drag performers in Athens, finding solace in each other as they rebel against their oppressive reality.

2. Eternal You (Hans Block & Moritz Rieseviek, Germany/USA):

Questioning the consequences of commodifying the human desire for immortality, this challenging documentary spotlights tech start-ups that are using AI to create avatars that allow people to talk with their loved ones after death.

3. From My Cold Dead Hands (Javier Horcajada Fontecha, Spain):

A chilling exploration of gun culture in the United States, told from the perspective of the most extreme, wild and crazy advocates for gun ownership via a precisely curated selection of YouTube videos.

4: Mogwai: If The Stars Had a Sound (Antony Crook, UK):

Documenting 25 years of this cult Scottish post-rock band, as they stay true to their roots and follow their own path.

5. Searching for Amani (Debra Aroko & Nicole Gormley, Kenya/USA):

In search of truth and redemption, a 13-year-old boy investigates his father’s tragic murder within the boundaries of one of Kenya’s largest wildlife conservancies.

6. Smiling Georgia (Luka Beradze, Georgia):

This poetic and bitterly humorous documentary probes Georgia’s 2012 election campaign by the governing party, who promised its country’s poorest citizens new teeth in exchange for their vote.

7. Sting Like a Bee (dir: Leone Balduzzi, Italy):

Evoking the summer days of adolescence, this visually sumptuous coming-of-age tale explores the romantic dynamics of a group of teenagers in a small southern Italian town, who also share a love of the iconic Piaggio Ape. Featuring a soundtrack by jazz pianist Ze in the Clouds.

8. The Click Trap (Peter Porta, France/Spain):

Raising ethical concerns about democracy and online capitalism, this slick documentary spotlights major tech firms who claim to restrict disinformation – yet still profit from harmful content whenever we click.

9. The Contestant (Clair Titley, UK):

The astonishing story of Tomoaki Hamatsu, who featured in a controversial Japanese reality TV show that saw him left naked and alone in a room for more than a year, tasked with entering magazine sweepstakes to win food and essentials to survive – becoming a famous TV star though the days of sufferance he endured.

10. The Man With 1000 Faces (Sonia Kronlund, France/Poland):

A first-person investigation of a man who goes by different names, who calls himself a surgeon or an engineer, Argentinian or Brazilian, and lives with four different women – adapting his story and even his personality traits to each of his different and fraudulent faces.


And don’t forget to check out the Founder’s Strand, handpicked by Festival co-founders Elliot Grove and Suzanne Ballantyne, competing got The Spirit of Raindance Award. Find out more, and book your tickets for the 32nd edition of Raindance now!

By DMovies' team - 29-05-2024

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