London’s Raindance Film Festival has spent the past 23 years focusing on emerging filmmakers and championing independent cinema. It has brought pics such as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Pulp Fiction” to U.K. auds while recognizing the talent of helmers such as Trey Parker and Nicolas Winding Refn early in their careers. And while this year, the heartbeat of Europe’s largest indie fest will remain the same, the latest edition, which unspools Sept. 23 in London, will unveil a raft of fresh offerings for new and loyal Raindance attendees alike.
More than 100 film features are set to screen during the 12-day extravaganza, 30% of which are world premieres and roughly 60% of which are European premieres. The fest will open with the world preem of U.S. spy thriller “Newcomer,” toplining James Floyd (British Independent Film Award winner) and Anthony LaPaglia, and will also play host to the world preem of “Rickie Lee Jones: The Other Side of Desire,” an intimate portrait of the rock star, and U.K. bow of Mexican pic “Alice in Marialand,” starring new Bond girl Stephanie Sigman.
“We’ve chosen films that have extreme topics,” says Raindance founder and Canadian native Elliot Grove, who notes the fest received as many submissions as SXSW. “Raindance is considered the gateway into Europe for international filmmakers and I’m excited not only about the wonderful selection of films we have this year, but also about the stellar group of events we are offering.”
One of the 30 industry events on offer this year is the third edition of the Raindance Web Fest, a dedicated online series fest and streaming video industry networking event, the first of its kind in Blighty. The three-day event, which runs as part of the Raindance program, will host five world premieres including “Blowing the Budget,” created by “Crims” thesp Ed Kear. Additionally it will host its own awards ceremony dedicated to recognizing upcoming talent within the digital sphere. A series of panels featuring speakers from YouTube, BBC and ITV will also take place.
“Web Fest is our effort to educate how filmmakers can harness the power of the internet and utilize it for dramatic narratives while also learning to monetize it,” Grove says.
The fest will also run its expert-hosted Raindance Forum, covering every aspect of filmmaking from the old-fashioned basics to the cutting edge advances. Scribe Guillermo Arriaga (“Babel,” “21 Grams”) will host a master class in the fest’s first Co-Production Forum, which focuses on Mexico this year. The forum aims to unite Mexican and British industryites and encourage co-production opportunities between the two nations.
“Mexico is really where it is happening,” says Grove, who adds that eight new pics from the country feature in this year’s program. “We are really hoping that Mexicans will be attracted to work here.”
Raindance staple event Live!Ammunition!, which gives filmmakers a chance to pitch directly for two minutes to sales agents and distribs merely by throwing £5 ($7.69) into a hat, will continue to feature in the fest while short films will remain a focus. This year’s edition will unveil more than 200 shorts.
“We’ve had to reinvent Raindance many times to survive,” says Grove. “But we haven’t changed our tagline for 23 years: ‘Discover or be discovered.’ We encourage people to do just that.”