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LONDON — Confirming Raindance founder Elliot Grove’s claims that his programming team was “tortured” by the amount of films competing for comparatively few slots, this year’s edition received a record-breaking number of submissions this year from 98 countries – the highest it has received to date. Variety spoke to Danny Moltrasi from the festival’s Shorts Programming team to find out what made the cut…

How many shorts were submitted to this year’s festival, and where did they all come from?

We had somewhere around 4,000 short films submitted to the festival this year, an incredible amount of films that shows the growth in the area around the world. To give just a small idea of the truly global nature of the submissions, we had films submitted from places such as Aruba, Western Sahara and Kyrgyzstan (“Seide”, directed by Elnura Osmonalieva, screening in International Programme 2). Alongside that, every corner of the UK was represented amongst the submissions.

Did you notice any themes or trends, or any emerging territories?

Patterns do seem to bud, bloom, and die through the years, and personally what stood out for me this year was a lot of angry young people across the globe, but specifically in Europe. You can see in many of the shorts in the European Program for example, that there is a wave of isolation and a sense of being lost among many young people. Young adults have felt they have been cut adrift by their national governments, and that has bubbled over into a whole range of street protests and activism, and into cinema as well over the last few years. This, however, isn’t just a European syndrome: It can also be seen in a film such as “#YA” that comes from Argentina, where we are literally in the middle of these street protests and violence.

What are you looking for in a short film – and what makes the cut?

An impossible question really! What we want foremost is films of the highest quality, and films that will be enhanced once they are projected on to a big screen. Apart from that though, we are really open to any story, with any budget, and of any genre. Programmes begin to form themselves once we have a few films pinned down in the selection process, but we try to remain as flexible as we can until the very last moment. We are all about elevating and providing a platform for filmmakers, and this can only be done by fully and truly being as open as possible to every type of film we get. We are always looking for something new.

Do you have any particular favourites from this year’s selection?

This is such a hard question to answer, as these films become a little bit of a part of you. We see them all so many times throughout the process and you can’t be helped but become attached to all of them in some way! What I would suggest though are films that are completely in conflict with the norm of that national cinema, yet still feel like that could only come from that part of the world. Films such as “What A Wonderful World This Will Be” by Tyler Walker, and “Salesmanship” by Bruce Bundy and Helen Rogers (both in International Programme 1) completely sit in contrast with mainstream Hollywood cinema. “Moloch”by Szymon Kapeniak is like nothing I have ever seen from Poland, and is one of the most visually stunning films we have. The whole of the U.K. Shorts selection veers away from the clichéd gangster or kitchen sink drama that the U.K. has built itself up on. Also, the Shorts before Features are all of the highest quality, for example “African Kangaroo” by Dirk Domen, which packs an incredible punch in less than nine minutes. But, to be honest, I love them all!

What advice do you have for short filmmakers who submit to the festival?

My advice would be simple, and that is to just go for it. Make whatever you want and whatever is true to you, with whatever equipment you can use. There is never a “right film” to make to get into Raindance. I hope the short films this year reflect that in its eclectic mix of films.