When it Rains, it Pours
Joshua Glenn looks at the 25th Raindance Film Festival

3 October 2017

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Northerner who abandoned homeland to study film in strange new lands. Ended up in London, because of course. Aims to one day reconcile capacity for critical thinking with unabashed, all-consuming, blinding adoration for Back to the Future. Fears that day is still a long, long way off.

Every year the Raindance Film Festival descends upon the West End to offer up the biggest selection of independent movies in the whole of the UK. As well as taking in a record number of submissions from over 120 countries across the globe, this year also marked the 25th anniversary of what is now a London institution. That’s a quarter of a century of championing the most inventive, unrestrained and inspiring works in world cinema, giving a platform to filmmakers and creatives who otherwise operate outside of the mainstream.

Part of this platform involves giving out awards to the cream of the crop. These are divided into categories including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Performance, plus those for UK Features, Documentary Features, Shorts and – in an acknowledgement of an exciting, burgeoning art form – Virtual Reality. Entries are then judged by a Jury made up of industry professionals, this time including such talent as Sean Bean, Celia Imrie and Jack O’Connell. With the festival now officially wrapped-up, let us take a look at this year’s winners…


To start with, a Raindance first.The Constitution, Rajko Grlić’s self-proclaimed ‘love story about hate’, made history by scooping up not one, not two, but three of the major awards. If nabbing the coveted Best Film gong wasn’t enough, the Croation triple-threat also saw Grlić and Ante Tomić win Best Screenplay and Serbian stalwart Nebojša Glogovac getting recognised as the festival’s Best Performance. This unprecedented victory makes the film – which tells the story of four estranged apartment-block neighbours forced together through shared misfortune – one to keep a keen eye on.


Taking home Best Director was the one-two powerhouse of Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak, for their fascinatingMaya Dardel. Starring Lena Olin as the eponymous ‘heroine’, Dardel tells the story of a reclusive Scandinavian poet who announces on NPR that she intends to end her life and that young male writers may compete to take up the mantle of executor of her estate. It marks the directorial debut of the pair, and its victory in such a competitive category bodes well for their follow-up, When I’m A Moth.


Things were well represented on the home front, too. The award for Best UK Feature went to the achingly timelyIn Another Life, a searing drama from Jason Wingard set in the notorious encampment known as The Jungle. Following the plight of Syrian refugee Adnan as he desperately searches for a way to cross the Channel and reunite with his wife, the film takes a hard-nosed look at the brutality and corruption that has unfortunately come to define the sprawling settlement. Blending docudrama realism with the intensity of a mainstream thriller, Life offers a vital examination of the toll that such systematic abuse can have on the human spirit.


Best Documentary Feature also offered up its fair share of surprises. Taking home the main prize was David McIlvride and Roger Williams’ poignantRiverBlue, which takes a sobering look at the effects of the fashion industry on the local people and their way of life. Alternately scathing and hopeful, the film finds strength through enlightened manufacturers seeking ways to avoid the devastating river pollution blighting Chinese and Indian locales, as well as the triumphant spirit of the everyday folks just trying to live their lives. Special Jury Mention went to the emotionally-shatteringThe Family I Had, a wrenching exploration of the boundaries of familial love as an idyllic family is torn apart by a shocking and violent act.


The Spirit of Raindance, an award dedicated to an individual who best embodies the governing ethos of the festival, went to Simon Hunter. An interesting and diverse filmmaker – the kind who can follow up his 2009 curio Mutant Chronicles with this year’s gentle, low-key Edie – Hunter is a fascinating cinematic voice who feels well and truly at home in this wheelhouse. Check out his various works here.


Finally, it would be remiss to not point out the sterling work done by Urban Post, a Toronto-based post-production house. Keen supporters of the kind of works championed by festival-founder Elliot Grove, they were on-hand to offer $10,000 of in-kind audio and video assistance to the winners of Best Film, Best UK Feature and Best Discovery (this year given to French drama I Still Hide to Smoke).

By all accounts, it was a fortnight for the ages. What’s more, this article just touches the surface of the treasure-trove of filmic goodies offered up this year, with this rogue’s gallery of quality productions certain to crop up on your radar over the next few months. To get ahead of the curve, check out the full list of winners below.

See you next year!


Best Film – The Constitution 

Best Director – Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak (Maya Dardel)

Best Performance – Nebojša Glogovac (The Constitution)

Best Screenplay – Rajko Grlc and Ante Tomic (The Constitution)

Best UK Feature – In Another Life

Best Documentary Feature – RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save The Planet?

Special Jury Mention For Best Documentary Feature – The Family I Had

Discovery Award – I Still Hide To Smoke 

Film of the Festival Award – Peaches

Best Short of the Festival – Game

Special Jury Mention For Best Short of the Festival – Viola, Franca 

Best UK Short – Cla’am

Best Documentary Short – Riders of the Well of Death

Best Animation Short – Flutter

Best Music Video – Terror 


Best Interactive Narrative VR Experience – Manifest 99

Best Mobile Interactive VR Experience – Virtual Virtual Reality

Best Cinematic Narrative VR Experience – Alteration

Best Documentary VR Experience – First Impressions

Best Animation VR Experience – Dear Angelica

Best Music VR Experience – Beethoven’s Fifth

Best Branded VR Experience – The Chainsmokers: Paris

Best Sensual VR Experience – Through You

Best Social Impact VR Experience – Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon

Best Sound Design VR Experience – Reeps One: Does Not Exist

Special Prize: Best Storytelling in Virtual Reality – Arden’s Wake