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29th RAIN-DANCE FILM FESTIVAL Opening gala: Michael Caine in Best Sellers +UK premieres of the best from the international festival circuit

29th RAIN-DANCE FILM FESTIVAL Opening gala: Michael Caine in Best Sellers +UK premieres of the best from the international festival circuit

Raindance returns to cinemas from 27 October to 6November for the 29th edition of the Raindance Film Festival. As the world begins to emerge from a Covid cocoon, Britain’s biggest independent film festival, Raindance, is poised and ready to return to cinemas – and after the last 18 months of isolation and uncertainty, Raindance is coming back reimagined, reinvented, with a host of new partners and of course some incredible new films.

“There’s nothing new about independent film, except that indie film is forever new,” says Raindance founder Elliot Grove. “Independent filmmakers tell the most original and individual stories, using the medium of film to show every facet of the complex world we live in. Now that cinemas have reopened, Raindance is ready to reconnect with the energy, vibrancy and insurgent spirit of indie film – and this year we have some exciting new partners to join us on our mission. We hope you will join us too.” #TheyWillCome

The festival will bring this year’s programme of ground-breaking indie features and shorts to a range of new venues as Raindance partners for the first time with local cinemas across London: Curzon Hoxton, Curzon Soho, Curzon Mayfair, Genesis Cinema, Regent Street Cinema, Bertha DocHouse. Expanding on the experience of hosting a hybrid festival in 2020, when around 70% of the online audience was located outside of London, this year Raindance endeavours to cultivate its digital reach. The in-cinema premieres will be supplemented by a full online programme of films via new digital partner Curzon Home Cinema. Festival titles from the Official Selection will have a digital repeat screening, available UK-wide via the Curzon Home Cinema platform. Films will be available on a ‘pay per watch’ basis via Curzon Home Cinema’s iOS app, Android app and on Smart TVs.

The 29th Raindance Film Festival’s opening gala on 27 October will be the UK theatrical premiere of Best Sellers, the first feature by actor and award-winning short filmmaker Lina Roessler. Starring Aubrey Plaza, Michael Caine and Cary Elwes, it portrays a cranky retired author who reluctantly embarks on a final book tour to help out a young publisher. Director Lina Roessler will join special guests on the red carpet at Curzon Mayfair, followed by a party at The Dorchester.

Medusa Anita Rocha da Silveira

Following its debut at Cannes Directors Fortnight, Raindance presents the UK Premiere of Medusa as closing gala on 6 November at Genesis Cinema. Inspired by mythical and real-life violence by women against women and set against a backdrop of toxic masculinity and right-wing politics, the second feature by Brazilian filmmaker Anita Rocha da Silveira sees a group of Christian women gang up to attack women who they judge to be too liberal or too promiscuous. 

Raindance turns back time to give Hating Peter Tatchell, directed by Australia/UK’s Christopher Amos, the gala cinema screening it deserves. Executive produced by Elton John and David Furnish, and starring Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry, this evocative documentary from WildBear Entertainment will be making its UK theatrical premiere at Raindance. With his acts of civil disobedience, Peter Tatchell rocked the establishment, revolutionised attitudes to homosexuality and exposed tyrants in the fight for equality – earning him a place in queer history, and now a Raindance red carpet screening at The May Fair Hotel followed by a Q&A. Hating Peter Tatchell is now streaming on Netflix.

Documenting the soul of American music, 2014’s Take Me To The River won awards at festivals including Raindance and SXSW. Now the second film Take Me To The River: New Orleans, directed by Martin Shore, celebrates the rich musical history, legacy and influence of New Orleans and Louisiana. This Out-of-Competition gala at The May Fair Hotel will feature a DJ plus special guests including director Martin Shore, Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads),and Ian Neville (from the band Dumpstaphunk who feature on the upcoming Take Me To The River: New Orleans LP release, and son of Art “Papa Funk” Neville from The Meters and The Neville Brothers).

Film Strands & Highlights:

This year’s Official Selection comprises World Premieres of new independent titles discovered by Raindance, and UK Premieres of the best from the international film festival circuit, programmed across eleven strands by Head of Programming Suzanne Ballantyne and Senior Programmers Martyna Szmytkowska and Malaika Bova. New strands for 2021 include the SCREAMDANCE horror strand, and the BOOMERANG strand which in response to the challenging and often gloomy months we’ve just endured, aims to turn the arthouse frown upside down by embracing the joy of indie film.

>>ABSURDITIES: unconventional & fantastical titles fresh from the European festival circuit

In The Mirror, directed by Laila Pakalnina, Latvia. UK Premiere. An absurd retelling of Snow White, the story of a CrossFit-obsessed gym owner and his new young wife who works out all the time in order to be the best. And she is: until the day her gym-raised stepdaughter surpasses her.

The Noise of Engines, directed by Philippe Grégorie, Canada. UK Premiere. Following its San Sebastian premiere, this stylised and somewhat bonkers tale focuses on a college instructor accused of drawing sexually explicit vignettes, a scandal that turns the town upside down. 

>>BOOMERANG: a new strand that embraces the joy of indie film

All Sorts, directed by J. Rick Castañeda, USA. International Premiere. A nerdy loner gets an office job and discovers a secret competitive world of championship folder filing.

My Heart Goes Boom!, directed by Nacho Álvarez, Spain/Italy. UK Premiere. A joyful, high-spirited musical incorporating the hits of iconic Italian star Raffaella Carrà, telling the story of a starlet who brings colour to the greyest days of Francoist Spain in the 1970s. 

>> DISCOVERY: the place to find maverick works by first-time filmmakers

The Hill Where Lionesses Roar, directed by Luàna Bajrami, France/Kosovo/USA.  UK Premiere. Nominated for the Golden Camera and Queer Palm at Cannes, the film depicts three free-spirited young women who rebel against the prospect of a dismal small-town future by forming a gang – with bleak consequences.

Ascension, directed by Jessica Kingdon, USA. UK Premiere. Documenting the paradoxes of economic progress, this impressionistic portrait of China’s industrial supply chain reveals the country’s growing class divide.

>> FEMALE GAZE: a viewpoint covering everything from motherhood to race to abuse

My Sunny Maad, directed by Michaela Pavlátová, Czech Republic/France/Slovakia. UK Premiere. This highly topical and thought-provoking animation depicts a young Czech woman who falls for an Afghan man – but when the couple and their newly-adopted disabled child begin a life in post-Taliban Afghanistan, they must face the reality of being odd ones in a community that doesn’t like diversity. 

Shadow, directed by Bruno Gascon, Portugal. UK Premiere. The harrowing real-life story of a woman who continues to look for her missing son years after his disappearance, touching on delicate topics including the brutal reality of sexual trafficking.

>> GENERATION: from Millennials to Gen Z to the newbies of Gen A, Raindance visualises our world from the unique perspective of these three young generations

Beans directed by Tracey Deer, Canada. UK Premiere. Hailed at festivals including Berlin and Toronto, this debut feature tells of a Native American girl rebelling against her family, set against the real-life stand-off between Mokawk communities and government forces in Quebec in 1990. 

The Revolution Generation, directed by Josh Tickell, Rebecca Harrell Tickell, United States. UK Premiere. Narrated by Michelle Rodriguez, the film documents how millennials have inherited a world that needs them to save it, and shows young people deploying their strengths to confront both the US political crisis and the global environmental crisis. 

>> HOMEGROWN: The best new indies born and raised right here

A Bird Flew In, directed by Kirsty Bell, UK. World Premiere. Featuring a host of UK talent including Derek Jacobi, Sadie Frost, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Camilla Rutherford and Frances Barber, it follows what happens when lockdown is imposed, and the cast and crew of a film are removed from the set and sent home alone.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, directed by Luke Cutforth, UK. World Premiere. The story of a bullied teenager who falls in love with a mermaid-like girl in his local swimming pool, co-starring Johnny Vegas.

LISTEN, directed by Ana Rocha, UK/Portugal. UK Premiere. Anchored by a brilliant performance by Lúcia Moniz (Love, Actually) alongside co-stars Ruben Garcia and Sophia Myles, it follows a couple living in the London suburbs who face serious difficulties with social services when their 7-year-old daughter’s deafness triggers a red flag in the system. 

I Am Gen Z, directed by Liz Smith, UK. UK Premiere. Documentinghow the digital revolution is impacting our society, our brains and our mental health, it investigates how we use different social media platforms – and how they use us. 

Hostile directed by Sonita Gale, UK. World Premiere. For generations, Britain has relied on migrants to keep the wheels of our society in motion. This documentary explores how they now face being expelled. Although Brexit contributes, Covid is the focus: we see, for example, a doctor who worked on the frontline during the pandemic, and now his licence to work is being revoked.

>> ICONS: a strand of biopics honouring some of cinema’s biggest icons

The Rossellinis, directed by: Alessandro Rossellini, Lorenzo d’Amico de Carvalho, Italy/Latvia. UK Premiere. Following its Venice premiere, this glorious family saga recounts the lives of Roberto Rossellini’s children, told from the perspective of the great director’s grandson Alessandro. After a shaky career as a photographer and a past as a drug addict, this film is his attempt to measure up to the surname he bears.

Jean Seberg: Actress Activist Icon, directed by Kelly Rundle & Garry McGee, USA. International Premiere. Comprising exclusive interviews and never-before-seen private footage, it focuses on the private side of this international movie star, including her offscreen activism that made her a target of the F.B.I. 

>> POLITICO: astute stories of social and political significance

White Noise directed by Daniel Lombroso, USA. UK Premiere. The disturbing inside story of the alt-right, as white nationalist violence surges in America and across the world. 

Soros, directed by Jesse Dylan USA. UK Premiere. With unprecedented access, this documentary pulls back the curtain on the personal history, private wealth and public activism of billionaire George Soros – one of the most influential and controversial figures of our time.

>> QUEER: the full rainbow spectrum of LGBTQ+ cinema

Miguel’s War, directed by Eliane Raheb, Lebanon/Spain/Germany. UK Premiere. Winner of the Teddy Award at Berlin, the story of a gay man from Lebanon living in exile in Spain, who returns to his native country after 37 years to confront his traumatic past. 

See Also

Against The Current, directed by Óskar Páll Sveinsson, Iceland. UK Premiere. Having spent a lifetime battling social expectations, a trans woman from Iceland attempts to become the first person to kayak against the current around the 2,000 km Icelandic coastline.

>> SCREAMDANCE: the festival’s new signature horror strand

Father of Flies, directed by Ben Charles Edwards, UK/USA. World Premiere. A haunting tale of family life, starring Camilla Rutherford alongside Nicholas Tucci in his final role. 

Where’s Rose, directed by John Mathis, USA. International Premiere. A missing girl is seemingly found, but her brother enters a deadly game of cat-and-mouse to discover who or what has really taken her place.

>> SONICA SPONSORED BY SPOTIFY: resonating with music docs and live concert films

Learning To Live Together: The Return Of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, directed by Jesse Lauter, USA. International Premiere. This documentary concert film revisits this historic Joe Cocker tour, featuring performances from Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), Dave Manson, and Claudia Lennear (20 Feet From Stardom). 

Helmut Lachenmann – My Way, directed by Wiebke Pöpel, Germany. UK Premiere. An exploration of the life, philosophy and artistry of this experimental German composer.


The Raindance Film Festival awards system honours features and documentaries in eight categories: Best International Film, Best UK Film, Best Director, Best Performance, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Discovery, Best Documentary.

This year’s jury: Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve, Harry Potter, True Blood), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Tobias Menzies (The Crown, Outlander, Rome), Phoebe Dynevor (Bridgerton, Snatch, Waterloo Road), Rakie Ayola (Anthony, The Pact, Grace), Jodhi May (A World Apart, Last of the Mohicans, Defiance), Dolly Wells (The Offenders, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Doll & Em), Robert Sheehan (Love/Hate, Misfits, Song for a Raggy Boy), Aneurin Barnard (Dunkirk, The Personal History of David Copperfield, Goldfinch), Romola Garai (The Hour, Emma, Inside I’m Dancing), Ben Hardy (X-Men: Apocalypse, Mary Shelly, Bohemian Rhapsody), Babou Ceesay (Our Loved Boy, Dark Money, Best of Enemies), Mena Massoud (Aladdin, Open Heart, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), human rights and LGBT+ campaigner Peter Tatchell, director Tarsem Singh, The Guardian head of documentaries Lindsay Poulton, CNN political commentator S.E Cupp, casting associate on the Emmy Award winning show Ted Lasso Olissa Rogers, producer Phil Hunt, producer Stella Nwimo, Arrow Films senior marketing manager Louise Buckler, Bulldog Film head of distribution Philip Hoile, 42 Management literary manager Alex Bloch, Film Constellation marketing director & general manager Chloe Tai, 16 Days 16 Films Johanna Von Fischer, Curzon’s director of programme & distribution sales Damian Spandley, Spotify’s Olga Puzanova, Leroy Harris and Kieran Lancini, Genesis Cinema alternative programming manager Christina Papasotiriou, director Gabriel Range (Stardust, 28th Raindance opening gala), director Giorgos Georgopoulos (Not To Be Unpleasant But We Need To Have A Serious Talk, 28th Raindance “Film of the Festival”), director Amit Dubey (A Fallen Fruit, 28th Raindance “Short Of The Festival”).

Guest Country: Cyprus

This year the Raindance Film Festival, along with the Cyprus High Commission in the UK and Invest Cyprus, will showcase the country as a filming location, as well as presenting a programme of glorious new films from Cyprus. Highlights include The Man With The Answers, directed by Stelios Kammitsis, Cyprus/Greece, following a Greek former champion diver on an adventurous road-trip of rediscovery with a handsome German student. And a musician’s plan to leave crisis-ridden Cyprus must be amended when his dog Jimi runs away and crosses the UN Buffer Zone that divides the Greek and Turkish sides of the island in Smuggling Hendrix, directed by Marios Piperides, Cyprus/Germany/Greece. 

Academy Award® Qualifying Shorts Programme

Raindance is an Oscar-qualifying festival. The recipient of Best Short Of The Festival is eligible for consideration in the Short Film category of the Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run (provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules). Highlights include Andrew Kötting’s Diseased and Disorderly which utilises the artworks of neuro-diversive artist Eden Kötting to take us on a fantastical journey. Award-winning Michelle Coomber explores Ugandan tradition in the ethereal documentary NSENENE. Two young men secretly express their feelings for each other through dance against a backdrop of homophobia inSplit Sole. Director-duo rubberband collaborate with musician Topaz Jones for Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma, which won awards at Sundance and SXSW for its quasi-documentary portrayal of black educators in 1970s Chicago.

27 October – 6 November 2021

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