The Raindance Film Festival returns to cinemas across London 26 September to 7 October with a range of truly independent movies that you’re unlikely to find in your local multiplexes. This will be your only chance to see many of these films, often world premieres with cast and crew in attendance. So it’s worth having a look through the programme’s wide range of dramas, comedies, thrillers, documentaries, shorts and virtual reality. Here’s a preview…
The festival opens with the Chilean drama Princesita (Wed 26 Sep), about a young teen girl who was raised in a cult and has now been assigned a mission. There’s a whole strand of films from Chile, including The Night (Mon 1/Tue 2nd Oct), about a calamity that makes the earth go pitch black; Damn Kids (Thu 4/Sat 6 Oct), a personal odyssey set amid the chaos of Chile’s 1980s revolution; and Hotel Zentai (Sat 6/Sun 7 Oct), which weaves four stories set in a fetish sex club. There’s also a chance to see Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio’s two masterpieces on the big screen: 2013’s seriously gorgeous Gloria (Thu 27 Sep) and last year’s Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman (Fri 28 Sep), perhaps the finest LGBTQ film made in the past year.
Raindance is highlighting five more LGBTQ features:
George Michael: Freedom (Fri 5/Sun 7 Oct) is the documentary Michael finished making shortly before his unexpected death. It’s an up-close, very personal look at his life, narrated by the man himself with added interviews with his famous friends and colleagues. This director’s cut is a longer version than was shown on Channel 4 last year, and includes a detailed look at his relationships, plus lots of music.
I Hate New York (Sat 29 Sep/Mon 1 Oct) follows four underground trans artists and activists over 10 years with videotaped interviews and performance clips. This documentary is remarkably personal, offering a telling history of these colourful, outspoken people and their impact on New York culture. And it’s packed with moments that are funny, bitchy and deeply moving.
Dykes, Camera, Action (Wed 3/Fri 5 Oct) is the history of lesbian cinema in America since the 1980s, exploring how gay women became more involved in telling their own stories on the big screen. The doc includes both mainstream hits and arthouse classics.
Ruminations (Fri 5/Sat 6 Oct) is an entertaining doc profiling Rumi Missabu, a founding member of The Cockettes in 1960s San Francisco. He’s now the group’s historian, so the film is packed with amazing footage and interviews with vivid people who tell outrageous firsthand anecdotes. Missabu’s raucous stories might not be completely true, but they’re amazing.
Kill the Monsters (Fri 28/Sat 29 Sep) is the only narrative queer feature in the festival, and it follows three men who launch themselves into a polyamorous relationship, which is presented kaleidoscopically as a mix of sex, arguments, singing, drug addiction and, yes, vomit.
Meanwhile, British premieres include the frankly bonkers zombie action thriller Redcon-1 (Thu 27/Fri 28 Sep), about a crack team of muscleheads led by the beefy Oris Erhuero trying to save humanity from the crazed undead army; Jamie Jones’ Obey (Thu 27 Sep/Wed 3 Oct), about a 19-year-old caught up in race and class conflict on a London council estate; and the superbly titled Love Possibly (Sun 30 Sep/Tue 2 Oct), about a rom-com obsessed virgin trying to find his happy ending with a mail-order bride.
Other notable features include Ederlezi Rising (Fri 28/Sun 30 Sep), a Serbian sci-fi thriller about a cosmonaut assigned an, ahem!, full-service android for a long journey; Accommodations (Tue 2/Wed 3 Oct), a comical satire about a high-flying New York couple who ditches their indulgent lifestyle; the acclaimed M (Wed 3/Sun 7 Oct) from France, an especially involving romance written and directed by lead actress Sara Forestier; We (Fri 5/Sun 7 Oct) from Belgium, about a group of teens who begin playing sex games to break the monotony of small-town life.
There’s also a range of feature documentaries from around the world, including Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground (Thu 27/Fri 28 Sep), exploring the legacy of the pioneer 1960s filmmaker who experimented with Warhol and Ginsberg; The Artist & the Pervert (Fri 28 Sep/Mon 1 Oct), looking at the master/slave relationship between Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas and his African-American sex-performer wife; and The Ghost of Peter Sellers (Fri 5/Sat 6 Oct), the tragicomical tale of a movie that was sabotaged by the notoriously difficult star.
Finally, there are several programmes of shorts (including a strand of queer ones) and one of the most ambitious virtual reality programmes at any festival. Not only does this include the world premiere of the first feature-length VR movie, but where else will you get the the chance to fly around and through a 200-year-old oak tree in Judi Dench’s garden?