The Raindance Film Festival returns to London’s West End this September – and with it will bring not just its usual web series awards but also a showcase for VR videos.
The festival has established itself as an important event in the online video calendar. The largest independent film festival in Europe, Raindance will host world, European and UK premieres of 90 feature films and 85 short films in just a couple of weeks, with a record number of submissions from 98 countries. The event is a platform for many of these to find a distributor, with VOD often a key stepping stone to finding a wider international audience – indeed, Raindance has its own VOD platform it uses to release select festival titles.
Raindance’s streaming arm, though, reaches further than that, with an annual strand dedicated to web series from the UK and around the world. This year, that will also be joined by an inaugural “VR Arcade”, which will add to the festival’s emphasis on the rise of alternative digital platforms for filmmakers.
Raindance Founder Elliot Grove was joined by jury member musician Johnny McDaid (Snow Patrol) to announce this year’s programme. The festival will open with the UK premiere of Manu Riche’s Problemski Hotel – inspired by Dimitri Verhulst’s novel of the same name – and close with Dominik Moll’s News from Planet Mars, an eccentric rench comedy starring Francois Damiens.
Along with Best Film, Feature Films in Official Competition will, for the first time, also compete in additional categories, including Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. Films include the International Premiere of Stephen Elliot’s After Adderall (USA), starring Michael C. Hall, about the film adaptation of Elliot’s memoirs, which starred James Franco and Ed Harris; The Violin Player (India), which is directed by Bauddhayan Mukherji and takes us on a day in the life of a failed Bollywood session violinist; and A Double Life (Japan), Yoshiyuki Kishi’s feature debut about a young woman assigned to follow a stranger, only to discover that he leads a double life.
Additional features In Competition include Mirko Pincelli’s debut, The Habit of Beauty (UK/Italy), starring Noel Clarke; Adam Irving’s Off the Rails (USA/Canada), a documentary about Darius McCallum, a man with Asperger’s syndrome, whose love of transportation has landed him in jail over 30 times for impersonating New York City public transport drivers; and the World Premiere of Five Days of Lesvos (UK), Richard Wyllie’s look at the experiences of those at the frontline of the refugee crisis in Greece and Europe’s failure to act. Other films screening at the festival include Between Us (USA), which stars Olivia Thirlby, Adam Goldberg and Analeigh Tipton, The Lennox brothers’ AmStarDam, an Amsterdam adventure with a fairytale twist, starring Sean Power and Alice Lowe, and Miranda Bowen’s Gozo, starring Ophelia Lovibond.
A Women In Film and LGBT strand will each include a specific selection of films, as well as industry panels that emphasise the contribution women and LGBT communities are making to the industry and the current challenges they face.
The Virtual Reality Arcade, sponsored by Lexus, will feature 14 experiences, providing audience members with an “immersive experience and the chance to experiment with new advances in storytelling technology”. The VR programme includes Notes on Blindness and other films that showcase empathy, as well as powerful documentaries, such as Witness 360: 7/7, a look at the 2005 London terrorist attacks; Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel, which was produced by the BBC; 6X9: A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement, produced by the Guardian; and the World Premiere of RecoVR: Mosul, which was commissioned by the Economist and takes the viewer on a visit to a museum in Iraq that was destroyed by ISIS.
Web series nominees include Sol Rikweda’s Blood, Sweat & Chokes (UK), which follows three young fighters as they hustle to reach the Ultimate Fighting Championship; Rich Keeble Vanity Project (UK), an improvised mockumentary series about the real-life struggling comedic actor; ; and S-Band (UK), Hannah George’s series, which follows the lives of the staff and students at Northwood High, a school for students with behavioural issues.
Along with Johnny McDaid, this year’s competition titles will be judged by a panel that includes Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Imelda Staunton, Jodie Whittaker, Anna Friel, Jack Davenport and Nicholas Pinnock.
The 24th Raindance Film Festival will take place from 21st September to 2nd October 2016. For more information, visit the official festival website – or read on for the full rundown of web series and VR titles.
Best UK Web Series
Blood, Sweat & Chokes, Sol Rikweda
Following three young fighters as they journey through the UK’s underground MMA scene full of grimy gyms, glamorous showgirls and dodgy promoters. As they hustle to reach the glitzy world of the UFC, we get a sense of the masculinity, brotherhood and struggles involved in trying to achieve the ultimate dream of becoming a champion.
Ren: The Girl with the Mark, Kate Madison
The tale of a young woman who, after an otherworldly encounter in the woods, is marked by an ancient spirit. Feared by all and hunted by the Kah’Nath, she is forced to leave behind everything she knows to discover the true meaning behind the mark she now bears.
Rich Keeble Vanity Project, Rich Keeble/Sam LeGassick/ Edd Wright
Meet Rich Keeble, a real-life struggling comedy actor. This is the show, about the show. In this new, awkward, hilarious improvised comedy mockumentary series, we see him battle his bully of a producer and fail after every attempt to try and be Britain’s next top comedy talent.
Shield 5, Anthony Wilcox
Security driver John Swift is arrested for his involvement in a diamond heist and the subsequent death of a colleague. Determined to prove his innocence, he finds himself on the run from both the police and those he believes have framed him. Will he be able to evade capture long enough to uncover the truth?
S-Band, Hannah George
A series following the lives of the staff and students of S-Band, a class at Northwood High for students with behavioural problems, bad attitudes and a penchant for setting fire to things. Mr Thorogood runs a ‘buddying up’ session, which leads to a Ritalin theft, a dropped baby and ultimately, a friendship.
Best International Web Series
20 Seconds to Live, Ben Rock, USA
In this scripted anthology series, various characters meet their untimely demise in twisted, fun, and oftentimes, gory situations. This is the horror/comedy series for people who hate happy endings.
Discocalypse, Dirk Rosenloecher, Germany
Wake up with young, stuttering Zecke on a club toilet in Germany in the middle of a bad hangover. His memories of the previous day lead to a hell of a night and we join him and his friends on a crazy ride out of the club, which happens to be infected with zombie-like monsters.
Il Sonnambulo, Hannah & Douglas Rath, UK/USA
Photographer Atticus Hurst earned fame and money from documenting the crimes of infamous killer Il Sonnambulo. In recent years the killer has gone quiet and Atticus’ notoriety has consequently faded. This dangerously symbiotic relationship between the two drives Atticus to track down his long-time muse when he receives a tip-off…
The Fourth Door, Tony E. Valenzuela, USA
The story of one woman’s journey as she navigates the strange and dangerous world of Limbo. On this journey Lain must confront memories and monstrous fears to save both herself and the man she loves.
Young Graduate, Shannon Renaudeau/ Florent Sabatier, France
Alice is 24 years-old and has just graduated. She is looking for her dream job and a purpose to her life. Ambassador to the Y-Generation, ambitious but slightly lost, she’ll strive to fulfill herself and find her way.
A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement, Francesca Panetta and Lindsay Poulton, UK, produced by the Guardian
Across the Line
Nonny de la Peña, USA
Nigel Townsend, UK
Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel
Oscar Raby, UK, produced by the BBC
An Immersive Spacewalk Experience, Kate Bartlett and Tom Burton, UK, produced the BBC
In My Shoes: Dancing with Myself
Jane Gauntlett, UK
Inside the Box of Kurios
Paul Raphael and Félix Lajeunesse, Canada
Darren Emerson, UK
Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness
Arnaud Colinart, Amaury La Burthe, Peter Middleton and James Spinney, UK/France
Visualise Films, UK, commissioned by the Economist
The Rose And I
Eugene Chung, USA
Carolina Avedano, Spain
The Turning Forest
Oscar Raby, UK, produced by the BBC
Witness 360: 7/7
Darren Emerson, UK
Read our reviews of this year’s Web Fest award nominees here.