For the 31st edition of the Raindance Film Festival, the UK’s leading indie film festival, is returning to the heart of London’s West End, the spiritual home of cinema in the UK. Running 25 Oct– 4 Nov, host cinemas include Vue Piccadilly, Curzon Soho, Curzon Mayfair and the Garden Cinema, with The House of Raindance industry hub and the Raindance Immersive VR Showcase hosted this year at Wonderville on Haymarket – all located an arrows-shot from the iconic Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus. Further films will be screened at Genesis Cinema in east London.

Raindance celebrates this West End return with a programme of fresh, relevant, and radical premieres of must-see titles. A champion of new and vibrant voices in cinema, this year’s selection altogether prioritises the work of first, second, and third-time filmmakers across the entire feature programme, re-enforcing the Raindance mandate as a place to discover and be discovered. This year, over 75% of the films are debut features, with 14% being 2nd or 3rd features.

“When Raindance first launched back in 1993 with the World Premiere of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, the festival found itself at home in London’s iconic West End, championing indie film in cinemas more accustomed to playing Hollywood blockbusters,” says Raindance founder Elliot Grove. “Year after year, Raindance proved that the West End could be a home to film of every budget and genre. In our most recent editions, Raindance embraced local neighbourhood cinemas across London. Now for this, our 31st edition, we are wholeheartedly back in London’s West End, the beating heart of cinema in the UK. And we will continue to champion new filmmakers and the edgy, under-the-radar films that we at Raindance love so much. Join us in 2023, in the shadow of Eros in the heart of London – and maybe with a little help from Eros’s mythical arrows, we’ll all fall just a bit in love with independent film.”

OPENING GALA: DAY OF THE FIGHT (dir: Jack Huston, Canada)

UK Premiere. Debut feature. Award-winning British actor Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire, American Hustle, House of Gucci) makes his directorial debut with this story of a once-renowned boxer who takes a redemptive journey through his past and present, on the day of his first fight since he left prison. This formidable drama stars Michael Pitt alongside a cast including Ron Perlman, Joe Pesci, and a cameo from Steve Buscemi. Director Jack Huston will take part in a post-screening Q&A, followed by a gala opening party at the Waldorf Hilton.

CLOSING GALA: UN AMOR (dir Isabel Coixet, Spain/Catalonia)

UK Premiere. Based on Sara Mesa’s bestselling novel, award-winning actress Laia Costa (nominated for the 2017 BAFTA EE Rising Star award for Victoria) plays a young woman who escapes her stressful life in the city and relocates to rural Spain. When she accepts a disturbing sexual proposal, it gives rise to an all-consuming and obsessive passion. Nominated for the Golden Seashell at San Sebastián Film Festival, it’s a striking account of existential doubt and the transformative power of carnal desire.

SPECIAL GUEST FOCUS: CATALONIA

Raindance is honoured to welcome Catalonia as the special guest this year. Closing gala Un Amor is presented as part of this special focus in partnership with Catalan Films and Institut Ramon Llull, along with the UK Premieres of Upon Entry, Tender Metalheads and La Singla (more details below). A dedicated Shorts Programme Catalan Collection will further showcase the vision, ambition, and vibrancy of Catalan filmmakers. Special sessions during Raindance’s Industry Programme will also champion Catalonia’s film industry.

IN COMPETITION: FILM STRANDS

>> DISCOVERY: maverick features by first-time directors

PARACHUTE (dir: Brittany Snow, USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. The directorial debut by actress Brittany Snow (Hairspray, Pitch Perfect) won her the “Thunderbird Rising” award at SXSW. Lead actress Courtney Eaton (Yellowjackets) also picked up a prize at SXSW for her powerful performance as a young woman with an eating disorder and addiction issues.

ALL THE COLOURS OF THE WORLD ARE BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE (dir: Babatunde Apalowo, Nigeria). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of the “Best Feature” Teddy at Berlin, it portrays two men who develop a deep affection for each other when they first meet in Lagos – but in a society which considers homosexuality taboo, they feel the pressure of social norms.

UPON ENTRY (dir: Alejandro Rojas, Sebastián Vasquez, Spain/Catalonia). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Acclaimed at festivals including Málaga and Tallinn, it follows a young couple as they move from Spain to the United States, only to face an unpleasant inspection and gruelling interrogation when they enter New York airport’s immigration area.

ONLY THE GOOD SURVIVE (dir: Dutch Southern, USA). International Premiere. Debut feature. Multi-award-winning actress Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always) plays a young woman who, after a heist gone wrong results in the deaths of three of her friends, finds herself in the custody of the smalltown sheriff in this impressive genre-bending horror/thriller.

MOUNTAIN ONION (dir: Eldar Shibanov, Kazakhstan). UK Premiere. Debut feature. This Venice Film Festival prize-winner follows an 11-year-old boy who finds his mother in the arms of a truck driver, and so he travels from Kazakhstan to China to find what he believes is the only thing that can help his father save the situation and become a strong man: Gold Viagra.

LOST SOULZ (dir: Katherine Propper, USA). International Premiere. Debut feature. A young rapper leaves everything behind and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery, music, and friendship in this slow-burning Texas-bound roadtrip movie.

STORM (dir: Erika Calmeyer, Norway). UK Premiere. Debut feature. After her son drowns in an accident, a mother tries to restart her and her daughter’s life in this tough and powerful drama – only for rumours to surface that the daughter pushed her brother into the water.

THE LAND WITHIN (dir: Fisnik Maxville, Kosovo/Switzerland). UK Premiere. Debut feature. The “Best First Feature” winner at Tallinn, it follows an adopted boy living in Switzerland who returns to his native Kosovo at the request of his cousin, to help identify the exhumed bodies from a mass grave in their childhood village. Lead actress Luàna Bajrami won the Raindance 2021 “Best Director” award for her directorial debut The Hill Where Lionesses Roar.

>> INTERNATIONAL: must-see titles selected from around the globe

ALL THE SILENCE (dir: Diego del Rio, Mexico). UK Premiere. Debut feature. An actress and sign language teacher learns that she is soon to become deaf. Despite having deaf parents, deaf friends, and a deaf girlfriend, she refuses to accept a world without sound.

BLOOD FOR DUST (dir: Rod Balckurst, USA). UK Premiere. With a cast including Kit Harington, Josh Lucas and Stephen Dorff, it tells of a struggling travelling salesman who finds himself on a dangerous path after a chance encounter with a former colleague.

CLASHING DIFFERENCES (dir: Merle Grimme, Germany). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of the “Young German Cinema” award at Munich Film Festival, the all-female cast tell the story of a white feminist organisation who, in a clumsy attempt at diversity, invite a group of queer and BIPOC women to participate in their conference.

HEAVIS TENDRES/TENDER METALHEADS (dir: Joan Tomas, Spain/Catalonia). UK Premiere. Debut feature. An animated tale of two teenage boys in 1990s Barcelona who take refuge in their friendship and heavy music, escaping the grey world in which they live.

PALIMPSEST (dir: Hanna Västinsalo, Finland). UK Premiere. Debut feature. From the Venice Film Fest Biennale Cinema College, this Benjamin Button-esque sci-fi drama follows two elderly roommates who are selected for a medical trial that makes them younger, giving them a second chance at life while retaining the memories of their past life.

PETT KATA SHAW (dir: Nuhash Humayun, Bangladesh). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Having directed the multi-Oscar® qualifying horror short Moshari, this self-taught filmmaker brings more ancient South Asian folklores to life in this supernatural anthology film – perfect viewing for Halloween.

SWEET SIXTEEN (dir: Alexa-Jeanne Dubé, Canada). World Premiere. Debut feature. Adapted from the late Suzie Bastien’s 2018 play, eight 16-year-old girls unveil themselves through eight bittersweet monologues.

WHITE PLASTIC SKY (dir: Tibor Bánóczki, Sarolta Szabó, Hungary). UK Premiere. Sarolta’s debut feature/Tibor’s 2nd feature. This bold and visually striking animated film follows a young couple living in a barren, post-apocalyptic Budapest in the year 2123, struggling for food and life as they survive along with the rest of humanity beneath a huge white dome.

>> DOCUMENTARIES: powerful and relevant narratives.

SATAN WANTS YOU (dir: Steven J. Adams, Sean Horlor, USA). UK Premiere. 2nd feature. The provocative story of how the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s was ignited by Michelle Remembers, a bestselling memoir co-written by a psychiatrist and his patient, which made lurid claims about Satanic ritual abuse.

DUSTY & STONES (dir: Jesse Rudoy, USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. This remarkable debut intimately chronicles the ride of Gazi “Dusty” Simelane and Linda “Stones” Msibi, two struggling country music singers from Swaziland who journey to Texas hoping for their big break.

SEX WITH SUE (dir: Lisa Rideout, Canada). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of “Best Documentary” at the Canadian Screen Awards 2023, it chronicles the life of nurse-turned-sex-educator Sue Johanson, whose popular radio and TV programmes offered sex education from a pleasure-driven, feminist perspective.

LA SINGLA (dir: Paloma Zapata, Spain/Catalonia). UK Premiere. 3rd feature. Romani flamenco dancer Antoñita Singla lost her hearing just days after her birth, so learned to dance by watching her mother clapping. In the 1960s she was considered “the best flamenco dancer in the world” – but ironically, she was more famous internationally than in Spain. This is her fascinating life story.

WE ARE GUARDIANS (dir: Chelsea Green, Rob Grobman, Edivan Guajajara, Brazil/USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, this is a poignant portrayal of a group of native people who endeavour to save what is left of the Brazilian Amazon.

ANOTHER BODY (dir: Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, USA). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Winner of the “Special Jury Award” at SXSW, it documents a college student’s search for justice after she discovers deepfake pornography of herself circulating online.

AURORA’S SUNRISE (dir: Inna Sahakyan, Armenia). London Premiere. 3rd feature. Combining archive footage with animation to tell the true story of a teenage refugee turned Hollywood star: 14-year-old Aurora lost everything during the Armenian Genocide, but after fleeing to New York her story became a media sensation, leading to a starring role as herself in the 1919 film Auction of Souls.

OMAR AND CEDRIC: IF THIS EVER GETS WEIRD (dir: Nicolas Jack Davies, Germany/UK). World Premiere. 2nd feature. Having worked with the likes of Coldplay, Elbow, PJ Harvey and Mumford & Sons, this Grammy-nominated director charts the intimate, artistic and personal relationship between Omar Rodriguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala of American progressive rock band The Mars Volta.

THE BOOKS HE DIDN’T BURN (dir: Claus Bredenbrock & Jascha Hannover, Germany). World Premiere. Debut feature. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons, this documentary takes an eye-opening look at history by examining the remains of Adolf Hitler’s private library.

>> UK: the best new films conceived and created right here

LONG DISTANCE SWIMMER: SARA MARDINI (dir: Charly Wai Feldman, UK). UK Premiere. Debut feature. When former pro swimmers Sara Mardini and her sister Yusra arrived in Germany from war-torn Syria, they were Europe’s most celebrated refugees. Now Sara is facing a 20-year prison sentence for volunteering with a Greek NGO, helping other refugees. Screening in association with Migration Matters Festival.

SISTERS INTERRUPTED (dir: Caroline Sharp, UK). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Highlighting the medical injustices that people face, this documentary follows two sisters as they both battle forms of epilepsy and together fight for access to a treatment that could save both their lives.

RED HERRING (dir: Kit Vincent, UK). London Premiere. Debut feature. Tackling themes of mental health, love and society, a filmmaker enlists his family on an intimate and darkly humorous journey to help them come to terms with his terminal illness.

EMBERS (dir: Christian Cooke, UK). World Premiere. Debut feature. The first feature by British actor Christian Cooke, he also stars alongside a cast including Ruth Bradley (Humans, Ted Lasso) in this story of a sexual surrogate who is employed to help a high-security psychiatric patient overcome his intimacy issues so he can make parole.

SILENT ROAR (dir: Johnny Barrington, UK). London Premiere. Debut feature. Chosen to open this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, this charming coming-of-age drama follows a young surfer on the Isle of Lewis as he deals with unresolved grief following his father’s death.

THE PORTRAIT (dir: Simon Ross, UK). European Premiere. Debut feature. After her husband is devastated by a tragic accident, a devoted wife becomes obsessed with a mysterious portrait that resembles how he once was. This eerie thriller stars Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) and Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen (Sideways).

CATCHING DUST (dir: Stuart Gatt, UK). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Erin Moriaty (The Boys) and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad, Terminal List) play a repressed wife and her criminal husband hiding out in the Texas desert, when a couple from New York suddenly arrives with dangerous consequences for them all.

WARHOL (dir: Adam Ethan Crow, UK). World Premiere. Debut feature. The lives of a controversial America shock jock, a desperate deaf girl, a homeless ex-soldier, and a scared young gang member intertwine in this tale of choice, consequence, and redemption.

>> OFF-COMPETITION: CRITICS PICKS & SPECIAL PRE-RELEASE SCREENING

RESTORE POINT (dir: Robert Hloz, Czech Republic/Slovakia). UK Premiere. Debut feature. Raindance asked top critics to select and champion a film, and this special “Critics Pick” is selected by Variety’s Guy Lodge. Set in 2038, a female detective investigates the case of a murdered couple when a restoration team is able to bring one of them back to life.

TYPIST ARTIST PIRATE KING (dir: Carol Morley, UK). Special pre-release London Premiere. Kelly Macdonald (No Country For Old Men, Operation Mincemeat) and Monica Dolan (Appropriate Adult) play two women whose friendship grows as they hit the road in an electric car looking for endings and reconciliation. Co-starring Gina McKee (Our Friends In The North, My Policeman).

FEATURE AWARDS AND JURY

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

This year’s jury: Celyn Jones (actor/director: Set Fire to the Stars, Manhunt, The Almond and the Seahorse), Duncan Jones (director: Moon, Source Code, Warcraft), Michael Socha (actor: The Gallows Pole, This Is England), Michael Winterbottom (director: 24 Hour Party People, In This World, Shoshana), Rory Kinnear (actor: Men, No Time To Die), Samuel Bottomley (actor: How To Have Sex, Somewhere Boy, Ladhood), Sope Dirisu (actor: Gangs of London, Mr. Malcolm’s List), Tara Fitzgerald (actor: The King, Brassed Off, Game of Thrones), Vinette Robinson (actor: Boiling Point, The Lazarus Project)

Film & TV Critic Ashanti Omkar, Director of Acquisitions at Hanway Genevieve Segall, MUBI’s Natalie Ralph, Director of MetFilm School Jonny Persey, UK Muslim Film’s Sajid Varda, Senior Global Publicity Manager at Universal Millen Lemma, Director of Public Programmes and Audiences at BFI Jason Wood, director of shorts at Raindance Charlotte Hamblin, Bertha DocHouse’s Jenny Horwell, director Finn Bruce (Swede Caroline, “Spirit of Raindance” 2022 winner), producer Rob Watson, producer Nadira Murray, director/editor Claire Ferguson, founder and CEO of Together Films Sarah Mosses.

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). Awards are also given for Best UK Short, Best Documentary Short and Best Animation Short.

RAINDANCE INDUSTRY SESSIONS @ THE HOUSE OF RAINDANCE (Wonderville, Haymarket 25 Oct – 4 Nov)

This year’s Raindance Industry Sessions will be a collection of independent filmmaking workshops, panels and masterclasses hosted at the House of Raindance (Wonderville Haymarket). Over 25 industry sessions will cover topics as wide-ranging as Virtual Reality Storytelling, How to Make A Low Budget Film, Digital Cinematography Masterclass and The Future of AI in Filmmaking, just to name a few.

For more information, please go to: www.raindance.org/festival