|Raindance 2013 line-up announced as Julian Assange joins jury|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Tuesday, 03 September 2013 15:31|
Raindance 2013 line-up announced as Julian Assange joins jury The line-up for the 2013 Raindance Film Festival has been announced – along with its jury, which will include Julian Assange.
Europe’s largest independent film festival is one of the highlights of my year. From Another Earth to How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song? it has consistently amazed with its range of low-budget efforts, some of which are lucky enough to get an Oscar nomination or theatrical release, others which I shall never have the chance to see again. It's premiered films from Tarantino to Soderbergh.
This year, the festival has 300 films lined up for its 12-day run (that’s 25 films a day, maths fans) with a typically diverse mix of genres and forms. So naturally, the coverage today has been dominated by Assange being included on its jury for the Raindance Awards Ceremony – even though he’s accompanied by such names as The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, Jason Flemyng, Portishead's Beth Gibbons, author Robert Rankin and Sean Brosnan, son of James flipping Bond himself.
The panel, which will vote on prizes ranging from Best UK Feature to Best Animated Short, will also give one short film the title “Film of the Festival”, an award that gives it an automatic place on the Oscar shortlist. Which is why it’s a shame that when you type “Julian Assange Raindance” into Google you get this:
Of course, that’s to be expected. The Wikileaks founder – described by Raindance’s press release as “Publisher, Journalist, Human Rights and anti-Corruption Activist, and Australian Senate Candidate” – has got a place on the jury because is an "interesting person", Elliot Grove told the BBC. Not, you presume, because of the outstanding allegations of rape against him. (Speculation is already rife about how he will take part in the voting; presumably by watching the films on screeners sent to his room in the Ecuadorean embassy.)
Or is it? Raindance Film Festival is no stranger to controversy. In 2010, the festival drew attention from the media thanks to its inclusion of A Serbian Film following its removal from Film4’s FrightFest. Assange’s appointment is perhaps a shrewd manoeuvre designed to generate column inches – as blockbusters get bigger and the London Film Festival prepares to announce its own Tom Hanks-heavy line-up tomorrow, a little bit of scandal could go a long way.
Or the recruitment of Julian is a grave error, celebrating a man with very serious accusations levelled at him.
Error may be closer to the mark. Not necessarily because of Assange’s morally dubious status – until a fair court trial happens, if it ever does, he remains innocent until proven guilty, although the argument that the charges are a conspiracy seems highly blinkered – but because it risks making the festival about something other than film.
Even with the current attention flying Raindance’s way, it should be noted that the festival doesn’t need it. Last year, attendance jumped by one-third, indicating a strong interest from audiences in indie fare. Raindance has had some financial stumbles in the past, but it’s now 21 years old: there’s a reason for that.
Indeed, in 2013, the Raindance Film Festival looks as ambitious as ever.
It will show Wayland’s Song, a gritty thriller about an ex-soldier dealing with physical and mental scars on returning from Afghanistan, and the award-winning Earthbound starring Rafe Spall as a man who believes he is an alien from another planet hiding from intergalactic bounty hunters. (How can you not want to see film described by that sentence?)
Documentaries will cover everything from the aftermath of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, which remains severe to the tale of a six year old skateboarding prodigy and YouTube sensation.
And it will close, perhaps most excitingly of all, with The Machine, a sci-fi thriller starring Toby Stephens and written and directed by Caradog W. James (who will win the coveted i-Flicks Award for Best Name Ever).
On top of all that, Raindance has announced Britain’s first Web Fest on the 28th and 29th September. It will feature a “packed schedule of panel discussions, with subjects covering audience development, lessons from YouTubers, product placement and branding” as well as the “future of web TV”. In a world of video on demand and digital distribution, this is what Raindance is good at. This is what should be grabbing headlines: its active role in supporting, developing and promoting indie film in the UK.
Not its decision to hire Julian Assange or the rest of its jury. Not even Sean Brosnan.
The Raindance Film Festival runs from Wednesday 25th September to Sunday 6th October. We’ll be bringing you our patented pick of the line-up soon. Until then, you can see the whole programme at the festival’s sexy new website: www.raindancefestival.org
For more on this debate, see Chris Blohm's excellent blog post.