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Home Blog Features Top 20 films to see at 2013 Raindance Film Festival
Top 20 films to see at 2013 Raindance Film Festival Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 21:08
Raindance film festival top 20 films to see

It's just under a week to go until Raindance and already people are talking about the London Film Festival. The capital's flagship film event is very much Raindance's bigger brother - this year, in more ways than one. Because while Alfonso Cuaron and George Clooney show Gravity to crowds in Leicester Square, just a few hundred metres away, his younger brother Carlos is premiering his own film, Sugar Kisses.

That's just one of many surprises at this year's festival. If you 've been following the media coverage, the biggest of all is the appointment of Julian Assange to the Raindance jury. But whether you applaud that decision or think it's a dreadful mistake, put that aside: this is a film festival. It's not about jurors. It's about films. And there are loads of them here in what has grown to become Europe's largest showcase for indie filmmakers. Directors, writers and actors who tell their tales with the minimum of money outside of the studio system. This year, that includes people such as Danny Huston, Bernard Rose, Bernard Hill, Sienna Miller and Billy Zane. Yes, The Phantom himself. How's that for a surprise?

Some of these people will have mortgaged their homes to get their story on the big screen - and whether you're Alfonso Cuaron's brother or not, that ambition and creativity is worth celebrating.

A few of these films will be lucky enough to get a distribution deal in the UK. For many, the next couple of weeks will be the only chance you get to see them in your life.So, rather than get caught up in the Wikileaks furore, let's focus on the films. After scouring through the 2013 Raindance lineup, here are out top 20 recommendations for things to see:

Two Jacks

Bernard Rose and Danny Huston continue their run of modern day Tolstoy adaptations with this comedy. If it's anywhere near as good as their last effort, Boxing Day, this will be fantastic. Plus, Billy Zane.

Sugar Kisses

Alfonso Cuaron's brother, Carlos, premieres this tale of a 13 year old coming of age in a dark Mexican society. Carlos was nominated for an Oscar for Y tu Mama Tambien, which he wrote with his older sibling. Talent clearly runs in the family.

Skum Rocks

You know when you hear a band that everyone thinks is great but deep down, you suspect they actually suck? That happened in the 1980s to Skum Rocks, a group with no musical talent - but somehow enough luck to almost become stars. Narrated by Alice Cooper, this looks set to be a curious strange-but-true story.

Muse of Fire

"Do you know anything about Shakespeare?" "Oh hell no, we're American!" Muse of Fire follows two men as they interview acting's great and good to find out what it is about Bill the bard that makes him so special. Featuring everyone from Ewan McGregor to Ian McKellen and, of course, Derek Jacobi, this could either be insufferably luvvied up, or a piece with real insight. Judging by the way Sir Ian's Twitter feed is going at the moment, you might even get a photo of him and Patrick Stewart standing next to Elmo to boot.

Outpost 11

Bernard Hill joins the cast of this low-budget horror set in the Arctic Circle. Claustrophobia and tension is the order of the day - and us Brits are quite good at it. The film is already getting a DVD release on Monday 30th September.

The Machine - interview

Toby Stephens unwittingly creates the ultimate military killing machine during the Cold War in The Machine. Raindance's Closing Film, also nominated for the festival's Best UK Feature award, this looks to be a cracker.

I Play with the Phrase Each Other

The world's first film made up entirely of phone calls. It could be amazing. It could be terrible. Either way, it's got my attention.

Prevertere / Carlos Spills the Beans

In Prevertere, a man struggles through relationships with three intense (and intensely different) women - including one played by Antonella Ponziani, who - fact fans - won an Italian Oscar at the age of 28. Director Brian McGuire also appears and directs Carlos Spills the Beans at this year's festival, a comedy about a restaurant owner whose life is going slowly wrong. I still haven't worked out which one sounds better, but McGuire's evidently a director with a finger in a lot of indie pies, so gobble them up if you can.

How to Make Money Selling Drugs

Matthew Cooke's documentary takes us through the 10 simple steps that you need to become a drug kingpin. After Breaking Bad, such a guide almost seems unnecessary, but this isn't Walter White: this is the real thing. Raindance normally manages to pick a strong opening film and this year may be no exception.

Wayland's Song

Richard Jobson's thriller sees a soldier return from Afghanistan to find his daughter is missing. Cue a one-man campaign of revenge that, if its trailer is anything to go by, should be as stylish as it is sinister. This is another film that has a DVD release date secured Friday 30th September.


Rafe Spall plays a man who thinks he's an alien in Earthbound. He talks to his dead father, hides from bounty hunters and, one day, meets a woman with whom he falls in love. K-Pax: The Rom-com? Superman: The Indie Years? This looks fascinating. And it also stars the always excellent David Morrissey.

The Critic

A movie critic tired of rom-coms ends up in his own whirlwind affair in real life, complete with all the usual genre cliches. Written and directed by former film critic Hernan Guerschuny, this knowing premise has the potential to be one of the best films of this year's Raindance. The last time I said that it was about How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song?. The musical went on to win the 2012 Film of the Festival award. Just sayin'.

The Future of Web TV (Panel + Abigail, Chronicles of Syntax, Collider, Continuum, Event Zero

Online series and video on-demand services are transforming the way we watch television. Only last week BBC3 premiered a sci-fi show on iPlayer, YouTube is increasingly focusing on collaborations with big producers, while Raindance is hosting the UK's first web TV festival as part of its 2013 line-up. Where is it all heading? Yahoo! Entertainment, ChannelFlip and App Media Network join a panel to discuss the changing industry. Combined with a string of short web TV screenings, this debate promises to be insightful, highly topical stuff.


One of the good things about Raindance is the work they do in supporting indie filmmakers. Love.Honour.Obey is the first film from Raindance Raw Talent, the group's new production arm. This festival screening is a final test screening before it's unleashed on the wider world - a chance to get directly involved with the indie filmmaking process.


An African-America jazz legend struggles to deal with his past in this UK drama. Shot in black-and-white and with a jazz-filled soundtrack? I'm so there. (There's no trailer online, but here's some cool Sidney Bechet taken from a music playlist for the film by director Charlie Cattrall.)


A clumsy woman unwittingly becomes a serial killer as she begins to bump people off one by one - all completely by accident. A neat spin on a familiar genre.


This anti-Western propaganda film has been smuggled out of North Korea. Or has it? Google the film and you'll find a raft of conflicting accounts of this film. Is it genuine? Is it a satire? Either way, I vote that it'll be interesting.

The Second Meeting

Last year, I visited Belgrade. It's a lovely, welcoming place. One of the first things you see as you walk out of the train station? A bombed building with a hole in the side of it. Further inside the city lies the Military Museum, where a US F-117 aircraft shot down in 1999 by Serbians is on proud display. This film is about the pilot of that plane, Dale Zelko, who goes to visit his Serbian shooter, Zoltan Dani. He now runs a bakery. The two, it turns out, are now good mates - an inspiring story of friendship.

Sex, Lies and Surgery

Any French farce with this title has the potential to be amusing. But Artus de Penguern's screwball flick, about two brothers at a health clinic fighting over a woman, manages to fit in the Canadian wilderness, bears, Inuits and surreal chaos along the way. It looks positively deranged. It's the second film by the Frenchman, who passed away this year - and will be known by many as the failed writer in Amelie.

Mutual Friends

Five New York couples collide at a party in this American drama. Another overlapping tale of romantic stories in a city, you groan? This one's a little different: director Matthew Watts doesn't just have five different pairs of actors to play each plot. He's hired five different writers as well.

Other films that may be worth a look:

Get the Picture
Documentary about John G Morris, the revered picture editor whose career spanned the D-Day landings and 9/11.

Wild Duck
A bankrupt telecommunications engineer gets involved in a phone-hacking scandal investigation with an ex-colleague which leads them to a suspicious flat in a tower block. Topical Greek thriller.

9 Full Moons
Frankie, a wildly enigmatic and hard-partying social butterfly, compensates her loneliness with different men. But then she falls in love with the solitary musician Lev...

Cuba, at a time of great uncertainty and possibility and on the brink of major changes, is seen through the eyes of 12 local artists.

The Black Square
A black square flies over the Beijing sky, directly above a man without memories who may hold the key to the past and the future. Enticingly barmy.

The 2013 Raindance Film Festival runs from Wednesday 25th September to Sunday 6th October. Check out the official festival site here - and share your own recommendations below. What are you looking forward to seeing?