Directors: Tom Kingsley, Will Sharpe
Cast: Chris Langham, Simon Amstell, Sophia Di Martino, Will Sharpe
Black Pond is a bleak, off-kilter, faux-documentary drama about life, death and media treatment of suspected criminals. The set up is like a TV show where they show you the aftermath of a murder, but darker and funnier - it's way better than Crimewatch.
You remember when I said that our Acts of Godfrey interview was the last you'd here about the 19th Raindance Film Festival? Well, I lied.
Our final final piece of Raindance news is that British indie flick Stranger Things won the award for Best UK Feature. Which is rather well deserved, really, given its superb performances and delicate cinematography (you can read out Stranger Things review here).
Other winners included the Croatian/Serbian/Slovenian co-production Just Between Us, which picked up Best International Feature, Bulgaria’s Tilt, which bagged Best Debut Feature, How To Start A Revolution, which beat the awesome Holy Rollers to win Best Documentary, and the UK’s Monk3ys, which was declared Best Microbudget Feature.
Meanwhile, in the short film categories, Denmark’s Words was officially labelled the Best International Short and Love At First Sight was crowned Best UK Short. But the Italian short film Reset won the big award of the evening: Film of the Festival.
Naturally, we haven't seen any of these other winners - we were too busy writing a review in rhyming couplets (do you know how long that takes?) but the jury had seen them all, including actor Dexter Fletcher, director Gillies Mackinnon, and presenter Alex Zane.
The awards were dished out last Saturday at the lovely Apollo West End, with Festival Director Elliot Grove saying: “There were some outstanding films across the whole line-up so selecting winners was especially difficult this year."
Of course, we all know that Heaven+Earth+Joe Davis and Acts of Godfrey should have won, but the best news of all? Raindance attendance rose by 62% this year, which is great for fans of indie film and the filmmakers themselves. In short, EVERYONE'S A WINNER. (But we're claiming credit for at least 0.05% of those extra people, yeah?)
Acts of Godfrey is one of the most memorable films from this year's Raindance Film Festival. Maybe it's the fact that Simon Callow's in it. Maybe it's because it's written entirely in rhyming couplets. Or maybe it's because its director, Johnny Daukes, is just really talented.
Writing and directing the low-budget black comedy, Daukes got everyone talking in verse for 16 days, and then wrote the soundtrack to go with the film. When I phone him for a chat about his directorial debut, he's busy writing the press notes for the movie.
“It’s like, you know when your nan’s been round, and you finally get rid of her and then she turns up again?” says Daukes about re-reading the screenplay to pick out good quotes to go in the synopsis.
I comment that he obviously means that in a good way. Doesn't he? “Erm, not entirely!”
We go on to chat about Acts of Godfrey and what he's got planned next. Here's what he had to say about filming in a working hotel, chance and fate, and chucking buckets of water over a naked man in a car park.
"Where do you come from?" That's the question Khazar Fatemi is trying to answer. A Swedish citizen born in Iran and raised in Afghanistan, Khazar's parents fled her birthplace when they were put on a death list for dissidence. Returning to her childhood home for the first time in 20 years, she takes us on an emotional journey through a country full of voiceless victims.
It's never easy watching the stories of lives ruined by war. Walls riddled with holes and trees hit by explosions are just the physical symptoms as businesses and families suffer tragic losses at the hands of regimes and conflict. But Khazar's story gives things a personal perspective - she sees old classmates and neighbours, and returns to childhood places with a different viewpoint (literally in one bakery she visits, which has a high surface she never used to be able to see as a kid), and that heightens the emotional impact of the powerful images on screen.
"I wanna meet someone different. With half a brain." "Around here?" That's what Kieran tells best friend Sam in Julian Kerridge's tale of teenage drama. Growing up in a dead-end beach town, Sam wants to do something with his life, while Kieran is happy to drink all day, ignore his girlfriend Moony, and visit Pirate Land, the naff local theme park.
Then in walks Lori and changes everything. Clever, kooky and philosophical, she's not the Albanian pikey that Kieran thinks, and Sam is blown away. It's a typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl scenario, as Lori introduces Sam to art galleries, spontaneous running through parks and other such quirky activities, and Seamonsters perfectly captures the fantastical world of new romance with nicely-lensed landscapes and heady music.
"You gotta be super smart to count cards." "Maybe we should tell that to Rain Man, because he practically bankrupted a casino, and he was a retard." That's The Hangover's take on using maths to beat casinos at their own blackjack tables - but it turns out it's not just retards who can count cards. Christians can do it too. And a team of them do it every week in America, making hundreds of thousands of dollars by cheating the cheaters. They're called The Church Team. Does it contradict their religious beliefs? Oh no, says the team's founder, Ben. After all, it's not illegal. It's just... frowned upon.
So begins Bryan Storkel's fascinating look at the world of organised religious non-gambling. Ben's decision to start the scheme, which sees a group of players hit the tables, keep track of how cards have been played, and (more often than not) get kicked out by security, is an odd step, but he sees it as completely logical. It's a job for the team members, a way to make money in a short space of time so they can spend more time focusing on church. Oh, and most of them are pastors, by the way.
Grieving Oona (Bridget Collins) returns to her late mother's house in a quiet coastal village. Sorting through old possessions and cleaning the mould from the floorboards, she finds Mani (Adeel Akhtar) kipping on the living room floor. So she does what we all do with homeless people: invites him to live in her shed.
It's a small gesture in a film about small gestures. As Oona and the outsider begin to grow on each other, directors Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal let the camera linger on tiny details. Oona's eyes. Manny's beard. A beetle crawling up a stick in the garden.
Of course, no-one talks very much. "How long have you been homeless?" asks Oona. Mani says nothing and stares straight ahead. Only later do we get a glimpse of his back story (and his own fading parent figure) as the dialogue starts to flow across the social divide between them.
After the success of our recommended 10 films you should see at Raindance Film Festival 2011 (and you've obviously seen/are going to see all of those, RIGHT?) we've run around the Apollo West End like crazy people and seen a variety of interesting, odd and wonderful stuff.
We also missed a lot of movies off our first list of suggestions, but all is not lost: there are still a few days of Raindance premieres to go.
So now we've had enough time to plan our final weekend of festival goodness, here are five more films you should try to catch before Raindance Film Festival 2011 ends.
“Ladies and gentlemen. I’d like you to meet Giles. He’s quick to learn, eager to please. He doesn’t get tired. And he goes off like a firecracker,” says Holly. Then she takes off all her clothes and shags him on the living room floor in front of a group of excited housewives.
Welcome to Sydney, world capital of sex and hookers. Apparently. Jon Hewitt’s X is a thriller set in the seedy underbelly of the Australian city. And things couldn’t be seedier if the movie starred Peter Stringfellow eating a bag of seed covered in linseed oil and planting flowers in the garden.
No wonder veteran prostitute Holly (Viva Bianca) is looking for a way out.
Into this world strays Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence), the kind of naïve young girl who gives money to any hungry girl she sees on the streets and doesn’t know what to do once she’s in a client’s car. Of course, everything comes crashing down around her extremely short skirt when she agrees to help Holly out in a threesome with a rich gangster, only to end up witnessing to a murder.
Acts of Godfrey, in case you don't know, is a rather peculiar sort of a show. The director's a few pence short of a purse, cos he decided to write the whole thing in verse. Not the Iambic Pentameter of Shakespeare, but a string of stanzas that play on the ear. 84 minutes of rhyming couplets? It sounds well annoying but I actually loved it.
Ok, love is a slightly strong word, but any creation that is this absurd, that still manages to tell an intriguing story (alongside its language tricks and its word sorcery) is hard to dislike and not easy to hate - it even tackles the notion of fate.
Vic (Iain Robertson) is a salesperson, who goes on a hotel course in self-assertion, but why is his car clutch in need of repair? And why does he find himself attracted to Mary, Myfanwy Waring's rival (as cruel as she's cute) with hard-selling tactics and nice breasts to boot?