The UK’s favourite indie films festival returns on October 27th for 10 days. The action takes place in seven cinemas across the British capital (Curzon Hoxton, Curzon Soho, Curzon Mayfair, Genesis Cinema, Regent Street Cinema, Bertha DocHouse) and also online (in fact, the event pioneered online screenings between between 2006 and 2011).
Below are 10 dirty films carefully selected and analysed by our writers exclusively for you. They are a combination of movies we viewed earlier in the year, and some reviewed specifically for Raindance. Most importantly: they are dirty movies that will hit you like a ton of bricks. They are listed alphabetically. Click on the film title in order to accede to each individual review.
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1. Bawa’s Garden (Clara Kraft Isono):
This road movie of sorts explores the life of Sri Lanka’s forgotten son. First of all, who was Geoffrey Bawa and what is his legacy? Geoffrey Bawa was a Sri Lankan architect who was among the most influential Asian architects of his generation, and his lasting gift upon the world – his shining glory as it were – the ‘lost’ garden of Lunuganga which is hidden away from prying eyes. Premiering at this year’s Raindance Film Festival, Bawa’s Garden is an immersive and gracefully shot film that harnesses the magic of Sri Lanka and its people to achieve its goals.
It is a very subtly experimental film that uses a variety of classic documentary modes to represent its story. There is no primary formula that structures it, as the different styles are intertwined into one package, but it does follow very participatory and expository ideologies as we follow the unnamed protagonist on a journey across this magical land in search of the garden and even her own mysteries too, while a voice manifests as an omnipresent, omniscient, and objective force over the footage and offering in-depth knowledge about the land and the life of Bawa himself. But with context comes information, and what better way to learn than from the people who knew the man best: his friends and peers who gift us with some very enlightening interviews that only assist us in determining the personality of this man.
2. Dogwatch (Gregoris Rentis):
Many films focus on the build up to conflict, be it a war, invasion, or personal revenge. However, what happens when you have to prepare for combat that never comes? That’s the intriguing premise at the heart of new documentary Dogwatch.
The film takes us to the Somali coastline, an area traditionally fraught with violence for cargo ships besieged by pirates. However, over the years, the threat has dwindled, but the vigilance has not. So, the mercenaries hired to protect the ships as highly trained security find themselves day in, day out, preparing for a confrontation that almost certainly won’t happen. Director Gregoris Rentis focuses on three men living this life – newcomer Yorgos, the nothing experienced and eager Costa, and Victor, who is looking for a way out of the life after years at sea.
To call this a movie about nothing would be a gross understatement. Filmed elegantly, it looks at men who find purpose in futility. They find themselves grateful for a job that allows this type of travel and relative safety, but there is a nagging frustration in the knowledge that they meticulously train for an event that has not happened in a long time.
3. Father’s Day (Kivu Ruhorahoza):
This grim Rwandan drama explores harsh realities of three very different characters living in the nation’s capital. It’s almost impossible for a country to shake off certain atrocities that have affected it in the past, which is the case for Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. It is a dark patch that has become etched into the country’s identity, and Father’s Day is a film where the people are still being affected by this national trauma, while also fighting their own demons such as heartbreak and psychological suffering at the hands of dominating male figures.
Directed by Kivu Ruhorahoza 10 years after his feature film debut Grey Matter, this micro-budget film also deals with the lasting repercussions of the pandemic (as you can see with the wearing of masks) but as one character explains, “we blame everything on this virus, but it only shakes things that were not solid to begin with,” which speaks perfectly about the film.
4. Four Samosas (Ravi Kapoor):
A jealous South Asian American rapper decides to ruin his ex’s impending engagement announcement, to hilarious results. After undergoing some moments of harrowing reflection, the film’s central lead Vinny decides “enough is enough”, and throws himself into first gear. It’s time to put himself first, and follow his heart. What emerges is a film that flirts between Wes Anderson-esque parable and full blown Bollywood epic, although the film boasts a flavour that’s firmly it’s own making. Determined to interrupt, disrupt and full on stop the wedding of his ex, Vinny hatches a plan that seems foolproof, only to recognise the folly early on.
Four Samosas works on several levels: It’s a hilariously well written script, bolstered by some colourful (nay, kaleidoscopic) set pieces, that never attempts to discriminate against even the most basic of intelligence. Indeed, it’s frolicsome fun for all the family, and at this time of great political uncertainty (lest we forget the war that is still going on in Ukraine), it’s high time Britain has something fun to watch. The fact that it stars an Asian American in the central lead only makes the whole thing more deliciously appropriate.
5. Little Axel (Bård Kjøge Rønning and Fabien Greenberg):
Having been in production since 2020, Bård Kjøge Rønning and Fabien Greenberg’s raw and honest documentary, Little Axel, will finally be making its premiere at the 2022 Raindance Film Festival. Halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 50-minute film is now being shared with the world, ready to tell the story of Axel Joachim Jensen, Jr.
The son of the late Marianne Ihlen, Axel was also raised by Canadian poet and singer/songwriter, Leonard Cohen. Little Axel puts the now 62-year-old front and centre, shedding light on his life, upbringing and struggles. The 35mm archive footage combined with grainy childhood photos play a huge role in making this documentary feel like a well-informed love letter – to Axel, his Mother, Leonard, and anyone who is eager to listen. Accompanied by numerous cameos of family friends – Nick Broomfield, Mette Jacobsen, and Don Lowe – they directly address and reminisce on their memories with Axel when he was a young boy.
6. My Name is Andrea (Pratibha Parmar):
Radical feminist Andrea Dworking challenged society with her unapologetic attitude, most known for her outward feminist views and bold feminist writings. Deemed as an anti-sex, men-hating controversialist, the documentary brings forth the backlash and criticism Andrea faced for her speeches, views, and published work – including Intercourse (1987) and Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981).
Told almost entirely through Andrea’s own words, the narrative intertwines archive documentary footage of Andrea with re-enactments by multiple actresses, portraying Andrea at different points throughout her life and career. Appointing the characters with names such as Wild Child, Poet, and Lover, the documentary takes a very interesting, distinguished approach to storytelling.
7. Pamfir (Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk):
he ancient people of Ukraine believed that the New Year was a spiritually fruitful moment, a point at which spirits from above would descend into the world of the living. These could be angelic forces, as well as demonic spirits, seeking to corrupt feeble souls. The Malanka festival was organised as a ritual of dancing and costumes that would ward off the spirits of evil for the year to come.
The festival serves as a colourful backdrop for a promising new film from Ukraine, by the up-and-coming filmmaker Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk, whose graduation project had already focused on the topic of the Malanka festival,a theme which he returns to with his debut feature Pamfir, modernising and re-contextualising the carnival’s metaphysical themes, by setting in motion a cold gangster narrative about the clash, not between evil and angelic ghosts, but between an exploited man and the order which perpetrates his enslavement. The film nevertheless remains distantly faithful to the magical elements that are enmeshed in the Malanka carnival as a warm tribute to folkloric tradition.
8. Spanton vs the French Police (Ovidie):
The timing of the film couldn’t be more apt, as it follows on the heels of Mila Kunis’ probing gang rape special, Luckiest Girl Alive (Mike Barker, 2022). Incredibly, Spanton vs The French Police follows a similar path, but this isn’t some kaleidoscopic foray into humanity’s most perverse actions. This is a true story.
As we find out in this documentary, Emily Spanton was a Canadian tourist who was cruelly forced into a gang rape in Paris, attacked by the very policeman who were supposed to protect women in the city. The documentary matches the sentiment Western Europe has attempted to project in the wake of the #Metoo movement, but there’s more to the tale than meets the eye. Spanton was a singular person, and some of the accounts demonstrate a person who was not as devastated by the events as they might like to perceive.
9. Una Femmina – The Code of Silence (Francesco Costabile):
This audacious nominee for the Best Feature award at the Berlinale 2022, now screening at Raindance, is a genre-inflected meditation on patriarchal power as it becomes ensnared with organised crime. Offering a highly personal work, Calabrian director Francesco Costabile reflects on the models of domination prevalent during his childhood, which ‘left their mark on (him)’. Through the portrayal of tightly-regimented violence in the Calabrian region, with its drifts into momentous gang war and bloodshed, a picture comes to life depicting the deadly elements which society pushes to the side, dissimulated, and yet, which remain at the core of it in various forms.
In this sense, Costabile’s childhood under the oppressive network of the mafia, finds a channel of expression in the story of Rosa, an orphaned daughter living with her uncle, grandmother, aunt and cousin, a constellation of family members who operate within the vast network of clans and mobs, altogether composing the horizontal structure of the N’drangheta, one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the world. To free herself from the law of the Father, in all its dimensions, she must strategically attack the N’drangheta from within, striking a nameless blow against her uncle, effectively triggering an unforeseen clan war.
Una Femmina is also pictured at the top of this article!
The hunt for Oscars takes on a new meaning in this charming Iranian comedy from Hassan Nazer, which takes a personal view of his home country, and cinema in general. The title refers to the film’s object of obsession: an Oscar, recently won by an Iranian filmmaker but left in a taxi while transporting it back from the states. Through a series of mishaps, it ends up in the hands of Yahya (Parsa Maghami), a nine-year-old boy who adores movies but has no idea of the importance of the “doll” in his possession. Along with his friend, he fights to keep hold of the shiny object while trying to work out how it can help his struggling family.
The themes of this independent gem are both universal and localised. Anyone who grew up pre-streaming can appreciate Yahya’s desperate hunger for elusive DVDs, hearing about classics from his employer Saber (Hossein Abedini) who teases him with forthcoming loans (“anyone who watches Cinema Paradiso falls in love with it”). However, there’s also a frustration in the storytelling that feels colloquial. Most of the characters aren’t aware of the award’s significance (the taxi driver describes it as “a man standing politely”), making a wider comment about the success of the country’s film industry outside of the festival circuit. We are also led into a world of child labour, and the questionable figures who run operations that see youngsters rifling through garbage mountains.