The Raindance Film Festival’s most successful year yet has officially come to a close, but the streaks of many of the featured filmmakers are far from over. I had the pleasure of sitting down with six directors in particular (a mix of both first-timers and vets) whose participation in the festival was not only an honour, but motivation to keep making independent films. From documentaries to dramas, these films (and their directors) exemplify the talent and creativity seen throughout Raindance 2016.
Tom Worth-War of Words: Battle Rap in the UK
Seasoned producer and first-time director Tom Worth felt that the UK rap battle subculture was the perfect subject for a documentary. The film takes audiences into the underbelly of the hip-hop world with up-close shots of rappers ferociously spitting profanities at each other in clever rhyme schemes. Worth and his crew were fearless in their coverage of this vibrant underground scene, where free expression meets aggression and insults become an art form. It’s the cinema setting of Raindance, Worth says, that makes watching the film all the better: audiences become immersed in the battle, just like he intended.
Filp Kovacevic- Incarnation
What happens when a Serbian theoretical mathematician tries his hand at filmmaking? Apparently, 82-minute feature film Incarnation, directed by Filip Kovacevic. This Groundhog Day-gone-bad thriller follows a man struggling to escape his entrapment in the repetition of the same day over and over, always ending with four masked figures shooting him to death. What challenges did the new director face? “Too much running,” he says of the countless chase scenes in the film (to the agreement of his leading man, Stojan Djordjevic)—along with the eminent budget-related obstacles. But not even that can stop Kovacevic from taking this filmmaking career to the next level. Now working on his second feature film, he says having Incarnationscreened at Raindance has meant the world to him.
Jonathan Cenzual Burley- The Shepherd
Spanish-born director Jonathan Cenzual Burley clinched three awards on Sunday for this film The Shepherd, a drama highlighting the destructive potential of greed and desperation when a shepherd is pressured to sell his land. Inspired by the transmigration of cattle in Spain, Burley shot in small, rural Spanish towns where “everyone knows someone who knows someone” who had what he needed, from a shepherd’s hut to a slaughterhouse, and where he had access to the vast countryside for shooting. The winner for best film, best directing, and best lead acting, The Shepherd is a must-see that will leave you, according to Burley, “taken aback.”
Marton Jelinko- Guilt
This is not Finish director Marton Jelinko’s first feature, nor his first recognition from a film festival—but he says it’s Raindance where filmmakers can make small independent films that pose more “abstract” ideas.. His first feature film, Indebted, won best debut feature in 2012. In his latest feature Guilt, a young man is driven to infiltrate the world of human trafficking to save his sister, but the effects of the crime and brutality that surround him have an erosive effect on his morality. Casting and budget, Jelinko says, was a challenge, but he is happy with the result: the goal of Guilt is to “make audiences think.”
Lukasz & Natalia Grzegorzek - Kamper
This Best Feature Debut nominee follows Kamper, a complacent thirty-something, who feels his wife Mania slipping through his fingers as her ambition and infidelity usher her to outgrow her current life with him. When asked about the challenges Polish filmmaking pair Lukasz and Natalia Grzegorzek faced while creating this story, Lukasz unsurprisingly answered “our marriage.” The two finished creating the film together, however, and are now stronger than ever, despite the harsh underlying themes explored in this film about relationships, maturity, and decision-making. Natalia’s hopes for the film is to demonstrate a fresh take on modern romance, and that although the movie was created and set in Poland, its universal themes will reach audiences of all backgrounds.
Jeff Barry- Occupy, Texas
New York native Jeff Barry says shooting his comedy Occupy, Texas in Dallas meant lots of surprises, and lots of interest from the community. “People were really interested in what we were doing there,” he says—attention far less typical of NYC. Another surprise came during casting in the form of a twelve-year-old girl from New Orleans, who came on set and blew her professionally-trained adult colleagues away with her acting ability as the troubled former-occupier Beau Baker’s younger sister and ward. It was Barry’s hope to bring the script, written by Gene Gallerano (who also stars as Beau in the film) to life in a way that would make audiences both laugh and cry with themes of family, identity, and growing up.