It's probably no coincidence that it's bucketing down and tomorrow sees the start of the Raindance Film Festival. But there's no point blaming the rain dancers for the soggy weather, you're better off holing up in a cinema with them until it gets sunny again (in June).
The festival specialises in directorial debuts and edgy independents (a few years back they premiered Pulp Fiction) and this year’s programme doesn’t disappoint. There’s work from 48 countries – as far and wide as China and Colombia – making up an impressive 90 features and some 200 shorts.
The capital is well-represented right from the start with the opening night film Newcomer starring Londoner James Floyd (last seen in My Brother The Devil), here playing a disgraced rookie spy on the run after his team is wiped out in Eastern Europe.
And there's more capital-centric work in and out of competition — with the jury for the prizes this year including actors Martin Freeman, Sheridan Smith and David Harewood.
Kicking Off is about London football fans and their foibles – in this case kidnapping the referee; so expect geezers, goons and, judging by the trailer, floating cans of beer.
No prizes for guessing where Mile End is set, but it does go beyond the East End with some very nice looking cinematography around the river too. It’s about two joggers whose seemingly accidental meeting leads to a downward spiral for one of them. Love Me Do is similarly dark and twisted: a London-based love story about an investment banker and an actor whose relationship veers off the rails towards crime. This is an exquisitely-crafted tale of l'amour fou, which dares to trust its audience to work out the unsaid psychodrama behind the scenes and features two flawless performances from Jack Gordon and Rebecca Calder (BAFTA take note). Set entirely in a minimalist London townhouse, the unusual story emerges out of the intricately interwoven character studies. It's not a fast film, but it is richly rewarding — highly recommended.
Then there's more kidnapping in Swansong, which features the brilliant Matt Berry and sounds like a comedy, but very possibly isn’t. In this one, a failed pop star finds out his wife has a girlfriend so takes both of them hostage, making them swallow rat poison before offering the antidote in exchange for their stories.
Dodgy secrets also get in the way in Oliver Nias’s The Return about a small time criminal who returns to his old stomping ground to find his connections have gone cold so decides to target a rich gangster with bloody consequences. Then in Healer, a Colombian man arrives in the capital full of hope but finds only anxiety and bad omens. There's a documentary eulogising the iconic 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street which was recently sacrificed by the developer gods — the evening is called Celebrating Soho and will be compered by Suggs.
And just when you thought these tales of the city couldn’t get any grimmer, along comes God’s Acre, which is “set in the bleakest realms of London’s suburbs” (aka Bethnal Green, where it was shot). It tackles the unbearable horror of, um, home improvement with a bankrupt property developer called Malcolm being forced to do up his house so he can clear his debts.
There's a huge array of other stuff to investigate and a whole series of courses and classes too; the highlight of these is surely the pricey but promising two-day masterclass with Oscar-nominated writer Guillermo Arriaga.
Raindance Film Festival runs 23 September-4 October at Vue Piccadilly. Tickets prices vary from £6-12 per film or £30 for the galas. There are also festival passes available from £80-£175. For more information see the festival website.