Pushed up the calendar this year to a brand new summer spot, the Raindance Film Festival 2024, one of the largest independent platforms in the UK, is back with a diverse slate of films, 90% of which arrive from first-time filmmakers. It places the festival in a unique position, where quality is never guaranteed, but there are always gems just waiting to be discovered. With this in mind, here are ten picks for films to watch at Raindance this year, all with unique premises that are sure to be, at the very least, projects that will spur discussion.

1. Body Odyssey

If you enjoyed this year’s “Love Lies Bleeding,” Grazia Tricarico’s “Body Odyssey” also follows a female bodybuilder struggling with body issues in a surrealist and, at times, psychedelic fashion. Jaqueline Fuchs stars as the lead Mona, under constant pressure from her coach, the pressure that erupts into her having a crisis of personality. Whilst terrifying at times, the film is also underscored by a unique comedic sensibility, bringing the whole project together.

2. Cat Call

Rozalia Szleczki’s “Cat Call” has perhaps one of the most bizarre premises of any film at the festival this year, the type of independently-charged film Raindance was made for. We follow Fani, an architect and child of a dead famous rockstar, who has the peculiar quirk of fantasizing about the deaths of anyone she finds attractive. This may be intriguing and enigmatic enough in its own right. But the film takes a sharp turn as her new neighbor’s cat begins courting her, and a variety of absurd hijinks ensue. At times, it is a traditional romance, at times, a surrealist horror, but promising a memorable ride throughout.

3. Don’t Hang Up

There are a few films at this year’s festival centered around the distinctive atmosphere, rife with storytelling potential, of the COVID lockdowns. “Don’t Hang Up” is but one of these, starring Barbara Ronchi as Irene, who has recently moved on from a breakup. However, when her ex-boyfriend calls unexpectedly in the middle of the night, she fears he may kill himself and rushes around the ominously deserted streets of Rome, desperately trying to stay on a call with him to ensure he does not go through with it. Ronchi will be having a busy festival this year, starring in both this and the premiering title “My Killer Buddy.”

4. Kathleen Is Here

One of the best parts of film festivals across the globe is being able to experience world premieres – and this year, the Irish film “Kathleen is Here” will have its debut showing at Raindance. A powerful examination of the care system, Kathleen, played by Hazel Doupe, is fresh out of foster care and returns to her deceased mother’s house. She begins attempting to find solace and a new mother figure in her new neighbor. This drama is yet another first-time feature, this time from director Eva Birthistle.

5. National Anthem

10 Must-See Films at Raindance Film Festival 2024

Luke Gilford’s film has been selected as the closing night film of the festival, adding increased pressure for the film to perform well and be received warmly. It follows a group of queer rodeo workers and a soft-spoken twenty-one-year-old looking to join the ranks. It subverts traditional coming-of-age narratives against the beautiful landscapes of New Mexico.  But what sets this film apart from others of the festival is that afterward, the festival will host a specially planned Queer Rodeo party.

6. Mogwai: If the Stars Had a Sound

Who doesn’t love a musical documentary – well, Anthony Crock is here to deliver his take on the legendary space-rock band Mogwai. The film chronicles the band’s rise to prominence in the mid-1990s and takes us through their entire journey to recording the tenth studio album during lockdown. Featuring many of the band’s classic songs on the soundtrack and incorporating a slew of never-before-seen archival footage, there is something for everyone to be found within the film: mega fans and complete newbies alike.

7. The Quiet Maid

Having already made a few rounds of the festival circuit to generally positive reviews, this Spanish / Catalan language film is written and directed by Miguel Faus. It is a satirical drama about a Colombian woman named Ana who works as a maid in Costa Brava for a very wealthy family. It has the novelty of being the first European film funded by the sale of NFTs, which even makes an appearance in the third act of the film, one that examines the role and hardships of migrants and serves as a biting critique of bourgeois socialism.

8. Peaks Blinders: The Redemption of Tommy Shelby

One of the unique projects at the festival, everyone is familiar with Steven Knight’s iconic series “Peaky Blinders,” but what many might not know is that he wrote a prequel play brought to life by choreographer and artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer. It is predominantly a ballet performance, though elevated far beyond a simple filmed dance performance, also featuring voiceover from the late Benjamin Zephaniah, one of the most influential British poets from Birmingham. The show will tour from September to May 2025, however Raindance will grant fans their first look at this innovative project.

9. Sleep

Another film that has done the festival circuit already to mostly positive reviews, including at Cannes, is Jason Yu’s debut feature, “Sleep.” This South Korean comedy horror revolves around soon-to-be parents Soo-jin and Hyun-su, whose peaceful lives are distrusted by Hyun-su, developing an uncontrollable sleepwalking habit. Lee Sun-kyun stars as Hyun-su in what is one of his final film roles as the star regrettably died at the end of 2023.

10. Satu – Year of the Rabbit

This is another first debut feature, this time from Joshua Trigg, “Satu – Year of the Rabbit.” It is a coming-of-age story about the Laotian teenager Bo, whose dreams of attending university to study photojournalism are crushed by his abusive father. Over the course of the film, she begins a journey that will transform her life. The British director constructs a story of friendship and courage in this tender piece.

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