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When you are a film buff, filling up all those long, long hours that were suddenly gifted to us all by coronavirus (always look on the bright side of life, right?) is easy. Watch a few films; and then watch some more. What might not be so easy is navigating through all the content that is now available online. Trying to find something worth actually watching.

Let us help. Those that have been to the Raindance Film Festival already know our expert curatorial choices when it comes to the best independent films. Now we want to help you pick your next great movie to watch while stuck at home, with our personal list of indie and arthouse gems. These are films that made an impression on us, Raindance’s programmers. Every other Tuesday there will be a new list with a new film category, genre or theme, to get you through the next couple of weeks.

If you liked, or disliked for that matter, our suggestions, and would like to discuss the choices or get other suggestions on subjects closer to your heart, just email us:

Malaika Bova & Martyna Szmytkowska

Martyna and I don’t like quotas. We were discussing the vision of the festival and the strands in the crammed, very indie Raindance office and once again we found out we were on the same page.  We didn’t like to have a women strand because we both liked to think that there are so many talented film-makers within this subgroup that there shouldn’t be any reason to identify them by their gender and not their merits. And yet…

And yet women represent only 23% of total film-makers in the UK, a number that has been slowly rising in the years but still falls way behind a 50/50 ratio. So here we are ghettoing our gender into a special category, hoping that by doing this there will be a day when a filmmaker will just be either good or bad and not a female or gay or black or Latino film-maker. With this in mind, we have selected our favourite films by female film-makers just for now…

Below our Tuesday’s recommendations. Enjoy!

Malaika’s Recommendations

My wonder is what makes these films true female works. Is it only the very fact they are made by women filmmakers? Or is there a different way women make films? Are women bringing to the table subject matters that would not be there otherwise? My take is that in some cases they really are. Now you tell me.

Mustang

Dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven 2005

Coming of age is the moment of transition to becoming an adult. What happens when this is denied? What happens when five modern teenage girls in a remote village of Anatolia are closed in their home, windows, and doors barred, while their adult life is decided elsewhere? This is one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking films on what becoming an adult woman means and how the essence of this delicate phase can be violated by obtuse traditions and beliefs.

Available on Amazon Prime UK 

Brothers

Dir. Susanne Bier 2004

Susanne Bier is one of my favourite directors. Her ability to direct soul-scarring stories through complex and yet very logical clean narratives is unbeatable. In this film, a tragic choice in Afghanistan haunts a man and his relationship with his family back home. Bier’s look on the characters crashed by overwhelming events is close, deep and personal so personal that after years I can still feel its emotional burden. This film has changed my concept of what it means to do the right thing. Make sure you watch the real thing and not the empty Hollywood remake!

Available on Amazon Prime UK

Monsoon Wedding

Dir Mira Nair 2001

I loved the exotic feel of this lavishly Indian family portrait. A well to do family moving through the easy emptiness of consumer life, hanging on to old, mostly outdated traditions gets together to celebrate an arranged wedding. This could have been a deeply local film but its incredible energy travels any boundaries. The colours, the soundtrack, the vibrant dancing scenes, the light humour and yet the strong deep analysis of a whole class in contemporary India made this a Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival and one of my faves!

Available on Amazon Prime UK

Martyna’s Recommendations

With so many fantastic female directors and films with women at the centre of their storytelling, I thought it would be a piece of cake to give my recommendations for the best films directed by women. As it turns out, many of the top films that I wanted to share are not available online, like Julie Taymor’s Titus or I Still Hide To Smoke by Rayhana Obermeyer, to name a few. Clearly there’s yet another aspect of underrepresentation when it comes to women in film.  Luckily I still managed to find a few of my favourites.

The Souvenir

Dir. Joanna Hogg, 2019

An intimate, subtle but fierce drama about a posh young woman at the start of her filmmaking career and her toxic love affair. The film is a piercing examination of this destructive but formative relationship, as well as social class and artistic self-discovery. Honor Swinton Byrne is mesmerising in her debut performance as the main character, displaying both fragility and strength.

Available on Amazon PrimeCurzon Home Cinema & BFI Player 

Oh Lucy!

Dir. Atsuko Hirayanagi, 2017

This first feature film from Atsuko Hirayanagi premiered in the Cannes Critics’ Week and was the opening night film at the Raindance Film Festival in 2017. In equal parts funny and sad, the film tells the unexpected story of a lonely, middle-aged Japanese woman with a boring job. She wants to find fulfilment. Her search begins with English classes that happen to be taught by a handsome American teacher, who she follows back to the States. But will she find what she is looking for?

Available on Amazon Prime

Take This Waltz

Dir. Sarah Polley, 2011

This insightful study of marriage and affair is the second feature film from actress and director Sarah Polley. Take This Waltz revolves around a young woman, Margot, and her relationship with both her husband and lover. It shares valid, unvarnished and truthful observations on married life; of stability versus the thrill of new attraction. While an extraordinary performance by the ever so talented Michelle Williams as Margot makes the film convincingly real.

Available on Amazon Prime

Other Raindance Pic(k)s

Documentary | QueerRomanceFeel-Good Films | Dark Humour | Absurdities

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About 

Raindance’s senior programmer and programme manager, Martyna, has helped with curating the Raindance Film Festival lineup since 2013. In her previous, pre-Raindance life she was a talent agent in one of the leading Polish talent agencies. She has an MA in Film History and Theory.

Malaika has been a Programmer and Programme Manager for Raindance since 2017. Prior to that she worked as a TV producer with ABC News, BBC and Fremantle Media and programmed for five years the Italian Film Festival in London.