Selecting shorts for the Raindance Film Festival means sitting through thousands of films every year in order to pick the 100 that make up the programme. Having worked as a shorts programmer since 2000 Jamie Greco has seen his fair share, yet he has lost none of his enthusiasm for the format: ‘It always amazes me to see fresh angles and original concepts. You think you’ve seen it all before over the years, but there’s always something new that comes up. It’s great to find a film that’s totally unexpected, and that’s the whole Raindance ethic, to find invigorating, refreshing stories.’
Short film as a legitimate form has greatly developed in the last few years. For Greco it’s down to two reasons in particular: ‘Filmmakers now have got it down to a fine art. Instead of simply making a short film to promote their career, some use it as a format, like a writer might use the short story. And then there’s the likes of Future Shorts; Fabien (Riggall, founder of FS) has done an amazing thing with shorts, he’s really promoted the whole format in itself. Before, short films were just throwaway items, but now people will go out of their way to see a programme of short films.’
There are eight programmes of shorts on at Raindance, representing an amazing diversity of genres, subjects and styles: The Girls, a stunning slice of British Gothic about two cruel little girls; Cherries, a topical film set in an all-boy comprehensive which brilliantly subverts expectations; Quincy and Althea, in which an old couple discuss divorce while walking around a New Orleans devastated by Katrina. ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, the section devoted to the more surreal shorts, includes films such as High Maintenance, about a lady so unhappy with her unresponsive husband that she switches him off and exchanges him for another, and Forna, which, says Greco, is about ‘cocks growing in the garden… you know, genitalia.’ There is also a section devoted to animation, an area that has grown so much in the last couple of years that Raindance have now introduced a special animation award.
The film that surprised Greco most this year was The Demonology of Desire: ‘It’s about a teenage girl who’s praying for God to find her a boyfriend. At the beginning you think it’s going to be a nice teenage love story, but then it turns into a drama of manipulation and twisted desire. The leading actress is straight out of a David Lynch film. It’s bizarre, shocking and brilliantly done.’
Aside from the many unknown and first-time directors there are also some famous names in the programme: Dog Altogether stars Peter Mullan and was written and directed by Paddy Considine while Club Soda features James Gandolfini and Joe Mantegna. But the fact that big names were associated with the films had no influence on their selection. Says Greco: ‘It makes you take notice a little bit more, but it certainly doesn’t make you say, this is in, this is out. I rejected films with famous people in them; if they’re not good enough, they’re not in.’
Greco has worked hard to make the programme ‘as tight as possible’. The excitement he feels about this year’s films is contagious and on the evidence of the ones we saw, entirely justified. It is this kind of vibrant enthusiasm that makes Raindance such a unique festival.