This year's Raindance Film Festival is a challenging and innovative mix, showing some 77 features and 69 UK Premieres over a 12 day period from the comfortable surroundings of the Apollo Cinema in Piccadilly Circus.
Kicking off the programme on Wednesday 29 Sept, is "Jackboots in Whitehall", a satirical animation feature, a 'what if' narrative depicting the Nazis in London as if they have invaded London. The film includes voiceovers from the likes of Timothy Spall, Ewan McGregor, Rosamund Pike, Tom Wilkinson and Richard E Grant.
Closing the fest, 12 days later, is Mohammed Al Daradji's Iraqi entry to the Oscars, "Son of Babylon" which has already won two awards at Berlin and one at Sundance, for its telling of the story of a grandmother and a grandson going on a quest through Iraq in an effort to track down a lost son and father, who had gone off to fight in the war.
Inbetween, Raindance which has gained a reputation for showing edgier product over the years, won't therefore be shying away from showing 1-2 controversial titles.
There's the showing for instance of "A Serbian Film", an uncut screening of an allegorical film attacked for its scenes of necrophilia, paedophilia, rape and incest. The film will have to be shown as a Private event because it currently is banned from screening.
"Dirty Diaries" directed by Swede Mia Engberg is a profound collection of 12 feminist short porn films which the director commissioned to explore the female gaze.
Then there's "La Zombie", a 'gay zombie porno' flick from Bruce La Bruce that has been banned in Australia. Possibly coming out of the same bloodcurdlng stable is the Belgian faux documentary "Vampires" about four vampires who get bored with immortality and feed off illegal immigrants.
Also falling into the contentious category, is the documentary "Stolen" which shows the hidden secrets of human slavery in a UN refugee camp, it won the Best Doc award at the LA Pan African Film festival, despite the fact that at every festival that the film has been screened at, organisers have faced legal threats over the showing of the film. Presumably Raindance will not escape that either, but organisers seem nonchalant about it and relieved that they've been able to find a way to show this very challenging documentary.
The British Homegrown strand in Raindance is particularly strong this year and well worth a look. Ben Miller of 'Armstrong and Miller' fame, has come up with a debut as a director, called "Huge" about the aspirations of two comedians. The film stars Noel Clarke, Thandie Newton and Johnny Harris. Also in the comic field, is "Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World", about a young man battling against going mad.
A more challenging British drama comes in the form of Phillipa Lowthorpe's feature "Five daughters" a film boasting a strong cast of Ian Hart, Sarah Lancashire, Natalie Press and Jamie Winstone, that serves to show the last few weeks of five women murdered in Ipswich in 2006.
Standing out in the US strand of the fest, is "Armless", a dark comedy starring Daniel London and Janel Moloney about a young man suffering from Body Integrity Identity disorder, who as a result, goes in search of a doctor willing to amputate one of his arms because curiously he is only going to feel 'complete' once a major limb has been lopped off his body.
Other US titles to appear this year include The Lake Effect by Tara Miele, Dean Paterson's Incredibly Small and Treasure of the Black Jaguar directed by Mike Bruce.
Raindance has other strands from Australia and Japan, as well as a decent music section which includes All I ever wanted - a documentary showing a concert by the Airborne Toxic Event, Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry, The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical and Sounds like a Revolution, see the Raindance website for more details.
Away from the films, Mike Newell will be giving the Alexander Mackendrick Memorial Lecture on 5 Oct and talking about his extensive body of work as a director. There are also technical lectures being given about directing and use of cameras on the weekends of 2-3 and 9-10 October.
This year's Raindance Jury includes the likes of Derek Malcolm, Lemmy from Motorhead, Julian Barrett from The Mighty Boosh, producer Alison Owen, Charles Saatchi, musician and filmmaker Dave McKean, Fest Director of Rushes Joe Bateman and Head of Warp Films, Mark Herbert. They'll be announcing award winning films at 5 pm on Sunday 5 October.
Tickets available from the website or via 0871 220 6000 and film content can be found on Raindance TV at www.raindance.tv.
The festival looks to be offering some welcome and innovative diversions ahead of the London Film Festival later in October.