Raindance 2021 Film Festival Review: The Noise of Engines

Written by Alexander Reams

62/100

Loud noises, going in a straight path, exotic colors, wild outfits, in this race a star can be born, I could be describing RuPaul’s Drag Race, alas I am not. Instead, I am describing the modern culture of drag racing. Two (or in some cases four) cars in the same class (stock, superstock, street, super, street pro mod, top fuel, top alcohol, funny car, alcohol funny car, pro mod, pro stock motorcycle, to name a few) race down a quarter-mile track, much more exciting than stock car racing. This was a tradition to go to the closest drag races (which were in Charlotte, NC) and spend the weekend inhaling nitrous fuel, eating bad food, and seeing crazy races. This culture has been in my veins since I got my first whiff of nitromethane, and from the get-go in The Noise of Engines, I could smell that wonderfully cruel (to my sense of smell) fuel again. 

Philippe Grégoire’s debut is without a doubt one of the weirder concepts to hit screens in 2021. A Canadian customs agent (Robert Naylor as Alexandre) is placed on leave and heads back to his hometown, he strikes up a friendship with an Icelandic drag racer, (Tanja Björk as Aðalbjörg) and simultaneously becomes the center of a police investigation into sexually explicit drawings popping up all over town, after he returns home. The premise of a film can intrigue me, but it’s seldom that it will cause me to raise an eyebrow, this one did. In part because of the drag racing aspect. This form of racing is rarely covered in the film and to see it here was welcome, and even more so because it was done so well. The respect for this sport is evident throughout, and the care given to it. 

This care and reverence do not extend to its woefully miscast lead, Robert Naylor as our main character, Alexandre. From the get-go, he is in over his head in a script that is very smart and aware of its subject matter, and instead, Naylor always has this expression that looks like the beginning of a punchline that we haven’t heard the setup to. This takes away from the countless serious moments and instead are even more awkward encounters than Grégoire intended to have in his film. This flaw is extremely detrimental to the overall quality of the film due to the way the story is framed, if we were following Björk instead of Naylor, then the film could’ve had a better RT (reaction time) rather than the red light going throughout the film.

The Noise of Engines Trailer

The Noise of Engines was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Raindance Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Raindance 2021 Film Festival Capsule Review: Death Is Smoking My Cigars

Written by Alexander Reams

72/100

“You know: I’m drunk once again, here, listening to Tchaikovsky, on the radio. Jesus, I heard him 47 years, ago.”

In 1987 Charles Bukowski scribed the poem Death Is Smoking My Cigars, an existential and reflective piece of poetry in which Bukowski reflects on his life and career. 34 years later, Misfit Productions adapted the poem into an animated short film. The best medium of film to adapt one of Bukowski’s poems. His surrealism and existentialism translate beautifully into animation. The style chosen is reminiscent of an indie game you would play on your phone to pass the time during work (just me? Okay moving on.) which has become one of my favorite animation styles, but can outstay its welcome if done poorly. Here it never does because the film doesn’t exceed the length of the poem, forcing the creators to stay between the length of the poem, it can be stretched to a degree, but will suffer, here it is not stretched. A truly moving and thought-provoking film that left me thinking long after the (very) short runtime ended.

Death Is Smoking My Cigars Trailer

Death Is Smoking My Cigars was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Raindance Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Raindance Film Festival 2021 Capsule Review: A Family That Steals Dogs

Written by Alexander Reams

62/100

Reflection is often our own therapy. Reflecting on what has been happening in your life, the choices you’ve made, so they can help influence your future decisions. Such is the case for Writer/Director/Narrator John C. Kelley. Following an artist after a death in the family as he retreats to a cabin to reflect on his grief, the family, and his own mental illness. Utilizing the animation medium to convey his frustrations through a narrative that seems all too real. With most of his dialogue being very nihilistic and philosophical, Kelley truly exposes the raw nature of this film. It’s to vent, to verbalize his frustrations. This is what set A Family That Steals Dogs apart from most animation that I’ve seen this year. The raw nature of Kelley’s dialogue, as well as the animation style. He opted for hand-drawn, and not hand-drawn that is converted to look like traditional animation, the film looks like a first draft of animation, and the film is elevated to another level because of this. I love hand-drawn animation and without it here who knows if the film could’ve been as affecting as it was. My only issue with the film is that it is too short. I wanted more, this very much feels in the vein of Don Hertzfeldt, particularly It’s Such a Beautiful Day, mainly due to his nihilistic and existential themes, which run rampant throughout both films. I loved what this film had to say. Kelley is clearly a new voice but his raw talent cannot be denied and should be celebrated.

A Family That Steals Dogs Short Film

A Family That Steals Dogs was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Raindance Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Raindance Film Festival 2021 Preview | with Thomas Stoneham-Judge of ForReel

Raindance Film Festival 2021 Preview | Taylor Baker speaks with Thomas Stoneham-Judge of ForReel about what their each looking forward to at the Raindance Film Festival and what great films the festival has that they’ve already had the opportunity to see.

The 2021 edition of the Raindance Film Festival runs from October 27th to November 6th. To learn more about the festival and see more of what Raindance has to offer, visit https://raindance.org/

Episode 91: Raindance 2020 / He Dreams of Giants / A Dim Valley / Nafi’s Father

“Well, I really want to encourage a kind of fantasy, a kind of magic. I love the term magic realism, whoever invented it – I do actually like it because it says certain things. It’s about expanding how you see the world. I think we live in an age where we’re just hammered, hammered to think this is what the world is. Television’s saying, everything’s saying ‘That’s the world.’ And it’s not the world. The world is a million possible things.”

Terry Gilliam

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of Hillbilly Elegy & Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and the Raindance 2020 Titles: He Dreams of Giants, A Dim Valley, and Nafi’s Father.

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At this time there are no streaming links for titles this episode

He Dreams of Giants, A Dim Valley, and Nafi’s Father are currently seeking distribution and awaiting a formal release date announcement.

You can read Taylor’s review of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom here

The Eagle’s Nest

Written by Alina Faulds

72/100

The Eagle’s Nest is a thrilling debut feature from up and coming British-Cameroonian director Olivier Assousa. The Eagle’s Nest finds Paris (Claude S Mbida Nkou) and Samantha (Felicity Asseh), best friends and sex workers, living in their rural village in Cameroon. Paris, appropriately named, dreams of leaving behind everything and moving to France, her sex work is a means to achieve this goal. Samantha on the other hand uses her work in the sex industry to further her standing in Cameroon. Both women are seeking to escape from their current lives, but after a night of work ends in tragedy, both women are pulled back into their familiar violent worlds.

The Eagle’s Nest employs traditional themes in African films, the desire to leave the continent for a better life, and the love for Africa keeping their characters home. In addition to the desire to escape, multiple other themes are explored such as violence, patriarchal societies, the search for truth and friendship. The Eagle’s Nest does get muddled as it delves into all of these elements, but brilliant performances and chemistry from Nkou and Asseh pull the film along. The two women are the film’s most compelling characters, Paris’ ripped jeans and combat boots and Samantha’s blue dress and Africa-shaped earrings are both iconic wardrobe choices. Their clothes are totally reflective of their desires, Paris’ need to rebel and Samantha’s need for home. The film’s setting is also visually stunning and reminiscent of Paris and Samantha’s ambitions, with wide-open shots of Cameroon’s nature and claustrophobic scenes in village huts. 

Much of the scenes in The Eagle’s Nest are quite grim but the film never has the guts to properly dive into the violence. Much of it is glossed over or fails to hit hard, though this can largely be chalked up to The Eagle’s Nest’s minuscule budget. At some points, it gets a little too campy and sometimes it’s a little too dramatic. The film needed to completely go in one of these directions to work better. English language songs also take the viewer out of the film, a weird juxtaposition to Cameroon’s French culture. Despite its fluctuating tone, The Eagle’s Nest remains a compelling film because of Paris and Samantha’s relationship. With high tension and hostilities, it’s easy to understand their desire to escape the patriarchal violence and inequalities plaguing the women in Cameroon, especially as the plot escalates. Paris and Samantha are the emotional core of The Eagle’s Nest, dragging the viewer along as they seek vengeance. The Eagle’s Nest is an interesting take on emigration, with two conflicting characters and their conflicting wants. 

The Eagle’s Nest Trailer

You can follow Alina Faulds’ LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of her work here.

The Eagle’s Nest screened as part of the 2020 edition of Raindance Film Festival.

Raindance Film Festival Website: https://cinema.raindance.org/