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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ollowing earlier confirmation that Julian Assange is to join the judge’s panel at the 2013 Raindance Film Festival, it is without doubt that the festival will follow in the footsteps of the previous London event by both celebrating independent world cinema and allowing a team of intriguing judges to offer reflection and opinion on the range of films screened.

Past Raindance festivals have included the likes of Iggy Pop and Marky Ramone within the jury; these are names that represent the diverse and cultural importance of these few days in late September and early October. Julian Assange compliments this value of the festival as he is no stranger to cultural and political debate, having taken refuge within the London Ecuadorean embassy in summer 2012 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Whereas Assange’s appointment on the jury is in keeping with the Raindance philosophy of taking on board “interesting people” it is hard to ignore that the Wikileaks founder’s contribution will be drawing increased attention toward, and promotion of the event which provides an additional motive for Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance Film Festival.

Grove has argued that Assange has been selected for two crucial reasons. Firstly, his own documentary Mediastan is to be screened at the festival, and secondly because he provides a key example of “how to use social media,” and how this contemporary media form has affected the political world in which we live. Assange’s appointment coincides neatly with the festival’s ethical value; Raindance has always believed itself to be a film festival which challenges contemporary political and social concerns as is evidenced by the selection of five short documentaries filmed during the current Syrian conflict.

Assange will judge the films from DVDs presented to him at his refuge within the Knightsbridge based Ecuadorian embassy, and will not attend the closing ceremony. This only serves to enhance the iconic status Assange has formed for himself over the past year. Despite a lack of physical presence in Piccadilly, his opinions and insight will be a point of controversy and fascination. The inclusion of Julian Assange certainly appears to be stealing the Raindance headlines with the festival only three weeks away.

Aside from the political controversy of the festival’s jurors, there is a promising catalogue of over three hundred films from more than fifty countries to watch. These include Wayland’s Song directed by Richard Jobson, a thriller detailing the post-Afghanistan trauma for an ex-soldier returning home; and Alan Brennan’s Earthbound, a psychological sci-fi starring Rafe Spall as a man convinced that he is an extra-terrestrial that has become stranded on Earth. Furthermore, Raindance 2013 is expanding in order to deal with films made specifically for a portable screen, thus demonstrating not only the political, but also the cultural and technological awareness of the festival.

Julian Assange is the main focus of the festival at this moment in time, but one must not be side tracked by the political controversy of the jury and endeavour to find the weird, wonderful and emotional within the 21st Raindance Film Festival.

The festival will take place in London from 25th September to 6th October with screenings held in Vue Piccadilly, London, SW1Y.

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