Movies are back, and one of the latest to finally get announced is the buzzed-about documentary Run Raven Run by Los Angeles director/producer Michael Rainin (Spike Lee’s Da Five Bloods) that is narrated by actor Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, The Hateful Eight).
While feature films are heading back into theatres, Run Raven Run is about to hit the festival circuit, but is already being talked about as a ‘must-see’. The film, co-written by Douglas Thompson, dives deep into Gypsy music and the culture behind it. From the deserts of Rajasthan to the ghettos of Bucharest, Run Raven Run explores the resounding pain and pleasure that emanates from the unvanquished soul of Gypsy music.
In an exclusive one-on-one with us here at the Tribune, Michael Rainin gave us some insight into what audiences can expect and being a filmmaker here in Los Angeles during these times.
Hey Michael, let’s quickly start off asking, what does it mean to be a filmmaker during these pandemic times?
I was in post-production during the pandemic with my Roma music documentary so it actually was nice to have the time to edit and research, but I did miss shooting during the pandemic. My last production before the lock down was on March 11th, 2020 producing a short documentary for Spike Lee and Netflix for his new film Da 5 Bloods. But in a more ideological sense it means a lot to be a filmmaker during these pandemic times. Hopefully us artists and filmmakers can bring the humanity and love back into society through our films and art.
As the entertainment industry begins to open back up, what are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to traveling the world and shooting interesting and inspiring films!
Your new upcoming documentary Run Raven Run is going to be showcased at some upcoming film festivals. Do you feel the festival circuit is going to be as it used to be?
I think slowly, but surely the festival circuit will resemble its pre-pandemic self. I am excited to meet fellow filmmakers and travel again!
Tell us about Run Raven Run and how people here in LA will simply fall in love with the story?
Run Raven Run is a groundbreaking music documentary about the past and present of Roma music, narrated by Michael Madsen. But, it is also much more than that. It depicts how venerable traditions are turned upside down by new movements being spawned inside inaccessible ghettos. It shows the rise of youth culture to redefine outdated values of society. And its soundtrack is off the charts! Viewers, young or old, attracted to any of these elements of storytelling will want to watch Run Raven Run. As we wake up to a new era of civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter, we can see the same forces at work within the Gypsy diaspora. Gypsies have not been given respect as co-equal members of society, but their prodigious musical contributions are undeniable. And yet, the Gypsies are still the dark ones … chastised as dirty ravens that would pick dead meat from the ground. Our Gypsy protagonists have learned to fly. Following 2014’s heartbreaking Toto and his Sisters, (winner of best docu prizes in Zurich & Warsaw Film Festivals) one of our main characters, Toto, is an 18-year-old on the ascent. Toto also receives cinematography credit in our film due to his deft camera skills. Today, long-lived Roma musical traditions stand at a vital crossroads. The elders are dying out, electronic instruments are transforming the genre, and the underprivileged youth have moved to the beats of hip hop to tell their unique stories. This is a classic saga of survival and renewal.
How was it working with Michael Madsen? Why was he a perfect fit for the film?
Michael Madsen was a joy to work with! Michael Madsen was a perfect fit as the narrator of our film firstly because of his voice, but also because he is a film icon. I remember seeing him in Reservoir Dogs, Donnie Brasco and Thelma & Louise. These films made me the filmmaker I am today. I grew up on his movies. After I showed him a rough cut of the film and asked him the be the narrator, he immediately said yes because he liked the film! He told me that he related with the main theme of the film of Fathers handing down old traditions to their sons. Michael Madsen has five sons and related deeply with this aspect of my film.
What advice would you give to others wanting to become directors/producers and work in Hollywood?
I would tell them don’t wait for anything or anybody. Write your own story, follow your intuition and put your head down and do the work. This life we have can be short so don’t waste it scrolling though social media or drooling on your couch. Pick up a pen and write a script, beg, borrow, rent or buy a camera and get out there a make something.
Is winning an Oscar still every filmmaker’s dream? Or what is yours?
I think it would be nice to win an Oscar and be recognized for your craft, but my dream is for my loved ones and my family to be healthy and happy and have the freedom to live an authentic life doing what they love. I think if more people followed their true passion this dream could become more tangible for others.
As a final question back to your new documentary: What is your favorite “Gypsy” music song/track?
The Cuckoo and the Raven – By Viorica and Ionita de la Clejani. This old Gypsy song handed down from their elders to Ionita and Viorica from Clejani in Romania sings of the white Cuckoo and the black Raven and in the lyrics of the song is where we get the title of our film Run Raven Run.