The 25th Sheffield Documentary Festival, which takes place 7-12th June, has announced its full programme for this year’s event. It is a festival of vast scope, with 200 documentaries screening and a host of immersive experience events too, such as some previously announced ‘Alternate Realities’ projects.
As was previously known, the 2018 Doc/Fest will be opened by filmmaker Sean McAllister’s, who won the Grand Jury award for A Syrian Love Story in 2015, return to his hometown with Northern Soul. The curtain-raiser is one of 37 world premieres at this year’s festival. These big draws for the festival will be joined by a further 18 International, 24 European and 70 UK premieres in the film programme.
The works selected are organised into several categories and awards strands. The docs are split by subject into: Adventure, Expose, Think, Love, Rhythm and Visions. Many of the films on show will also be vying for the festival’s awards, to be presented at the event’s close on 12th June. The award categories are: Grand Jury award (supported by Screen International and Broadcast), Environmental award, Art Doc award (supported by MUBI), Illuminate award (supported by Wellcome), Tim Hetherington award (supported by Dogwoof), Youth Jury award (supported by Yorkshire Building Society), New Talent award, Short Doc award (supported by Canon) and the Doc/Dispatch Prize (supported by Deutsche Welle), which is the only one voted for by the audience. For the rest of the awards, the judging panel includes Mark Cousins, Sophie Fiennes, Liv Wynter and Samson Kambalu.
Among the film’s vying for recognition are documentaries on modern slavery (A Woman Captured), Franco-era Spain (The Silence of Others), the international ivory trade (When Lambs Become Lions), an Arkansas town known for its gospel drag show (The Gospel of Eureka), cyclist David Millar (Time Trial), Russian-American politics (Our New President) and female freedom fighters in the Syrian War.
Beyond the ‘genre’ categories and multiple awards, there is also a focus on a wave of documentaries on contemporary British society, this year featuring director Ben Anthony’s Grenfell, exploring the lives of victims of the tragic fire. The Sheff Doc/Fest programmers also tend to choose another country to showcase films from; this year they focus on New Lebanon. This includes Room for a Man, covering topics including masculinity and sexuality.
In such a packed schedule of fascinating topics and talented filmmakers, there are a few parts of the programme that stick out, many with more recognisable names attached. This includes a special preview screening on the opening evening of McQueen, Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s portrait of fashion designer ‘Lee’ Alexander McQueen.
The festival has also not forgotten its own birthday, with three special events marking the 25th anniversary of the festival. Among these is a new project from Jane Pollard & Iain Forsyth, the filmmakers behind Nick Cave-doc 20,000 Days on Earth. DOUBLETHINK, is an intriguing video installation that involves audiences choosing between two containers, labelled ‘HATE’ and ‘HOPE’. This special project will be performed by Pride star George Mackay. The other anniversary specials are a live score performance by GAIKA for Khalik Allah’s film Black Mother, and the ‘Alternate Realities Commission’ Face to Face. Festival Director and CEO Liz McIntyre says of these 25th year highlights: “When Doc/Fest was born in 1994, the world was ushering in a remarkable era of new power and influence: the world wide web, President Mandela and the end of the Cold War. A quarter of a century on, stories abound at Doc/Fest that question anew what power we each hold or lack politically, socially and in our personal and professional relationships. Doc/Fest 2018 is alive with a new wave of diverse filmmakers responding to these extraordinary times and disrupting the status quo.”
The host of films and ‘Alternate Realities’ installations, including one previously announced featuring Sir David Attenborough, are joined this summer by a clutch of talks and lectures from big name speakers. Joining the already revealed Vicky McClure, Guy Martin and Mark Cousins, are well-known names including broadcasters Sir Trevor McDonald and Mary Beard, and Newsnight‘s Kirsty Wark interviewing artist Caroline McFarland and playwright John Godber.
Among the filmmakers giving talks are aforementioned Black Mother director Khalik Allah, and Oscar-nominated Matthew Heineman, who will give a BAFTA-supported masterclass. There will also be appearances from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and São Paulo music star Linn da Quebrada, supporting a documentary profiling her own life, entitled Tranny Fag.
With the full programme now announced, it is clear what a large-scale this year’s Sheff Doc/Fest will be, taking in multiple locations across the city (including a take over of Trafalgar Warehouse) and exploring a vast variety of topics.