Documentary - Sheffield Doc/Fest

Sheffield Doc/Fest has announced its Official Programme for this year's Festival and, as with everything else this year, some of it is going to be done a little differently...

Having taken place in Sheffield annually in June, this year the festival will extend its activities throughout the rest of the year – both in Sheffield and virtually, with a line up consisting of 115 films of all lengths, spanning 50 countries around the world and representing 49 spoken languages. 22 UK productions included. The official selection for 2020 includes 31 World Premieres, 15 International Premieres, 5 European Premieres and 40 UK Premieres.

Festival Director Cíntia Gil said: “This year’s programme brings together various cinematic and narrative forms, landscapes, human existences and ways of expression. It reflects on our contemporary world through its present and its past, and a multitude of sensibilities. The crisis we are living now point, and not for the first time, to the systemic failure of institutions and nations, and their need to be equitable in their capacities to give respect to life, freedom and care. It has given us an acute sense of what needs to change and a desire for stronger bonds between us.

“This programme is our contribution to that: it comes from a collective effort to resist hegemonic views over cinema and its relation to the world and to our lives. It represents multiple conversations we want to continue in the near future, through different programmes and forms.”

Filmmakers and artists this year include Abbas Fahdel, Alison Ellwood, Andrea Testa, Anthony Baxter, Carmen Losmann, Carol Salter, Dacia Ibiapina, David Teboul, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Florence Lazar, Hanna Jayanti, Ilona Bruvere, Jérôme Bel, Jia Zhang-ke, Jonathan Perel, Kim A. Snyder, Lech Kowalski, Lynne Ramsay, Lynne Sachs, Marc Isaacs, Mike Hoolboom, Nick Jordan, Oreet Ashery, Phil Collins, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Rob Curry, Simplice Ganou, Sofia Bohdanowicz, Viera Čákanyová, Vincent Carelli, and Yael Bartana all feature with their latest works, along with new talent – with 22 first-time feature filmmakers - including Catarina Vasconcelos, Deepti Gupta, and Siji Awoyinka - making up 20% of the programme. Q&As with the filmmakers in the programme, both live and pre-recorded, will take place on Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects platform from July-November, and in Sheffield in the Autumn.

There are several different ways to enjoy films at the festival this year:

1. Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects VOD platform with pay-per-view and subscription options for UK-based public audience launching 10th June, including a free of charge Exchange film programme and Q&As with filmmakers;

2. Doc/Player - film industry-oriented video library will be available to festival passholders globally from 8 June to 31 August;

3. - Festival weekenders in Sheffield cinemas in October - November (dates to be announced, and subject to safe conditions).

In addition, Doc/Fest has partnered with BFI Player, Doc Alliance Films, The Guardian, and MUBI who will host its curated programmes at various points between July and November.

Alternate Realities Programme:

Sheffield Doc/Fest has long been playing with, and expanding, the boundaries of non-fiction through its Alternate Realities programme - a curated Ghosts & Apparitions group exhibition of digital artworks at Site Gallery in Sheffield in parallel and in dialogue with the film strand of the same name in the Autumn. Artists and collectives taking part in the show include Keiken/George Jasper Stone (UK), Maria Court/Trinidad Piriz (Chile), Paula Albuquerque (Portugal) and Kitty Clark (UK). The exhibition will take place subject to safe conditions.

Leading into an Autumn exhibition programme at Site Gallery, each artist and collective will share insights into their research and processes, as part of a new Artist Spotlight series on Doc/Fest’s YouTube channel and website, starting on 6th July.

Exchange Programme:
Doc/Fest Exchange lies at the heart of the festival spanning films, talks and digital art projects. The ambition this year is to kickstart a rebellion in the making of new work and, through solidaric exchanges, beginning with the Global South, to find new sustainable, caring and equitable ways of living.

In partnership with Vídeo nas Aldeias, Sheffield Doc/Fest put together a programme of films that hopes to reflect the diversity of the indigenous communities living in Brazilian territories. Whilst the environmental crisis threatens our everyday lives, these communities have an ancestral, peaceful and respectful way of organizing their activities in harmony with their environment. The programme explores ways in which we can learn from their historical experience of resistance to threat - against their societies, their health, their ways of life.

In addition, the festival partnered with activists, researchers, scientists, filmmakers, community leaders, artists and local and international platforms to commission a series of short documentary or digital art works. The programme will include online sessions and community screenings.

A free programme launching on 10th June on Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects, it will culminate in a 3-day celebration of new work, conversations and workshops to share discoveries from the Exchange commissions. Open and free to all, the public celebration is presented and run in parallel and in dialogue with the Rebellions film strand as part of Doc/Fest’s Autumn programme in Sheffield.

Having had a quick look through the Festival programme, here are just a few of the films that caught our interest her at The DreamCage in each of the strands, but there are so many more to discover. You can browse all the films in the 2020 Official Selection here.

Into the World

Into the World is about all of us—the distant, the close, the intimate, the political—our worlds and their infinite appearances, challenges and dangers. Films by essential directors with essential themes that take varied approaches to exploring our past, present and collective future.

BREADLINE, Carol Slater, United Kingdom, 2020, 11’ - World Premiere
FLINT, Anthony Baxter, United Kingdom, 2020, 119’
گالین / GALENA Ezzatollah Parvazeh, Iran, 2020 , 27’ - World Premiere
INFLUENCE, Diana Neille, Richard Poplak, United Kingdom, 2020, 107’ - European Premiere
ISLE OF US, Laura Wadha, United Kingdom, 2020, 18’ - World Premiere
MEMORY IS OUR HOMELAND, Jonathan Kołodziej Durand, Canada, 2019, 90’
OECONOMIA, Carmen Losmann, Germany, 2020, 80’ - UK Premiere
PLEASE HOLD THE LINE, Pavel Cuzuioc, Austria, 2020, 86’ - World Premiere
SWIMMING OUT TILL THE SEA TURNS BLUE, Jia Zhang-Ke, China, 2020, 112’ - UK Premiere
WELLSPRING, Fergus Haughton, United Kingdom, 13’ - World Premiere


Films that try to decipher the world while being an agent of change: either through the promise of revolution by both collective and individual beings, as an act of resistance and protection, or as a refusal to forget. A certain idea of hospitality, how to live together, is a question raised across the strand - almost like a call for thought and change.

BACK YARD, Arlin Golden, USA, 2019, 7’ - World Premiere
On Va Tout Peter / BLOW IT TO BITS, Lech Kowalski, 2019, France, 110’ - UK Premiere
Responsabilidad Empresarial / CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, Jonathan Perel, Argentina, 2020, 68’ - UK Premiere
THE FILMMAKER’S HOUSE, Mark Isaacs, United Kingdom, 2020, 76’ - World Premiere
THE UNDERTAKER, Yael Bartana, Netherlands / Israel, 2020, 13’ - UK Premiere
WE HAVE BOOTS, Evans Chan, US, Hong Kong, 2019, 130’ - UK Premiere
WE’RE STILL HERE, Melissa Herman, United Kingdom, 2020, 68’ - World Premiere
YOUR MOTHERS COMFORT, Adam Golub, USA / Brazil, 2020, 75’ - World Premiere
L’Inconnu / THE UNKNOWN, Simplice Herman Ganou, Switzerland, 2020, 12’ - UK Premiere

Ghosts & Apparitions

Since the first glimpses of the moving image, ghosts were haunting our imaginations, including those yet to be. A ghost from then meets a ghost from now - histories and collective memory are born. And cinema: the dismantling of frontiers.

A NEW ENGLAND DOCUMENT, Che Applewhaite, USA, 2020, 16’ - World Premiere
ASCENDING BALLARD DOWN, Charlie Usher, United Kingdom, 2020, 14’ - World Premiere
CONCRETE FORMS OF RESISTANCE, Nick Jordan, United Kingdom / Lebanon, 2019, 27’- UK Premiere
Augas Abisais / DEEP WATERS, Xacio Baño, Spain, 2020, 25’ - World Premiere
FREM, Viera Čákanyová, Czech Republic, Slovakia, 2019, 73’ - UK Premiere
Aganai / ME AND THE CULT LEADER, Atsushi Sakahara, Japan, 2020, 96’ - World Premiere
A Metamorfose dos Pássaros / THE METAMORPHOSIS OF BIRDS, Catarina Vasconcelos, Portugal, 2020, 101 min - UK Premiere (not available online, screening in Sheffield only)
地洞 / THE TUNNEL, Hui-ju Hsu, Taiwan, 2020, 30’ - International Premiere

Lynne Sachs Focus:

Drawing on her vast body of works from the past 30 years, we will present a curated selection of films by Lynne Sachs, focusing on the notion of translation as a practice of encountering others and reshaping and reinterpreting filmic language. This focus will be part of the online Ghosts & Apparitions film strand.

THE LAST HAPPY DAY, Lynne Sachs, USA, 2009, 37’- UK Premiere
WHICH WAY IS EAST: NOTEBOOKS FROM VIETNAM, Lynne Sachs (in collaboration with Dana Sachs), USA, 1994, 33’ - UK Premiere
YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT, Lynne Sachs, USA, 2013, 64’- UK Premiere
THE WASHING SOCIETY, Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker, USA, 2018, 44’ - UK Premiere
A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES, Lynne Sachs, made with and for Barbara Hammer, USA, 2019, 14’ - UK Premiere

Rhyme & Rhythm

Rhyme & Rhythm is where cinema and other art forms meet, whether through performance - traditional and contemporary dance, and theatre; visual art - portrait photography, painting, sculpture, street art, and video art or music - from afrobeat to jazz, via Bollywood, blues, classical, electronic, gypsy folk, pop, punk, post-punk, and rumba. Each film offers encounters and inspirations to a different beat.

ALL THE POSSIBILITIES… REFLECTIONS ON A PAINTING BY VERNON PRATT, Marsha Gordon, Louis Cherry, USA, 2019, 16’ - European Premiere
BRIGITTE, Lynne Ramsay, United Kingdom, 2019, 30’
BRING DOWN THE WALLS, Phil Collins, USA / Germany, 2020, 88’ - UK Premiere
Khoraman / GRACEFULLY, Arash Eshaghi, Iran, 2019, 62’ - UK Premiere
KING ROCKER, Michael Cumming, United Kingdom, 2020, 90’ - World Premiere
MATERIAL BODIES, Dorothy Allen-Pickard, UK, 2020, 4’ - World Premiere
SISTERS WITH TRANSISTORS, Lisa Rovner, United Kingdom, 2020, 82’ - World Premiere
UNIVERSE, Sam Osborn, Nicholas Capezzera, USA, 2019, 75’ - World Premiere

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