With the UK’s largest documentary festival just over a week away, we’ve chosen to focus this month’s What’s On in Docs on our pick of the top screenings and events at Sheffield Doc/Fest.
As a reward for enduring another General Election on Thursday, Doc/Fest’s programme offers an opening night screening of Queerama with a performance from John Grant, followed by a party in City Hall to drink away those post-election blues. Queerama examines the relationships, desires, fears and expressions of gay men and women over the course of the 20th century, using archive from the BFI. John Grant, who contributed to the film’s soundtrack, will perform after the screening. The Queerama Opening Party will take place from around 10pm onwards in the City Hall Ballroom.
Festival Pass Holders may find themselves spoilt for choice on Saturday, with plenty of great screenings, talks and strands to explore. Bertha DocHouse Showroom 4 will host a screening + Q&A of Matthew Heineman’s (Cartel Land) latest feature City of Ghosts, following the covert operations of citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently under the horrors of ISIS rule. After this will be the UK premiere + Q&A of Laura Poitras’s (Citizenfour) highly anticipated documentary, Risk, filmed over 6 years and provides an intimate portrait of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Over at the Crucible, festival goers will be able to listen to discussions with documentary presenter Stacey Dooley and veteran photographer Oliviero Toscani. This year’s Alternate Realities, an interactive exhibition of virtual reality projects, will be taking place at the Millennium Gallery throughout the festival, meanwhile the Chicken Connoisseur himself Elijah Quashie will discuss his viral rise to fame with The Pengest Munch at the Doc/Fest Exchange on Tudor Square. The Doc/Fest Exchange is an open-to-the-public series of discussions and presentations which will run from Saturday though to Wednesday. The day will be rounded off with post-punk-themed party Resisdance at the O2. Have those dancing shoes and protest banners at the ready…
It’s no surprise what our first pick from Doc/Fest’s Sunday programme is. The Whicker’s World Foundation’s Funding Award pitch will be in the ITV Town Hall Reception Room A from 11am to 12:15pm. Drop by and watch our 5 finalists compete for the £80,000 prize by pitching their documentary ideas to our esteemed panel of judges. Later in the afternoon ticket holders will be able to listen to two master documentary-makers, as Louis Theroux interviews Nick Broomfield at the Crucible Theatre, followed by comedian and actor Sir Lenny Henry in conversation with June Sarpong MBE. Elsewhere, the City Hall Oval Hall will be hosting a screening + Q&A of Nick Broomfield’s latest doc Whitney: “Can I Be Me” chronicling the life of the great Whitney Houston, and followed by a live performance by singer Michelle John. At 6pm Light Screen 3 will be screening Radio Atlas: In a Relationship With… , a documentary love story about one of Denmark’s most celebrated podcasts – Third Ear, followed by Politics, An Instruction Manual, a film which follows the incredible rise of Spain’s ‘Podemos’ party, at 9pm. Festival-goers can catch a screening + Q&A of Ghost Hunting, a unique insight into Israeli interrogation centres through recreations and role-playing.
On Monday industry pass holders will be able to attend a special preview of last year’s Whicker’s World Funding Award-winning project We Were Kings, ahead of it’s world premiere later this year. Alex Bescoby’s film will be previewed at 11:30am in The Light Screen 3. Later that evening Bertha DocHouse Showroom 4 will be screening Chasing Coral, Jeff Orlowski’s critically-acclaimed film which investigates why coral reefs are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. The screening will be followed by a Q&A. The same venue will also be showing Whose Streets? chronicling the the lives of Ferguson activists who remain part of a movement for racial justice long after the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police. The screening will be accompanied by a photo exhibition of Josh Begley’s Officer Involved, and followed by a Q&A.
On Doc/Fest day 5, PBS America Showroom 3 will be screening Insha’Allah Democracy, which follows the exiled enigmatic General Musharraf amidst turbulent politics in a post 9/11 Pakistan. The former president hopes to govern again, but is soon accused of treason. The screening will be followed by a Q&A. In Showroom Screen 2 from 9:15pm, festival pass holders will be able to catch Brexitannia + Q&A. The film paints an uncomfortable image of post-Brexit Britain, with filmmaker Timothy George Kelly travelling the length of the British isles to speak with both leavers and remainers. Ian Hislop and Jolyon Rubinstein will be in conversation at the Crucible Theatre late Tuesday afternoon for a session titled Post-truth & Satire, which promises to be entertaining as well as compelling. The Doc/Fest awards ceremony will follow at 8pm, where the winners of the Whicker’s World Foundation Funding Award and Sage Award will be announced, among others.
If you’ve managed to make it to day 6 of Doc/Fest without accidentally falling asleep in a screening, you’ve clearly paced yourself well… or not enjoyed yourself enough. Although the final day of Doc/Fest is a bit quieter, we’re still looking forward to some of the events going on. Explorer and BAFTA-winner Bruce Parry will discuss his latest documentary, Tawai – A Voice from the Forest, in which he returns to reconnect with tribes from his BBC adventures, with journalist and presenter Katie Puckrick. Bruce Parry: From the Forests of Borneo to the Isle of Skye will be held in the PBS America Showroom 3 at 5:30pm. Doc/Fest’s closing film will honour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered just days before the EU referendum last year. Jo Cox: Death of an MP, will screen at the Bertha DocHouse Showroom 4 at 7pm and will be followed by a discussion about Jo’s legacy. Through the testimonies of those closest to Jo and the crime, the film explores the complex circumstances which led one man with extreme political views to commit an act of terrible violence. The festival will end with closing night drinks at the showroom cafe.