Newly moved from a November to a June date, strategically placing it closer to key festivals such as Sundance and SXSW, and earlier in the year than the BFI London Film Festival, this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest promises to be as thought-provoking and fun-packed as the last.
With the happy co-incidence of warmer weather for outdoor screenings, another fortuitous fall-out of the move is its proximity to the Edinburgh International Film Festival (15-26 June), and the organisers of both ventures have wisely decided to jointly premiere several of their prominent documentaries, simultaneously providing filmmakers a fantastic double-whammy of exposure for their films, whilst making fine use of shared marketing and PR opportunities. This year both will include films such as Project Nim, from the outstanding director/producer team James Marsh and Simon Chinn (who brought us Oscar-winning Man on Wire), about a chimpanzee in the 1970s who became the focus of an experiment to prove that an ape could communicate with language if raised as a human; Hell and Back Again, fresh from winning the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, an exploration of the impact of war on a Marine Sergeant in the Afghanistan conflict; and Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure, about two friends who recorded the drunken arguments of their neighbours, creating a cultural phenomenon.
Other films to look out for include Gun Fight, a documentary about gun politics in the US by Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA) and The Interrupters from Hoop Dreams’ director Steve James, in which ex-Chicago gang members come together to fight crime, both of which are up for the coveted Jury Prize; Emily James’ crowd-funded feature Just Do It and If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front in the Green Award strand; and from the score of music docs, films about Michael Nyman, South African idol Miriam Makeba and the wonders of vinyl (Sound it Out). For fiction film buffs there’s Martin Scorsese’s doc about the influence of Elia Kazan, Letter to Elia, and The Advocate for Fagdom, about the life of New Queer Cinema director Bruce LaBruce; for fashion lovers there are film portraits of Vivienne Westwood and Ozwald Boateng.
Alongside a plethora of panel discussions and pitching events, Nick Broomfield will be on hand to receive this year’s Inspiration Award and deliver a masterclass, and the acclaimed Albert Maysles will be turning up in person for a mini retrospective screening of his classics Grey Gardens, Salesman, Running Fence and Muhammad and Larry. But first, setting the tone of Doc/Fest is opener POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a serio-comic look at the insidious world of branding through documentary’s favourite ‘everyman’ Morgan Spurlock…
The festival runs from 8-12 June 2011. For tickets or to read more about it visit: www.sheffdocfest.com