Over the past few months we’ve seen tons of films, and luckily some of the good ones have made it to this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest. Here is an overview of 10 documentary films we think you should try and see at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012.
No doubt there will be some big surprises at the festival, even for us weathered documentary watchers, but where we can we like to give you a heads up when it comes to good docs so you can relax and know where to go amidst all the madness that is Sheffield Doc/Fest.
It might be bold to publish it now but here is a selection of our 10 favourite films so far:
Italy: Love it or Leave it
A beautiful country with an amazing climate, gorgeous beaches and the best food in the world. Why would anyone leave Italy? Well, perhaps the lack of jobs, human rights and freedom would be a good reason? Filmmakers Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi are indecisive and weigh their options in their humorous documentary with a serious undertone ‘Italy, Love it or Leave it’. Read the full review here.
Searching for Sugarman
It’s a cliché to say ‘Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better’ but in the case of Searching for Sugarman it is actually true. A heart-warming powerful story full of twists and turns and the best music ever recorded, this documentary tells the story of a nation looking for a star who never was. A simple must-see.
The Island President
A president who singlehandedly tries to save his nation, it sounds like a bad Hollywood film but nothing is further from the truth. Jon Shenk’s The Island President tells the story of former President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced—the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. Read the full review here and an interview with director Jon Shenk here.
It is already hard to come to terms with ‘regular’ violence against women, but to see them being permanently disfigured by having acid thrown over their faces is just inconceivable. Still, this is the harsh reality for an increasing amount of women in Pakistan, some of whom are brave enough to come forward in the shocking but inspiring documentary Saving Face. Read the full review of this Oscar winning documentary here.
Love Free or Die
Gene Robinson is the first openly gay person to become a bishop in the historic traditions of Christendom. He is a man with a soft and kind character who is almost forced to make a harsh choice between the two men he loves, god and his partner Mark. Love Free or Die follows the emotionally and socially gifted bishop during a defining time when the American churches debate whether or not lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of god.
This film provides us with a fascinating profile of rural China, where, after having been banned for thirty years, Western style boxing is providing many youngsters a way out from the poor future as a manual labourer that they are expected to lead. However, a career doesn’t come cheap. They are plucked from primary school at a very early age by talent scouts and have to dedicate their youth to training and becoming the very best. How far can you push people and is success really that important?
Big Boys Gone Bananas!*
Fredrik Gertten made a film about the use of illegal pesticides by giant fruit producer Dole in Nicaragua and the affects these pesticides had on the workers there. When he admitted the film to the Los Angeles Film Festival all hell broke loose as Dole threatened to sue everybody that made, looked or wrote about the film, while in the meantime starting a clever PR attack making out the film was a fraud. Luckily Gertten didn’t just take no for an answer and filmed the whole process, the result is this documentary packed full of conspiracy and action.
We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists
Few people cite Scientology as a force for good in their lives – outside of Scientologists themselves, of course. But it was communal hatred of the creepy cult – and their bullying, litigious online presence – that forced the hacktivist group Anonymous from a culture of pranksters to an influential cyber-army. As a number of the group’s most prominent activists face over-the-top prison sentences, director Brian Knappenberger explores the history of the radical collective, and how it rose from a patchwork of bloggers, to become an influential change-agent in the Arab spring. In the words of Doc/Fest programmer Hussain Currimbhoy, this is a film “about what is happening right now…people are sick and tired of power structures.”
High Tech, Low Life
High Tech, Low Life is a deeply personal and moving film that, whilst discussing the political issues in contemporary China, shows us the human side of attempting to bring the truth to a wider audience.Stephen Maing’s film is a fascinating study of how, using modern technology, a new wave of ‘citizen journalists’ across China are endeavouring to tell the truth about the downside of China’s financial revolution. The film follows two different bloggers, with two very contrasting styles, both of whom seem to have become almost accidental seekers of the truth.
It is almost impossible to describe this documentary without spoiling it for you, but over the course of one season it follows the Manassas high school football team, The Tigers, and the school’s all round whipping boys, as they endeavour to win matches in the face of adversity. It is beautiful, inspirational and a just Oscar winner. Read the full review here.
For times and dates visit the Sheffield Doc/Fest website.