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DocGeeks » Festivals, News » Sheffield Doc/Fest aims for bigger, better and more interactive in 2015

Sheffield Doc/Fest aims for bigger, better and more interactive in 2015

4_headshots docfest speakersWhere to start with a documentary film festival that has so much to offer? Sheffield Doc/Fest has been, for some time now, the UK’s premier documentary and digital media festival. It has also cemented itself as a dynamic, vital and international cornerstone of the industry today.

On the morning of the UK election, the launch of Sheffield Doc/Fest’s programme certainly did remind us that there is a world beyond the UK. The 150 films to be screened at this year’s festival, from 36 countries, will bring a slice of that world to us: they will astoun, anger and agitate audiences.

Despite a year of transition – with Sheffield Doc/Fest long-time director Heather Croall, deputy director Charlie Phillips and programmer Hussain Currimbhoy all leaving – the festival is back – trying once again to be bigger and better than ever.

Taking place in 25 venues across the city (including customary free outdoor screenings and a special screening at the Botanical Gardens), this year’s festival organisers are setting their sights high, aiming to top last year’s record numbers – of 3,500 delegates and 26,000 attendees – throughout the five days of the festival.

On the first day of the event, Friday 5 June, Doc/Fest opens with a double-header – a truly representative slice of what the festival has in store. Joshua Oppenheimer’s (pictured top left) much-anticipated The Look of Silence will have its UK premiere at the Sheffield Showroom. The sequel to his masterpiece, The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence returns to Indonesia where a family that survived the genocide confronts the men who killed their brother.

At the City Hall, the second film of the evening is Benedikt Erlingsson’s The Greatest Shows on Earth: A Century of Funfairs, Circuses and Carnivals, featuring music by Sigur Ros. These headliners were two of many exciting films to make up an extensive and varied programme revealed by Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Claire Aguilar at the launch today.

The film programme this year is organised into award categories and theme strands, including Best of British, Global Encounters, Euro Docs, Women in Docs, Instigators & Agitators, Behind the Beats and ArteFact. The Sheffield Doc/Fest app will help novices and seasoned festival goers alike to navigate this huge variety of screenings, special events, masterclasses and talks.

Albert mayslesThere will also be a fitting tribute to documentary heavy-weight Albert Maysles (pictured to the left) who passed away in March this year, and a retrospective of the director and Black Audio Film Collective founder John Akomfrah (pictured top right).

Joshua Oppenheimer himself will also attend the festival to host a masterclass on methods and motivations. Other filmmakers to teach a masterclass are Jeanie Finlay (pictured bottom right), on her work and distribution strategies, and Brett Morgan (pictured bottom left) on his critically acclaimed new film: Kurt Cobain: Montage from Heck, the definitive documentary on Nirvana’s frontman.

Sessions and talks range from the nuts and bolts of filmmaking to how to co-produce in emerging markets or how film can create real world change. Commissioning panels lay out their priorities and Jon Snow explores how to turn controversial topics into compelling documentaries. Other headline speakers include ITV’s Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, BBC’s Lucy Worsley, plus Jolyon Rubinstein, Heydon Prowse and Joe Wade, the creators and presenters of BBC Three’s satirical comedy The Revolution will be Televised.

Sheffield docfest unlocking digital artThe Interactive strand at Sheffield is also still growing year on year – as Mark Atkin put it “Sheffield has both feet in the future – really embracing interactive media”. Presented by Crossover Labs, Interactive at Sheffield has a special focus on Virtual Reality this year, with nine exciting new works presented at the Site Gallery.

But perhaps the magnum opus of the festival is the international programme curated by director of programming Claire Aguilar. It features new works by documentary filmmakers Sean McAllister (The Reluctant Revolutionary, 2012), Parvez Sharma (A Jihad for Love, 2007), Jeanie Finlay (Sound It Out, 2011), Brett Morgan (Crossfire Hurricane, 2012), Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, 2013) and many more.

After five jam-packed days Sheffield Doc/Fest will close with the international premiere of Monty Python: The Meaning of Live, followed by a post-screening talk with Michael Palin and directors Roger Graef and James Rogan. In Graef’s own words: “It’s the Pythons as never seen before, and will never be seen again.”

An excellent programme allied to great industry events is aided further by the festival’s location. Commenting on this year’s festival, Mark Atkin, the acting Sheffield Doc/Fest director said: “Doc/Fest is very lucky that Sheffield has so many spaces within the city centre, which has enabled us again this year to showcase even more cutting-edge documentary across all platforms, including bringing a record 150 docs to the city’s cinema screens.”

This proximity of venues not only makes it easier to access more events and screenings, but also more opportunities to meet industry insiders at some of the amazing parties taking place in town. At Sheffield, top commissioners and buyers interact with student filmmakers, young producers and seasoned directors – you can literally bump into your next collaboration in the street.

For the full programme of films and events, check out theSheffield Doc/Fest website by clicking here.

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