DocFest announce Autumn programme

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, no, scrub that, it was just the worst of times. Along with just about everything else, DocFest 2020 bit the dust this year. But, undaunted, they made the best of things, and did what they could. Films and seminars were moved online for the hard-core documentary addicts among us, but it was never going to make up for the fact that an international film festival was not being staged in Sheffield.

But from the ashes of our disappointment, some embers of hope have now appeared. Over four weekends, across the Autumn, DocFest will be screening some of the promised films at the home of DocFest, The Showroom, and will be installing an Alternate Realities, digital art exhibition at the Site Gallery, to try to make up for the lost opportunities. Alongside this, they plan to stage some film industry events live here in Sheffield, and make them available to be viewed online from anywhere in the world. This will include the Channel 4 interview, which is always a highlight of the festival, also being staged here and streamed live. This year DJ and presenter, Yinka Bokinni, will be discussing her new film.

They are planning to screen around 40 films in total, spanning 20 different countries and in 17 spoken languages. There will be the usual mix of world/European/UK premieres, and each weekend will in turn be curated to reflect the four core themes of the DocFest programme.

The first weekend runs from the 2nd to the 4th October, and then every fortnight after that, until it closes on the 15th November. They are also planning an additional weekend of films, chosen as part of their retrospective theme, screening archive documentaries, on a date yet to be arranged.

Below is a quick guide to what’s on, and what we here at Exposed think will be amongst the highlights.

2nd October to 4th October. Into the World 

This weekend focusses on films by essential directors, telling their stories in a variety of ways, about our collective past, present and future. Our first  pick is Le Kiosque  (The Kiosk), by Alexandra Pianelli, It focusses on a magazine kiosk, where housewives, pensioners and business people all buy their reading materials, but others may just ask directions. It is a humorous and fascinating look at the lives of people on both sides of the newsstand.

Our second pick is a film, very much rooted in Sheffield, This Means More by Nicolas Gourault. It uses football crowd computer simulations to illustrate accounts of the Hillsbrough disaster by Liverpool fans recounting what they saw and experienced on that tragic day in 1989.

16th October to 18th October. Rebellions

These films try to explain the world we live in, while also trying to effect some sort of change.

The short film, Backyard is our first choice. Director Arlin Golden moves into a new house, and enjoys spending time in the garden. So does his neighbour. While filming scenes in his new surroundings, snippets of conversation drift over the fence, and the disembodied voices start to form a picture of what is happening unseen on the other side.

Our second choice is a much longer and more disturbing film. It begins with the story of director Mina Keshavarz’s grandmother, who was a victim of domestic violence, and whose death has always been shrouded in mystery. The story then shifts to today, and a brave group of women who are campaigning against domestic violence in Iran, and trying to establish legally the basic human right of a woman to be safe in her own home.

30th October to 1st November. Rhyme and Rhythm

This is a celebration of cinema as it meets other art forms such as theatre, visual art and of course music.

King Rocker, by Michael Cumming, really does have a star-studded lineup. Stewart Lee, Frank Skinner ,Marc Riley and Robin Askwith, along with archive footage of John Peel, all tell the story of Robert Lloyd and the Nightingales, along with the parallel story of a King Kong sculpture, which once adorned the Birmingham skyline. It was long thought to be lost, but turned up lying prostrate in a garden in the Lake District. Intrigued? Me too.

The second pick is a film we’ve featured already in Exposed, when we interviewed Lisa Rovner about her film Sisters With Transistors, about pioneering women in the field of electronic music. This is a fascinating tale, long over due in its telling about how numerous women, working totally independently, struggled to have their innovative and unique work recognised in a world of music dominated by men.

13th to 15th November. Ghosts and Apparitions

This weekend will feature more experimental films, which playing with the form of documentary and showcasing the dismantling of frontiers based on histories and collective memory.

Dying Under Your Eyes is an intimate account of the sudden death of Oreet Ashery’s father, Daniel, as witnessed by the artist using his smartphone, and documenting the rituals of family devotion and mourning which surround it.

For our final choice we’ve chosen Catarina Vasconcelos’ film, The Metamorphosis of Birds. It is a contemplative essay on how we perceive and remember those who have died. Catarina tries to piece together a narrative about her lost mother and grandmother, while also exploring her relationship with her father.

All these details and more along with screening times can be found at the Showroom website

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