Dcstrong island

With Award Season warming the pre-spring chill, the BAFTAs dishing out accolades, and the Oscars just around the corner, we reflect on the diverse and immersive talent that have showcased at Sheffield Doc/Fest over the years.



Strong Island, Yance Ford – The harrowing story and journey of the Ford family where their lives are forever shadowed by race in America, won the Tim Hetherington Award supported by Dogwoof, at Doc/Fest 2017. This intimate documentary is an Oscar nominee in this year’s Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature.

City of Ghosts, Matthew Heineman –  Heineman turns his attention to the covert citizen journalist group RBSS (Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently) who are intent on exposing the horrors of life under ISIS rule via the only weapon they have: the media. After winning the Sheffield Doc/Fest Grand Jury Award supported by Screen International & Broadcast, City of Ghosts went on to become BAFTA nominated for Best Documentary, also Heineman went on to win Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary at Directors Guild of America, & many more nominations & wins. 

Unrest, Jennifer Brea - Filmmaker Brea needed to make sense of the debilitating, leaden tiredness that took hold of her finding answers and a supportive community on the internet. Doc/Fest’s Unrest won the Illuminate Award Supported by Wellcome and later made the Academy Awards’ Best Documentary Feature shortlist.

The Rabbit Hunt, Patrick Bresnan – Following a century-old migrant farm worker tradition of hunting and preparing rabbits, a family rush to a flaming sugarcane field. This short, available to watch online, won the Short Doc Award: Supported by Virgin Money Sheffield Lounge at Doc/Fest, which made it automatically eligible for selection at the an Academy Awards in 2018. It went on to win Best Short Film at BFI London Film Festival.


Photo: Unrest (2017), Jennifer Brea


Whilst our award winners have been taking the spotlight – below we list our 2017 Doc/Fest special mentions that also went on to be recognised for their inspiring storytelling:


Special Mentions 2017 

Edith + Eddie, Laura Checkoway – Checkoway’s short tells the story of America's oldest interracial newlyweds, and how their happiness together is potentially threatened by callous institutional forces. Receiving a special mention at our Festival for the Short Doc Award: Supported by Virgin Money Sheffield Lounge, it is a 2018 Oscar nominee in the Academy Awards for Best Documentary Short.

Rat Film, Theo Anthony – Rats are seen as both a real and allegorical pest in Anthony’s multi-layered study of Baltimore’s historically racist urban planning. With a Special Mention for Youth Jury Award at Doc/Fest 2017, Rat Film went on to get nominations at Gotham Independent Film Awards for Gotham Independent Film Audience Award & Best Documentary, as well as attracting an impressive amount of recognition in reviews and on social media.

Photo: Edith + Eddie (2017), Laura Checkoway


Our 2017 film programme looks to be shaping up the award season in 2018 but let’s not forget Doc/Fest’s previous year’s award winners and their later success.



Notes on Blindness, Peter Middleton & James Spinney – Winner of the Storytelling and Innovation Award at Doc/Fest 2016, Notes on Blindness is a beautifully visual imagining of John Hull’s recordings of his understanding and acceptance of his blindness. The story was highly acclaimed with a Best Documentary award at BIFA awards, plus other nominations, and three BAFTAs nominations including Best British Film & Best Documentary. Not only was Notes on Blindness pitched at our 2015 MeetMarket, there was also Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness, a MeetMarket Alumni VR project that was pitched at our 2015 Marketplace which went on to gain recognition with a VR Award at Doc/Fest.


Photo: Notes on Blindness (2016), Peter Middleton & James Spinney



The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer – Sheffield Doc/Fest alumni returned to our Festival with a story that follows a family of survivors of the Indonesian genocide that had Oppenheimer winning the Audience Award for Feature Documentary. The Look of Silence went on to get a nomination for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards 2016.

A Syrian Love Story, Sean McAllister – A journey of hope, dreams, and despair, McAllister shares an intimate journey with a family striving for political freedom, filmed over 5 years. Winner of the Sheffield Doc/Fest Grand Jury Prize, filmmaker McAllister went on to receive an Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer nomination at BAFTA 2015. 

3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets, Marc Silver – Resonating with young people on the issue of racial prejudice and the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis in 2012, this documentary won the Doc/Fest Youth Jury Award. It also featured on the Academy Awards’ shortlist for Best Documentary Feature, in 2016.

Photo: The Look of Silence (2015), Joshua Oppenheimer 


It’s amazing to see the continuing success of some truly deserving documentaries that have been showcased, and some funded through the Marketplace, at Doc/Fest. Our film programme welcomes submissions from new, emerging and established filmmakers based anywhere in the world – late submissions for Film & Alternate Realities projects is still open until 2 March, click here to find out more.


Could you be seeing your film killing a winning streak?