Following an open call for applications, we have appointed Alex Cooke as Chair of our Board of Trustees. From 1997 to 2001 Cooke was the film programmer of Sheffield Doc/Fest, programming films and masterclasses. She is currently the CEO and one of the two founders of Renegade Pictures. With charitable status awarded in October 2019 and Cíntia Gil having taken up the reins as our new Festival Director in November 2019, Cooke will be responsible for sustaining good governance and fiscal probity. Working alongside the executive team, she will lead the board to enhance Doc/Fest’s long-standing reputation for supporting the non-fiction filmmakers  - engaging existing and new stakeholders and acting as an advocate for Doc/Fest domestically and internationally.

Cooke has jointly overseen Renegade Pictures’ rapid growth and its acquisition, seven years ago, by Warner Brothers.  Last year she initiated and Executive Produced  Doing Money  her first feature length drama for BBC 2. The film has won many international awards and was nominated for both Broadcast and RTS awards. Over the past ten years Alex has jointly produced a range of feature documentaries for American, British and international broadcasters including Baghdad High by Ivan O’Mahoney, Children Of The Tsunami by Dan Reed, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, and The Yes Men Fix The World. She has also overseen the development and production of many current affairs and documentaries for Broadcast Television. Alongside running Renegade, Alex spent six years as an active Trustee on the Board of The Grierson Trust.  Her work as a director includes the BBC current affairs documentaries Closing Guantanamo (with Michael Portillo), Tea Party America (with Andrew Neil), & United Gates Of America. In 2005 she initiated the 10-part series for Discovery Times, Only In America, directing four of the shows. In 2004 Alex Cooke made her debut feature documentary How Arnold Won The West, following Arnold Schwarzenegger on the campaign trail to become Governor. Prior to filmmaking, Cooke was one of the founding team of The Big Issue

On joining the Board of Trustees, Cooke said: “I am honoured to have been chosen as Chair of the Sheffield Doc/Fest Board.  I was involved in the very early days of the Festival, having spent four inspiring years as the Festival Programmer at the start of my professional career.  I am delighted to come back to the Festival as Chair to work with my peers on both the Advisory Committee and the Board and to support a dedicated and impressive Festival team, who have worked through enormous difficulties recently to keep the Festival successfully on track. I owe a great deal to the Festival, and I cherish the community it nurtures, both domestically and internationally.  I love that the Festival not only celebrates such a varied range of excellent documentary work, but also gives us, as practitioners and viewers, an opportunity to reflect on and debate our ambitions and priorities.  As we all face the extreme challenges ahead I hope the Festival will continue to offer a meaningful haven to motivate, encourage and support us all.”

Cooke’s appointment follows the departure of Alex Graham, Chair of The Scott Trust and founder of Wall to Wall Television, who has stepped down as chair of our Board of Trustees after more than nine years in the post which involved overseeing Doc/Fest’s transition into an independent charity with a mission to advance the art of film, education and training in the art of documentary filmmaking.

Cíntia Gil, Festival Director, added: “I welcome Alex Cooke as Sheffield Doc/Fest’s new Chair, and I look forward to working with her to imagine the future of the festival. We are living challenging times, and Alex’s enthusiasm and vast experience will be essential to Doc/Fest’s mission for its audiences and among the film industry, creating an engaging and hopeful environment for all of us.”

We have just announced the theme of our annual retrospective: Reimagining the Land,

and three special focuses: 

    • a screening in tribute to the late French West Indies film pioneer Sarah Maldoror;
    • a focus on American artist Lynne Sachs; 
    • a focus on Burkina Faso filmmaker Simplice Ganou.

The full programme for our 2020 Official Selection will be announced on 8 June. For Digital Industry Passholders, films will be available from 8 June via Doc/Player. For the general public, the online programme will be available from 10 June via Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects platform - home of Doc/Fest’s curated VOD programme of new films from all over the world. A number of films from the official selection will screen in Sheffield once cinemas reopen in the Autumn and will be available online in parallel.