(Image: A Month of Single Frames by Lynne Sachs)

This film programme is the result of a long and thoughtful collective process of research, discussion and selection, where we tried to work with newly created film strands, as different colours in the same spectrum: cinema in its formal and narrative plurality.

This edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest is a particular one, and we reinvented our programme in order to create moments with our audiences, but also to give visibility to as many films as possible. We are concerned about the way so many films lost their premieres, or saw their productions and careers interrupted, and we are committed to them. Cinemas closed their doors and will reopen with a very reduced capacity, facing an extremely challenging situation. We value their role for our communities and for our cultural, social and political lives, and we want to stand by them. Simultaneously, producers and filmmakers need our utmost support to be able to get through this crisis: showing their films is crucial for the continuation of their work and future projects, but also for inspiring them, by being in contact with audiences and with each other, in a time when isolation becomes a threat. Finally, we want to encourage Doc/Fest audiences to come together when time comes, and feel safe to collectively support and discuss cinema, also giving them the opportunity to engage with the Festival on a more extended time period and through multiple platforms.

We have then built a programme that will exist both online and in cinemas, where the films create dialogues between each other and feed into a possible map of our simultaneous worlds together, bringing images and sounds from afar, but also looking carefully to what is close. It is a programme that celebrates the diversity of the art of cinema, while also tries to speak to its aesthetical, political, social and spiritual iterations. Being vast, each film is to be considered the beginning of a thread that unravels possible ways into the programme, opportunities to discover others, and to build crossings and communications between them.

The programme includes 115 films from 50 different countries, and 49 different spoken languages (including the Exchange film programme), besides 23 first feature films – and uncountable different ways of living and observing life, uncountable poetic gestures and encounters. One of the possible threads to be found in the programme, is a certain idea of “hospitality”, and we took that to its maximum consequences through a group of films that invite everyone to be open, patient, curious and critical.

Along with the contemporary titles, we also brought the past – the filmic patrimony on which current cinema stands, from which we can all learn and be inspired. The retrospective “Reimagining the Land'', unfortunately not possible to present in its entirety in cinemas, resonates with present times in multiple ways: the administration and possession of the land - who owns it?; the labor of the land – who works on it?; the practices related to it and the ways of life attached. The homage to Sarah Maldoror, a true pioneer of African Cinema, a fighter for freedom and civil rights, a poet, is also a tribute to all the artists that continue to create against all odds, against an exclusive system to which access is made very difficult.

Two filmmakers have inspired a special focus: Simplice Herman Ganou and Lynne Sachs. From very different regions of the globe (Burkina Faso and USA), with very different ways of filming and telling stories, both are filmmakers obsessed with the possibility of encountering the other, of building bonds with other humans through their camera, and translating that into cinematic beauty.

Some of the new titles we will present will be shown to the world for the first time. They need everyone’s support and attention, and we will create opportunities to meet their filmmakers and have a conversation with them. Curiosity is one of the most important bonds between people, and we count on everyone to come to them and share opinions and ideas.

We thank every filmmaker for the courage of bringing their works to us in such difficult times, and we will care for every film with the help of all our industry and our audiences.

Cíntia Gil

Festival Director