Strands & Competitions
Into the World
Sheffield DocFest’s Into the World strand showcases essential films with urgent themes that take varied approaches to exploring our past, present, and collective future. Established filmmakers and young, emerging talents are showcased side by side in this strand to tell us vital stories from across the globe: Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Poland, Russia, Spain, Syria, the UK, and the USA. Thanks to their films, we are not only able to travel, but to learn and think deeply about the world we are living in.
Ghosts & Apparitions
Cinema was borne out of the tension between that which is visible, and that which – however lived, however felt – struggles to find material form or expression. This realm of virtuality – the “real but not actual, ideal but not abstract” – carries the possibilities of both oppression and freedom, resistance and violence, fear and revolution. Ghosts & Apparitions is the exploration of this wonderful, interstitial space, and of the capacities of film to expand our notions and experiences of reality. Past and present images gather on the screen, and build a possible map of our times: one which is complex, multifaceted, and which can’t be grasped or parsed through fixed codes and norms. With films ranging from 1945 to 2021, from 23 countries, this is a journey full of surprises, that encourages us to reflect on the richness and complexity of our multiple existences.
Rhyme & Rhythm
Film has a rich history of interacting and interweaving with other practices, and it is in Rhyme & Rhythm where cinema and other artforms meet: through Afro-Cuban music, chaâbi, choral singing, classical, new wave, no wave, pop, post-punk and spoken word, via cabaret, drag, comic books, drawing, opera, poetry, skating, sports and street dance. Here, each film offers one artistic expression within another, and spotlights the work of different artists: Beth B on Lydia Lunch; Kim O’Bomsawin on Josephine Bacon; Michael Cumming and Stewart Lee on Robert Lloyd; Rob Roth on Blondie; Vivian Kleiman on Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Jennifer Camper, Rupert Kinnard, and Mary Wings; Vivian Ostrovsky on Chantal Akerman; Chantal Akerman on Sonia Wieder-Atherton; Yael Abecassis on Raymonde El Bidaouia, and more. From across the globe, a diverse range of creative talent – both in front of and behind the camera – express their truth, each film offering encounters and inspiration to a different beat.
Films belong to those who need them – fragments from the history of Black British Cinema.
This year, we want to spotlight and celebrate the history of Black British screen culture: a wide and diverse filmography that has been largely overlooked and undervalued in film discourse. We want to find connections between past and present, to spark a conversation about how this work resonates with contemporary filmmakers and artists, and how it can inspire and inform the ways in which we conceive our own communities. With such an abundant and complex body of work, we present programmes curated by people who inhabit this history through their own work, their existential pursuits, and their curiosity and care, with works by voices that could multiply and intersect. This is the beginning of an ongoing series that we want to bring back in the following editions, as a place for reframing history and building access.
The global pandemic of the past 15 months has shone a light on the unjust systems of power and rapacious forms of exploitation that define our contemporary world. With these inescapable revelations comes a clear and unambiguous need for rebellion. In an era that will be remembered both for an unimaginable force majeure, and a global reckoning with hierarchy and domination, mass movements and collective actions have been essential survival strategies, transmitted around the world largely through visual media. Widespread conversation about anti-Blackness, police violence, white supremacy and prison abolition, paired with crackdowns on protest in the name of public health, lead us to reframe contemporary resistance and historic struggles. The films in Rebellions illuminate cinema’s role in documenting – and tangibly contributing to – the myriad forms of resistance that continue to persist worldwide, pandemic or not.
DocFest Exchange: Beyond Our Own Eyes
Whether we view the earth from outer space, or through the lens of a microscope, we will discover diverse, interconnected, and interdependent life. This year’s DocFest Exchange challenges the ways in which we see the world, and invites us to inhabit perspectives beyond our own. Can we imagine the world through the eyes of an animal? Can we shift our perspective to the scale of a microbe? Can we understand life as a planetary-level phenomenon? The DocFest Exchange is a year-long curated programme, exploring themes of climate justice and the health of the planet through screenings, discussions, talks, workshops, collaborations and micro-commissions. We invite you to discover what possibilities emerge when we see things differently. Curated by Jamie Allan and supported by Wellcome Trust.
History, stories, and territories – whether distant or close, real or imaginary – can become concrete, and operate within the singular, shared universe of the screen. This International Competition selection consists of films that remind us of these cinematic possibilities, from microcosms – a family unit, a prison cell, intimate dreams and recollections – to macrocosms, such as social shifts, the history of colonisation and ethnocide, the complexities of conflicts and paradoxes of the capitalistic worldview. It is a selection where the individual and collective intertwine and interrogate each other, either through delicate strategies or bold and affirming confrontations. Representing 14 countries and 13 spoken languages, with a number of films coming from emerging talent across different continents, this selection offers gestures and visions at once unique, precise and transformative.
This year Sheffield DocFest announced a UK Competition as part of an ongoing commitment to nurture and launch home-grown films. This is a selection of independent films that bring unique perspectives, and whose filmmakers contribute in rich ways to the future UK and international film landscape. Some are shot here: from the mountains of Cromarty, down to South London, via the streets of Toxteth in Liverpool and the banks of the River Severn. Some are set abroad: New York in the USA, the Ecuadorian Amazon, and on a pilgrimage through Iraq, while another takes us into outer space. Here, there is great diversity in subject and style, length and form. Although each film is crafted in very different ways, they have in common a distinctiveness of voice.
We are pleased to present five films that resonate, in different ways, with the highlighted themes from our film programme, made by filmmakers who are well known to our audiences and whose work we want to follow. Steve McQueen’s new series resonates with current conversations and tensions across Europe and in other continents, whilst Clive Patterson follows television reporter Sorious Samura’s efforts to portray Sierra Leone in a positive way. Working with Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, Brian Hill uses music and poetry to portray the pain and sadness experienced by ordinary British people during COVID-19. Additionally, we also present three films that offer a multitude of perspectives on 9/11 and its consequences. Together, they offer a multitude of perspectives on the event and its consequences, from that of a child in Afghanistan, to the perspective of firemen, workers and survivors in New York City.
Blooming from cities that, in some ways, were left to be forgotten as forlorn relics of industry, the films in Northern Focus offer stories of community and craft, nostalgia and resilience, and of our neighbours and our heroes. The landscapes – inflected by the traces and echoes of heavy industry – provide engines for activism and altruism, fueled by the subjects’ unassuming beauty and brilliance. In a Sheffield DocFest first, we are taking a spotlight to the filmmakers, artists and talent down the road and round the corner, in hearth and in heart.
Memory Revisited: Focus Taiwan
In the historic context of Taiwan, ‘Memory Revisited’ also means ‘History Revisited’. This program curated by Wood LIN, emphasises personal and artistic perspectives that use archive footage to challenge the ideologies that were instilled into Taiwan’s citizens in the past – as well as this, these films also show how diverse Taiwan society and Taiwan cinema is!
Opening Night Film: Summer of Soul by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Summer of Soul (...Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson will inspire the 10 days of our programme through its testimony of a unique moment in history, the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, and the transformative power of culture and music.
Closing Night Film: The Story of Looking by Mark Cousins
The Story of Looking sees Mark Cousins prepare for surgery to restore his vision. In a personal meditation on the power of looking in his own life, Cousins reveals how looking makes us who we are.
Chilean film culture is undoubtedly one of the richest and most surprising. Deeply rooted in a very complex and painful social and political history, Chilean filmmakers, in many different ways, have inventedunique visions, imagined extraordinary universes and found brave forms of confronting reality. This small collection of recent films highlights this richness, the breadth of the country’s cinematic legacy. Films are available on DocPlayer and Selects platforms.