Sheffield Doc/Fest celebrates its 20th year with a line-up of documentaries screening over five days from June 12 to June 16, 2013. The 120 strong film programme is organized across films in competition as well as thematic sections, also referred to as strands.
This year’s strands include Behind the Beats, The Habit of Art, This Sporting Life, Queer Screen; Resistance, Cross-Platform, First Cut, Best of British, Euro/Doc, Global Encounters, New York Times Op-Docs and Shorts.
A new strand, Films on Film, screens an iconoclastic feature film together with the doc about that film. Titles include The Exorcist (Director’s Cut) plus The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist, introduced by its writer and presenter Mark Kermode, and Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal Apocalypse Now plus Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse with the film’s renowned editor and sound designer Walter Murch. Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God will run alongside his classic documentary My Best Fiend which explores his tempestuous relationship with actor Klaus Kinski, whilst John Waters’ Female Trouble is shown with I Am Divine.
The Doc/Fest Retrospective this year is dedicated to Shohei Imamura. Known mostly for his fiction films (The Eel, Vengence is Mine) Imamura also made several timeless documentaries that tread the line between documentary and fiction. Regarded as one of the leaders of post-war Japanese cinema, Doc/Fest will present A Man Vanishes, Karayuki-san, the making of a Prostitute, In Search of Returned Soldiers, Malaysia and In Search of Returned Soldiers, Thailand.
Among the feature World Premieres are UK filmmaker Fred Burns’ entertaining Basically, John Moped, about the proto-punk scene of the 1970s. Including interviews with current and ex-Johnny Moped members, including Chrissie Hynde (who was sacked twice) and Captain Sensible (who will attend screening with filmmaker), the film also features archive footage from the Roxy club in Covent Garden, shot by the legendary Don Letts. Samantha Grant’s A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times tells the story of Jayson Blair, a promising, young reporter who incited a plagiarism scandal that brought the New York Times to what publisher Arthur Sulzburger dubbed a “low-point in the 152 year history of the paper.” John Murray and Emer Reynolds’ Here Was Cuba is the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and how in 1962 the earth teetered on the very brink of nuclear holocaust – a timely story with nuclear brinkmanship high on the international agenda today. Yorkshire filmmaker John Lundberg unveils an intricate web of post-war intrigue in Mirage Men. The film follows Paul Benowitz who reported sightings of UFOs to the US Air Force, a call which destroyed his family and eventually landed him in an insane asylum. In Project Wild Thing filmmaker David Bond becomes the Marketing Director for Nature. Children are spending too much time on the sofa and not enough outside, but can David market Nature, a free, wonder-product, to apathetic consumers, and to his own family? In The Secret Life of Uri Geller – Psychic Spy? filmmaker Vikram Jayanti investigates the many hints dropped by controversial spoon-bender Uri Geller about his secret life as a psychic spy for intelligence agencies on three continents over 40 years. And Toby Amies’ The Man Whose Mind Exploded about Drako Oho Zahar Zahar – his wonderful past and extraordinary present, will also receive its World Premiere at Doc/Fest.
Sebastian Junger’s homage to his good friend, Which Way is the Front line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington (EU Premiere), shows how the photographer captured an intimate understanding of wartime aggression through his photography by genuinely befriending the soldiers and rebels he followed. Marina Zenovich’s Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic (International Premiere) looks at the legendary comedian’s life and legacy, including exclusive access to widow Jennifer Lee Pryor and the Pryor Estate. Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s After Tiller (EU Premiere) sensitively probes the divisive issue of late term abortions in America. Shane and Wilson tell the story of the four surviving doctors determined to carry on their work in the wake of the murder of their colleague George Tiller and amidst constant pro-lifer hostilities. Rick Rowley’s cinematic Dirty Wars (EU Premiere) blurs the boundaries between documentary and fiction storytelling when he follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller “Blackwater”, into the hidden world of America’s covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond.
Doc/Fest will screen the UK Premiere of the director’s cut of The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer’s extraordinary work which challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to re-enact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.
In other highlights: Greg Camalier’s Muscle Shoals takes us to the small Alabama town with an amazing output of memorable recordings; Jeanie Finlay’s The Great Hip Hop Hoax follows Scottish rappers Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain who reinvent themselves as West Coast Homeboys after they were signed by Sony. Kari Ann Moe’s Braveheart (UK Premiere) is a tribute to political diversity. During the 2011 elections in Norway Moe followed four bright and politically engaged teenagers preparing for the youth elections in Oslo’s schools. But the excitement of open debate is shattered in the aftermath of the right wing terror attacks where 77 Labour party youths were cruelly massacred. In 9.79 Sheffield-based filmmaker Daniel Gordon depicts a fascinating period of athletics drug testing in its infancy – the 1988 Seoul Olympics – where steroid abuse became an open secret amongst athletes. In Drill Baby Drill, Lech Kowalski’s probing camera records the farmer rebellion against proposed fracking in Eastern Poland by energy corporation Chevron who intend to develop shale gas mining in Europe. Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier introduces us to a rebellious English farmer in The Moo Man. Steve Hook, with his unruly herd of 55 spirited but stress-free cows, sells raw milk direct to customers while delivering the occasional polemic about the benefits of raw milk, supermarkets and TB. Filmmakers Elena Tikhonova & Dominik Spritzendorfer explore the zany, sonic universe of Soviet era DIY electronic music-making in Electro Moscow (UK Premiere). And in Google and the World Brain, Ben Lewis explores the most ambitious project ever conceived on the Internet: Google’s master plan to scan every book in the world. Google says they are building a library for mankind, but others are sceptical about their intentions.
Other titles screening include: Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish, the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity; Roger Williams God Loves Uganda, a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right; Mikka Mattila’s Chimeras weaves the two intersecting tales of contemporary Chinese artists and explores their mutual struggle with their frustrated love for art, family, and country.
Other highlights include Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer which screens as part of Yoko Ono’s Meltdown; Lucy Walker’s Crash Reel in which the acclaimed documentarian delves into the world of U.S snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s recovery and attempts to regain his former sporting life following his near fatal injury at the Montreal Olympics; John Akomfrah’s The Stuart Hall Project which traces how a very bright young Rhodes scholar from colonial Jamaica, became one of Britain’s most eminent thinkers; and Kim Longinotto’s Salma about a young Muslim girl in a South Indian village was kept locked in a small room for 25 years and forbidden to study. Salma started writing poetry on scraps of paper, which she managed to sneak out of the house and eventually found their way into the hands of a publisher.