It’s that time again - the city is turning orange and filling with fans of factual features! DocFest is the highlight of Sheffield’s film festival year. Its wonderful programme of films, speakers, VR experiences and parties attracts people from around the world and Sheffield’s film lovers also come out to revel in the smorgasbord of entertainment.
Along with many other people, my schedule is rapidly being highlighted and annotated as I estimate running times between the venues and minimal hours of sleep needed. However, I have had time to pick out some of the films I already love and others I am particularly excited about and hopefully they will be appeal to others. Strong Island, which I was lucky enough to see in Berlin earlier this year, instantly became a film that sticks in the memory.
It is the story of the murder of a young man, told through the eyes of his brother,director Yance Ford. Uncovering the injustices that were done to his brother, Yance documents not only the murder but also the impact upon a very tightly connected family and his life. Using stunning still photography in the place of traditional home-movies, Yance is able to make the characters of the family shine through, and his affection for his brother is clear to see.
When I went to see The Work, I wasn’t sure. However, I was almost instantly won over by the groups of men that come together. The Folsom Prison annual group therapy retreat brings together men from inside and outside. Through controlled therapy sessions, supported environments and strong bonds, they come to work through their own individual problems. For the prisoners, all affiliations and prejudices are left at the door and the outsiders leave behind their expectations of what prisoners are like. This is a powerful film: the therapy is hard to watch and clearly difficult for the participants. I couldn’t help but feel a little like I’d been through the process with them, that the camera is allowed access to such intimate emotional moments is a revelation.
Never shy to controversy, documentary often provides platforms for debate and shines lights on issues and people that otherwise remain mysterious. Award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras first pointed her lens at Edward Snowden and the film Citizen Four went on to win an Oscar. Next up she has exclusive access to highly controversial Julian Assange -the man behind Wikileaks. Pressure mounts as while making the film Poitras comes under scrutiny from security personnel and, as Assange’s situation develops, hers becomes tense.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, DocFest is not to be missed!