With no less than 160 feature and short docs from 49 countries in the international film programme of this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest, opening on Friday, there’s an embarrassment of riches for curator Claire Aguilar to pick out as recommendations.
Subjects range from the art of vogueing to Scottish folk songs, from women caught up in Mexican cartel drug wars to paramedics in Gaza.
Doc/Fest opens this Friday with Where to Invade Next attended by Oscar-winning Michael Moore at City Hall. It closes five nights later at the Showroom with The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger (the octogenarian novelist and art critic), attended by co-directors Tilda Swinton and Bartek Dziadosz.
Fresh from his Cannes triumph, Ken Loach will be here for a Q&A with director Louise Osmond who made the new documentary, Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach.
Another veteran, D.A. Pennebaker and filmmaking partner Chris Hegedus will introduce their new film, Unlocking the Cage, where Harvard professor Steven Wise (also coming to Sheffield) argues the case for chimps to be considered people in the eyes of the law.
A third retrospective will honour the passing last year of Chantal Akerman including a posthumous screening of No Home Movie, featuring ‘conversations’ between the Belgian film-maker and her mother, an Auschwitz survivor.
Notes on Blindness is based on the late John Hull’s audio tapes documenting the experience of losing his sight. Co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney capture his world via actors, innovative cinematography and textured sound. Sheffield’s Alex Usborne is among the producers. There is also a Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness virtual reality project in Site Gallery and the Showroom Café. “I’m encouraging people to see the film and then experience the VR,” says Claire, Director of Programming and Industry Engagement.
Among musical treats is Presenting Princess Shaw in which Israeli mash up artist Kutiman turned a New Orleans care worker into a YouTube singing sensation. She will be here and sing for her supper as will Aidan Moffat (ex- Arab Strap). In Where You’re Meant To Be he takes a road trip with 79-year-old force of nature Sheila Stewart, who believes Scotland’s oldest songs should be performed in their pure form. It is screening at the Abbeydale Picture House, a new Doc/Fest venue.
There’s also a dance theme which includes Strike a Pose which looks at life after Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour for the seven backup dancers, and Kiki about the LGBTQ underground vogueing subculture in New York.
And after Storyboard P, a Stranger in Sweden the Brooklyn dance star Storyboard P will perform live.
By contrast there is Ashish Ghadiali’s The Confession, a portrait of Guantanimo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg which receives its world premiere.