SHEFFIELD: Doc/fest makes waves

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SHEFFIELD is preparing once again to stage Britain’s leading documentary festival – or ‘the World’s Most Exciting Documentary and Digital Media Festival’ as is proclaimed on the pink and black banners on lamp-posts around the city centre.

A programme of more than 120 films from more than 20 countries will run over five days next month including features, shorts and multi-media and cross platform films plus on-stage interviews with some big names from film and TV.

Centred on the Showroom and Workstation, it will spread out to other venues in the city including free outdoor shows on a big screen sited in Howard Street.

It opens on June 13 with the world premiere at the Crucible Theatre of a poetic and powerful interactive film From the Sea to the Land Beyond with a live musical score composed and performed by the appropriately named indie band, British Sea Power.

It is a compilation by director Penny Woolcock of archive footage of 100 years of film of Britain and its coastline. “It’s not all rolling seascapes but a powerful human story that captures a sense of history and all the people who’s lives are connected to the sea in some way,” says programmer Hussain Currimbhoy. The interactive aspect is that it will go online during Doc/Fest and allow audiences to edit the clips to create a personalized video postcard of the part of the UK coastline that is most dear to their heart.

There is a second opening night film, Searching for Sugar Man, an uplifting story of the quest to trace Sixto Rodriguez – an iconic American-Mexican musician from the early Seventies who mysteriously disappeared into oblivion. The filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul is coming to Sheffield to introduce the film, along with a very special guest.

There is a strong musical thread to the festival which also includes Julien Temple’s Glastopia, a look at behind-the-scenes at Glastonbury, and Evidentl...John Cooper Clarke, a portrait of the eccentric punk poet which includes vintage footage of The Leadmill along with an interview with Jarvis Cocker.

Cooper Clarke will be coming to the festival as will BBC choirmaster Gareth Malone to talk about his rise to fame and just how he gets everyone to sing.

With 56 Up, currently on ITV, director Michael Apted will give an inside view of the long-running series while the team behind BBC1’s Frozen Planet will reveal the secrets of the how the series was made in BAFTA: Making of Frozen Planet.

International visitors will include some Kogi tribesmen from South America and a gay rights campaigner from Uganda, both subjects of films.

Tim Poole, who became an overnight online phenomenon the night Occupy Wall Street was first evicted from Zuccotti Park in New York City, will be in conversation with filmmaker Emily Bell at Occupy Wall Street: Livestream This! talking about his live stream which drew more than 20,000 simultaneous viewers and 250,000 unique visitors throughout the course of the day.

The programme is divided into strands which Resistance, Behind the Beats, Best of British, BFI gems, China Now, Cross-Platform, Euro Docs, First Cut (new talent), Global Encounters, Queer Screen, Dziga Vertov retrospective, Shorts, The Habit of Art, and This Sporting Life.

The Howard Street Screen will present free outdoor screenings from the morning of Thursday, June 14 to the evening of Sunday, June 17 with a line-up of short films, classic docs, gems from the archive, Oscar winners and some highlights from the 2012 programme playing continuously on a loop.

With films being projected on to the back wall of the Howard Hotel, passers-by heading to and from the station will hopefully be drawn into the festival.

Although the festival brings thousands of delegates from the industry to Sheffield, it remains vital to reach the public at large, says Currimbhoy. “The industry comes to Sheffield but the film-makers want to interact with the people to see their reaction.

“Documentaries in cinemas have increased the public’s appetite for them, to see what’s behind the headlines. Often they don’t seem like documentaries to them, they just see them as films. We are on the cusp of that and five or six films we showed here last year went into cinemas.”

This year for the first time, Doc/Fest has teamed up with Showroom Workstation to offer a festival pass to non-delegates looking to get the most out of the Doc/Fest film programme. The Doc/Lovers’ Pass offers as many films as you can fit in throughout the packed Doc/Fest 2012 film programme for £60/£50 concessions.

lFor full details of the programme see www.sheffdocfest.com