Documentary: Projecting window on the world

Contemporary Color, David Byrne concert documentary, showing at Sheffield Doc/Fest
� Bill Ross
Contemporary Color, David Byrne concert documentary, showing at Sheffield Doc/Fest � Bill Ross

Luke Moody remembers discovering a love of world cinema as a teenager travelling over from his home in Wath-upon-Dearne to the Showroom in Sheffield.

And now as director of film programming at Sheffield Doc/Fest he selects films from around the world to be screened at the Showroom during the six-day festival.

Lost in Vagueness, film by Sofia Olins, receiving its world premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest

Lost in Vagueness, film by Sofia Olins, receiving its world premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest

It was a circuitous journey to the post he took up last year, however. He began studying fine art – “I was always interested in art and music” – and then later did a degree in anthropology and media at Goldsmiths in London, leading to a course in Creative Ethnography in Brussels which introduced him to the world of documentary.

He then took an internship at BRITDOC, and stayed on at the non-profit foundation that helps fund and distribute documentaries in innovative ways, eventually managing its international documentary funding schemes and setting up the Frames of Representation Festival at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Something Real Digital documentary viewing service.

One of BRITDOC’s prime concerns was adapting to new trends in documentaries which he was keen to continue in Sheffield.

To that end he has introduced a strand called Doc/Visions of more experimental work. “There’s an increasing audience who appreciate documentary beyond linear storylines and talking heads. Sheffield has a strong scene of artists and makers.”

1967 resonates with what’s going on though now it’s more global

They range from a portraits of avant garde artists Joseph Beuys and Leonora Carrington to the “ethno-poetic-animal-fiction” of Do Donkeys Act?

Other strands are Doc/Adventure which rather speaks for itself, Doc/Expose, examples of investigative documentaries, Doc/Think covering politics, science and philosophy, Doc/Rhythms, music and dance and Doc/Love showing human stories celebrating the power of love, family and friendship.

“It was one of the changes I wanted to make,” explains Moody. “For public audiences and also for film-makers to know where their film might fit I thought it was best to be more structured.”

There is also a section marking the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love in 1967. “We are actually calling it the Summer of Love and Disobedience because it was also a time of protest – anti-Vietnam and black liberation.”

A rare screening of Silent Revolution / Black Liberation, Yves de Laurot’s lost masterpiece of the civil rights movement, Peter Whitehead’s Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London and the neglected Warrendale - a cinéma vérité study of the lives of 12 emotionally disturbed children by Allan King are among highlights.

“Some of it resonates with what’s going on right now, the difference is it’s more global,” continues Moody.

“The Force {an even-handed look at the embattled Oakland police department} and Whose Streets?, {accounts of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri| reflect that.”

He also cites Strong Island, in which Yance Ford returns to her home town to investigate the murder of her brother which the police never properly looked into.

Moody made his selection based on what he had seen at international festivals and showcases and the recommendations of his team of viewers who ploughed through this year’s 2,200 submissions.

Films will be screened at the Showroom, along with the Curzon and new venue The Light Cinema at The Moor plus two outside pop up screens, the Free Screen on Tudor Square and The Light Free Screen on Howard Street. The Abbeydale Picturehouse and The Leadmill will host special event screenings

Luke’s Recommendations

○DRIB which re-enacts the strange journey of a Norwegian video artist commissioned to devise a marketing campaign for an energy should resonate with young audiences, he thinks.

○Brimstone & Glory, a visually striking study of the preparations for a famed fireworks festival in a small town in Mexico.

○Quest, an affectionate portrait of a family in Philadelphia

○Risk, Laura Poitras’s warts-and-all study of Wikileaks Julian Assange and and those around him filmed over six years .

○School Life, a quietly affecting portrait of two passionate and inspirational teachers at a public school in Ireland.

○Step, following girls from inner city Baltimore as the compete for a step dance championship and be accepted for college.