Showroom Cinema: Breath-taking secret skills

editorial image

There’s only 3 weeks to wait until Sheffield Doc/Fest crash lands in venues and public spaces all across the city with its miraculous stories of remarkable people, places and communities from all over the world.

Celebrating the art of all documentary and non-fiction storytelling, highlights include the world premiere of Sean McAllister’s A Northern Soul, a live performance from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore at Abbeydale Picture House, and a very special redux of Sheffield’s own 1984 dystopian classic Threads, as well as hundreds of films split across strands such as Adventure, Love, Rhythm, Think and Visions.

What better way to prepare yourself in the run-up to all the excitement than to begin dipping your toes into everything documentary. At the Showroom this week we’re celebrating with 3 amazing docs: one with an incredible live score; a director Q&A; and one on general release - screening every day.

Kicking things off on Friday in fine fashion with ‘The Yorkshire Silent Film Festival’ and ‘Music in the Round,’ we have one of the most famous documentaries (and perhaps the greatest!) of all time: Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov. A portrait of life in post-revolution 1920s Eastern Europe: kaleidoscopic, jumping visions of Moscow, Kiev and Odessa unfold across the screen, taking in scenes of industry and city streets though terrifyingly daring set ups on skyscrapers, factories, motor cars and railway tracks. Like a seriously political film by Buster Keaton, smoke and mirrors and magnificent spectacle unfurl against a wonderful new live soundtrack by the fantastic double bass, piano, and voice artist Laurène Durantel.

Also out on Friday, we have the F-Rated documentary Even When I Fall about 2 teenagers who met in a refuge in Kathmandu. Survivors of child trafficking to corrupt Indian circuses, they are brought back across the border to a Nepal they can barely remember. The film traces their journey over 6 years as they confront the families that sold them and begin to build a future. They struggle against the odds and without education, but inadvertently these girls were left with a secret weapon by their captors – breath-taking skills as circus artists. With 11 other young trafficking survivors they form Circus Kathmandu – Nepal’s first and only circus.

Finally, winner of Best Documentary at the British Independent Film awards, Almost Heaven screens on Sunday, followed by a special Q&A with director Carol Salter. With intimate access and moments of humour, the film follows seventeen-year- old Ying Ling training as a mortician in one of China’s largest funeral homes. Despite her fear of ghosts and dead bodies, she learns the spa rituals; cleaning and massaging the corpses while the grieving families look on, and finding solace from her macabre role through meeting other young morticians. Together, they spend their time off talking about their hopes, fears and plans for the future. As one of many rural-to- urban teenagers working to support her family, Ying Ling must immerse herself in the ‘surreal and grinding world of China’s industrialisation of mortality.’ Politics is never far away from the world of documentary and these three films give 3 very different windows into the shared struggles of humanity in an increasingly inhuman world.