The 25th edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest is currently taking place (7 to 12 June). Screen Editors Gethin Morgan and Izzy Cridland are covering the entire festival, bringing you Doc/Fest diaries every evening.
Gethin: Who’d have thunk it? Not going to Leadmill the night before makes it a lot easier to be in at 9am. That’s exactly what I did today. After a productive morning of writing, organising interviews (keep your eyes peeled) and watching perhaps the stupidest short film ever made (it shall remain nameless), I ventured away from the Showroom Cinema and out into town to experience the festival atmosphere.
Izzy: I started the day this morning on a documentary high after last night’s showing of The Gospel of Eureka; a refreshing and funny look at a town in America’s south that has embraced the queer community, who hold deep religious beliefs which are worked into drag performances.
The community also put on a passion play, which is both funny and serious and perhaps encapsulates the use of drag and religion and how the two can intertwine. This is a positive and insightful documentary that casts hope across what appears to be a deeply divided America.
Gethin: It was nice to mix it up a bit after two days of sitting in the cinema (it’s a hard life) and Tudor Square is where it’s at. I sampled some Canadian Cuisine (fancy chips, cheese and gravy) before trying out some of the more creative methods of filmmaking on show at Doc/Fest.
First up there was DOUBLETHINK, an ‘immersive video’ experience where you get to choose a film titled ‘hope’ or ‘hate’. Of course I opted for hope since I’m not a sadist. I entered this dark container thingy with a small group of people and was treated to an excellent monologue from George MacKay, who you may have seen in the lovely Captain Fantastic.
Next up for me was the Alternate Realities Portal. From the outside it looks like an igloo but venture in and it’s a 360° cinema experience. I was treated to three short films, lasting about half an hour in total. One in particular about a white-supremacist’s sudden change of heart was superb. Just like DOUBLETHINK, it’s free too!
Izzy: Next up for me was Laila at the Bridge, which explores the life of self-proclaimed badass Laila, who helps a community of addicts as she helps them into recovery. The issue is explored through personal accounts and that gives great insight into an addiction epidemic.
The documentary seems to hold back until one profound moment that reveals the price of addiction for families. It looks bitterly at Afghanistan’s government and their lack of support for Laila’s programme, revealing the harsh reality of life in Afghanistan.
Gethin: Staying in the Crucible area I went to Matthew Heineman’s BAFTA Masterclass. Director of Oscar-nominated Cartel Land and BAFTA-nominated City of Ghosts, Heineman is easily one of the most talented documentary-makers working today. He was a fascinating subject and an excellent talker, particularly when answering ludicrously stupid questions (which there was one of) in the Q&A. He is clearly gifted with great filmmaking instincts and his approach to documentary-making is one to be admired.
Meanwhile it would be pretty bad of me to go through a day of Doc/Fest without watching a doc. So I shall see off the evening with a very exciting screening of Sundance-award winning Shirkers, accompanied by a live musical score from Singaporean artist Weish. Three days down. Three to go.