Today was the sixth, and final, day of the 25th edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest. Screen Editors Gethin Morgan and Izzy Cridland have been covering the entire festival, bringing you Doc/Fest diaries every evening. This is the last one and they are very sad about it.
Today is happy-sad. As Sheffield Doc/Fest 2018 nears a close we may be a little downhearted at the thought of no longer spending everyday watching great docs, however, we’re also reflecting on what has been a fantastic six days.
We’ve been educated, informed and entertained. We’ve travelled around the world, experienced different cultures and ways of life without leaving Sheffield. Some films have been visually stunning, some politically groundbreaking, others packed full of humanity. Some, quite frankly, have been a little bit weird. But all have contributed to an atmospheric festival brimming with the work of extremely talented people.
So without further ado, here is our final Doc/Fest diary.
Gethin: I was adamant on ending this festival on a strong run of films. It was a good start last night as I popped round to The Light to see Hale County This Morning, This Evening. It’s documentary at its most observational, purely documenting the lives of African Americans in a town in Alabama in the most honest way. Its politics come inherently from its non-political stance. This is a response to black cinema so often having to be about racism or day-to-day struggles. It makes the point that, while those films are incredibly important too, it does not define “black lives”, as director RaMell Ross explained in his Q&A. It’s probably the most beautifully shot doc at the festival. He recorded 1,300 hours of footage, finding the most beautifully innocuous moments and sights in surprising places. A gorgeous, peaceful film and rightfully nominated for the Grand Jury Award.
Izzy: I arrived at the bus stop in plenty of time this morning. However, a bus didn’t turn up for 25 minutes. This resulted in me exiting the bus and running the rest of the way in order to make it to the fim in time. I got there exhausted and sweating only to find that the showing had been delayed and then cancelled, what a fiasco.
Gethin: As I waited in the standby queue, with Izzy finally arriving, disaster struck. Turns out there’d been a power cut in the area (not ideal for a film festival) and after some waiting around it was announced the Northern Soul screening had to be cancelled along with everything else showing at the Showroom at that time. Gutted.
Izzy: In the meantime I went to the Alternate Realities Portal in Tudor Square, a 360 degree cinematic experience. The short film I watched there was titled ‘Habitats’ and began with fantastic drawn footage of Grenfell and the surrounding area of London. It focused on the people who lived in the tower and how they had made Grenfell their home. Through personal and touching anecdotes it reminded me to not forget the livelihoods lost in the tragedy. It then moved on to footage of China where they had created little versions of Paris, London and Venice, which was beautiful to see in the igloo-like dome.
Gethin: With the power switched back on I had the opportunity to see When the War Comes, which follows Peter Švrček, a Slovakian schoolkid-cum-militia leader. The guy is just as fascinating as he sounds. Tough, motivated, intelligent and charismatic; it’s scary to see such an impressive man with such far, far-right views. The film lacks a little bit of structure and having seen some really creative, unique pieces of work recently, this feels a tiny bit generic, even if the subject matter is fascinating.
Izzy: Next up I saw Too Beautiful: Our Right to Fight – this vibrant documentary presents the personal story of Namibia who dreams of competing in boxing at the Olympics. However, she’s Cuban, and women in Cuba are deemed too beautiful to compete. Namibia doesn’t let this stop her from training every day, which is portrayed using a fantastic score, combined with highlights of her vigorous training. This documentary strikes the perfect balance of fast paced boxing footage with Namibia’s tragic personal story. Both inspiring and moving; this story reinforces the challenges women face today.
Tonight I’m hoping to see The Man Who Stole Banksy, which is about a Palestinian taxi driver who takes a controversial piece of Banksy’s artwork in Palestine and sells it on eBay. What an incredible pitch. Also A Northern Soul has been rescheduled for this evening so hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on that!
Gethin: For me, I’m planning to shoot off to the awards ceremony at Sheffield City Hall Ballroom, before I see out this wonderful six days at my beloved Showroom, where Music When the Lights Go Out shows. Hopefully I’ll go out with a bang!
Izzy: It’s difficult to decide on a favourite film as they are all so different. I loved The Gospel of Eureka as it was a funny and hopeful watch amidst a lot of dark documentaries I’ve seen over the festival. Alternatively, Too Beautiful: Our Right to Fight was fantastically shot and I found the protagonist awe-inspiring.
Gethin: My favourite film has comfortably been When Lambs Become Lions, with an honourable mention to A Woman Captured. I was fortunate enough to interview the directors of both in the space of an hour! So you can imagine how much I relished that. Also, shout out to the glorious Hale County This Morning, This Evening and RaMell Ross, who gave the best Q&A of the festival.
It’s been a genuine pleasure covering this wonderful festival over the past six days. Hearing the array of accents and languages – from American to Spanish to German – that have travelled across the world to Sheffield for this was such a delight. They haven’t been disappointed either, as the whole event has been a resounding success. Well done to all involved – the filmmakers, festival organisers, staff and special mention goes to the lovely volunteers, of which there was an endless amount. Well done also to anyone who’s actually read every one of these diaries. If that person exists, congratulations, you have won my respect. And on that note. See ya later, adiós, auf wiedersehen.