A roundup of our favourite films from Sheff Doc/Fest 2016
By Zoe Kinross on June 23rd 2016
Sheffield Doc Fest celebrated a successful 23rd year with its largest crowds to date. Amongst big names like Louis Theroux and Michael Moore were brilliant first time filmmakers and talented virtual reality designers.
One of our favorite films of the event - a highlight of the festival - was Brothers, a moving film about two Polish brothers growing old together. The brothers’ relationship treads the line between love and irritation, but also shows reliance, resilience and support for one another. Beautifully put together by director Wojciech Staron, the film gives their story, and the mood within, the space and time it needs, to breathe and to be absorbed.
Louis Theroux and John Dower's My Scientology Movie, did not disappoint either, and managed the difficult task of balancing the facts about a pretty terrifying cult, sorry - religion, whilst carrying along Louis' dry sense of humor. At the Q&A after the film, Louis revealed that he had not felt too threatened during the making. He hadn’t been squirrel busted’ - a bizarre tactic, hard to explain, that you’ll see used against others in the film.
Some may find Michael Moore's directing/presenting style somewhat like being hit over the head by a sledgehammer. Where to Invade Next continues that trend. However, made mainly for an American audience, it covers some interesting ideas being implemented in countries like Tunisia, Finland and Iceland, that are progressively addressing global and local issues. It gives glowing examples of actions to implement and make right, issues like women’s rights, education and rehabilitation of criminals, things that the UK and US could learn a lot from.
Another film to look out for is Kiki, from the festival’s dance strand and directed by Sara Jordenö. The film let’s us glimpse into the New York ballroom vogueing scene - one that is mainly, but not exclusively, made up of people from the LGBTQ community. The film encapsulates the thrill of dancing, of music, of family and friends and inspirational young voices; coming through the subcultures that let them be heard.
Other outstanding films we recommend include this trio, all by female directors:
Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach, (Dir. Louise Osmond) Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Dir. Rita Coburn Whack) and Plaza De La Soledad (Dir. Maya Goded) about ageing sex workers in Mexico city. And not to mention, SEED: The Untold Story, (Dir. Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz.)
To finish, the closing film of the festival: The Seasons of Quincy; Four Portraits of John Berger - a film in four parts, by Tilda Swinton, Christopher Roth, Bartek Dziadosz and Colin Maccabe. The film is, of course, about the writer and artist John Berger. Described as ‘essay films', the four parts come together to call into question, amongst other things, the way humans treat animals, the nature of parent children relations, life and death. The whole thing is an innovatively constructed portrait of a fascinating man, sewn together by Simon Fisher Turner’s beautiful soundtrack.
A stimulating programme of films AND we got to go to virtual reality outta space.
For eager film fans, next year’s Festival Lightning Pass goes on sale from 1 July 2016 for £159+VAT sheffdocfest.com