DocFest Staff Picks

DocFest Staff Picks

04 June 2021

Coming together in Sheffield and in 16 cities across the UK, international documentary festival DocFest returns for its 28th edition this weekend with a huge line-up of film screenings, talks, performances, art installations, industry events and more, 4 - 13 June. 

With so much on offer, you may not know where to start- so with this in mind, staff from the festival have put together a list of their Top Picks. Read on to see their selections, but you can see the full programme on the Sheffield DocFest website here: 

 The DocFest Team’s Top Picks 

 To kick things off- one of the festival highlights comes from the Rhyme & Rhythm strand of films, where cinema meets other artforms such as music. Men Who Sing is a film from Wales that might resonate with Sheffield’s strong tradition of community choirs. The Trelawynd Male Voice Choir has a proud history, and its demise reflects the industrial decline of North East Wales. Now facing a waning membership, the choir must act fast or face extinction as they prepare for their first performance in two decades. The World Premiere for this film takes place at the Showroom Cinema  on Sunday 6 June and a there’s also relaxed screening on Tuesday 8 June.

For anyone looking for an edge-of-your-seat real life thriller, the DocFest team highly recommend In the Shadow of 9/11 – one of a number of titles in the programme marking the tragedy twenty years ago. This one tells the real story behind one fabricated by the FBI in which seven innocent young Black men from Miami were accused of plotting mass murder with Al Qaeda. Screening as part of our Into the World strand at Showroom Cinema – and online – on Tuesday 8 June, where director Dan Reed (known for the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland) will be present for a Q&A.

Just one title that speaks to Sheffield’s own industrial past and collective spirit is Factory to the Workers, which takes us on a journey with the workers of the last collectively owned factory in Croatia. Screening as part of our new International Competition on Wednesday 9 June at Showroom Cinema (and online), you’ll see workers strive to save their factory from financial bankruptcy, while look for ways of keeping trust and solidarity among each other. 

The DocFest team are also incredibly excited to be back at Abbeydale Picturehouse again, a beautiful early 20th century picture palace which has more recently been used to host variety of events and performances. On Friday 11 June, the screen will become a stage for a tragicomic musical theatre show called Roses: Film-Cabaret by Irena Stetsenko, as part of our Rhyme & Rhythm strand. The film tells the story of the Dakh Daughters, seven artists and activists from Ukraine whose multilingual and multi-instrumental punk cabaret shows explore their roles as artists, as women, and as citizens living through times of revolution and war.

Screening at Showroom Cinema (and online) on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 June as part of our Community Programme and as part of our Rebellions strand is Chelas nha Kau, a film following a group of friends from a low-income suburb of Lisbon in Portugal who use rap music as a means to express their identity. The music is great, as is the portrayal of friendship on screen and the sense of collectivism in filmmaking. The film was the result of a workshop with multimedia cooperative Bagabaga Studios, and made by the same young people that it features, meaning we get a really personal perspective on life in what they call ‘Zone J’ and as told through their own musical, visual, and cultural language.

Public Exhibitions 

In addition to all the great films and events on offer, DocFest’s 2021 Arts Programme consists of three exhibitions—two shown at venues in Sheffield and one curated specifically for the online space. 

 All exhibitions are free and accessible whether in person or on DocFest’s Online Exhibitions Platform, supported by Arts Council England. Booking is advised for in person exhibitions and please bring plug-in headphones. 

 Here In This Room

This group exhibition focuses on the dual concepts of “domestic ambience” and “domestic surrealism”, considering the ways that artists have depicted or reimagined living spaces, domestic labour/routines, or many different ideas of home.
Book a free ticket for Here In This Room at Site Gallery

Book a free ticket for Here In This Room at S1 Artspace   

Dialogues: Emily Chao & Al Wong

A cross-generational pairing of two Asian American artists based in the San Francisco Bay Area, this exhibition showcases Al Wong, who has produced innovative experimental films, installations and photography since the 1960s, and Emily Chao, whose short-form films focusing on identity and diaspora have been made since 2015.
Book a free ticket for Dialogues: Emily Chao and Al Wong at SHU Performance Lab

Right on Time

Featuring works of moving image, performance and sound, Right on Time is a group exhibition that highlights narratives which do not adhere to the traditional definition of ‘time’ and ‘temporality’.
Experience Right on Time on the Online Exhibition Platform from Fri 4 June

DocFest runs 4 - 13 June 2021, in Sheffield, in cinemas across the UK and online. For the full programme and tickets/passes head to: