Sheffield DocFest Announces Full 2021 Programme

Sheffield DocFest Announces Full 2021 Programme

17 May 2021

Sheffield DocFest has announced the full Film, Arts and Exchange Programme for the 2021 festival, which takes place 4 - 13 June.  

The festival line-up includes 55 world premieres, 22 international premieres, 15 European premieres and 59 UK premieres across 57 countries with 63 languages represented, including new International and UK Competitions, and a Northern (England) Focus.

Among the highlights, the festival is delighted to announce the World Premiere of the first instalment of Academy Award winner Steve McQueen’s new series for the BBC, Uprising. Directed by Steve McQueen & James Rogan, the film - about the 1981 New Cross fire - will be presented as a Special Screening.

As announced previously, this year’s Retrospective: Films belong to those who need them - fragments from the history of Black British Cinema, will be a celebration of Black British screen culture - curated by guest curators including David Olusoga, who is also the subject of the BBC interview. Films of all lengths will all be presented as part of the retrospective including titles such as Burning An Illusion by Menelik Shabazz, It Ain’t Half Racist, Mum by Stuart Hall, Looking for Langston by Isaac Julien, Second Coming by Debbie Tucker Green, The Black Safari by Colin Luke, Baby Mother by Julien Henriques and Franco Rosso’s The Mangrove Nine, among many others. Karen Alexander has joined the previously announced line-up of guest curators.

This year, for the first time, Sheffield DocFest goes nationwide with five premiere screenings showing in up to 16 partner cinemas in cities around the UK, and online, followed by pre-recorded Q&As:

  • The European premiere of My Name is Pauli Murray, about the pioneering Black attorney, activist, priest and poet, directed by Betsy West & Julie Cohen (Oscar nominated for RGB).   Betsy and Julie will also be the subjects of this year’s BAFTA Masterclass.

  • The UK Premiere of The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation by Avi Mograbi, a timely and critical focus on the history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

  • The UK Premiere of Lift Like a Girl by Mayye Zayed which follows 14-year-old Zebiba as she trains to become a weightlifting champion (in partnership with Birds Eye View’s Reclaim the Frame).

  • The previously announced Opening Film: the European Premiere of The Summer of Soul about the seminal and extraordinary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, followed by a Q&A with the director, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. 

  • The previously announced Closing Film: the World Premiere of The Story of Looking by Mark Cousins, based on his book of the same name. Mark Cousins will be in a live-streamed conversation from Sheffield.

Cíntia Gil, Festival Director said; “We are very proud to present a programme that brings together a multitude of forms, landscapes and visions, with a myriad of incredible talent to whom we deeply thank for their trust.  We are excited about holding this festival in a way that welcomes everyone - in Sheffield, in cinemas across the UK, and online.  The importance and urgency of cinema has only grown since we last saw a film on the big screen.” 

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US, Sheffield DocFest presents a series of films that bring different perspectives to the historic tragedy. In the Into The World strand, we have the World Premiere of In The Shadow of 9/11, by Dan Reed. And as part of our Special Screenings, we are showing 9/11: One Day in America directed by Daniel Bogado, Surviving 9/11 (working title) by Arthur Cary, and My Childhood, My Country – 20 Years in Afghanistan by Phil Grabsky and Shoaib Sharifi.

This year the festival is holding its first ever UK Competition: a selection of 14 independent films.  Filmmakers include; Allan Melia, Ben Reed, Charlotte Ginsborg, Christine Saab, Daisy Ifama, Daniel Draper, Eriberto Gualinga, Frank Martin, Isla Badenoch, Makeda Matheson, Maythem Ridha, Nicola Mai, Pamela Breda, Rhea Storr, Rob Curry and Tim Plester. 

Also new for this year is Northern Focus, showcasing shorts and features from across the North of England Nine titles make up the section, directed by: Alfie Barker, Catriona Gallagher, Claire Davies, Jim Wraith, Kim Flitcroft, Mark Waters, Sel MacLean, Sema Basharan and Sophie Robinson’s new film in collaboration with Dunstan Bruce, leader of Chumbawamba, I Get Knocked Down.

78 features and 88 shorts in the Film programme include also premieres from Brian Hill, Kazuo Hara, Kim O’Bomsawin, Lynne Sachs, Mania Akbari, Paula Gaitán, Rosine Mbakam, Theo Anthony, Vivian Ostrovsky, Yael Bartana and Yaël Abecassis. The UK Premiere of Final Account by the late Luke Holland will also feature.  35 artists and collectives are represented in the Arts Programme including Al Wong & Emily Chao, Daïchi Saïto, Mona Benyamin, Pallavi Paul, Séamus Harahan.   

Other talks and Q&As will feature Alison Bechdel (No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics), Lydia Lunch (The War Is Never Over), Brian Hill and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage (Where Did The World Go?), Alba Sotorra (The Return: Life After ISIS) and Victor Kossakovsky (Gunda). 

The INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION includes 11 features in total, produced in 14 countries all over the globe. Four are first time features; Charm Circle by Nira Burstein (USA, World Premiere), Rancho by Pedro Speroni (Argentina, World Premiere), Factory to the Workers by Srdan Kovacevic (Croatia, World Premiere) and finally Summer by Vadim Kostrov (Russia, World Premiere).  Also competing are Equatorial Constellations by Silas Tiny (São Tomé and Príncipe/Portugal, World Premiere), From the 84 Days by Philipp Hartmann (Germany/Bolivia, World Premiere) and This Stained Dawn by Anam Abbas (Pakistan, World Premiere),  Nuhu Yãg Mu Yõg Hãm: This Land Is Our Land! by Isael Maxakali, Sueli Maxakali, Carolina Canguçu and Roberto Romero (Brazil, International Premiere), White on White by Viera Cákanyová (Czech Republic/Slovakia, International Premiere), Double Layered Town / Making a Song to Replace Our Positions by Komori Haruka and Seo Natsumi (Japan, International Premiere) and My Dear Spies by Vladimir Léon  (France, UK Premiere).

Additional films presented as SPECIAL SCREENINGS this year are Clive Patterson’s Sing, Freetown, with television reporter Sorious Samura and Sierra Leone theatre director Charlie Haffner and a collaboration reflecting on the pandemic, between Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and Brian Hill, Where Did The World Go.

The INTO THE WORLD strand will include, besides the already announced titles, World Premieres of If god were a woman by Angélica Cervera (Columbia), and The World of Mindfulness by Ying Liang (Hong Kong).  Borderland by Andreas Voigt (Germany/Poland) and Party Line by Lydia Cornett (USA) are both being presented as International Premieres.

REBELLIONS presents films by Anaïs Taracena, Carlos Adriano, David Dufresne, Ephraim Asili, Jason Livingston, Jim Finn, Lynne Sachs, Mania Akbari, Paula Gaitán, Thomas Bauer, Vincent Meessen and Yael Bartana among many others. REBELLIONS also presents the historical document MOVE: Confrontation in Philadelphia, by Karen Pomer and Jane Mancini, shot in 1978 during the terrible police raids that led to the imprisonment of several members of Move, the collective founded by John Africa.

GHOSTS & APPARITIONS is made up of 39 films ranging from 1945 to 2021 and from 23 countries, with eight World Premieres and nine International Premieres. It includes films by Jay Rosenblatt, Sanaz Sohrabi, Rita & Vincent Carelli, Theo Anthony, Haig Aivazian, and Charlotte Jarvis among many others, and a focus in Taiwanese Cinema Memory Revisited: Focus Taiwan, curated by Wood Lin, with 7 films including the International Premiere of Tzu-An WU’s This Shore: A Family Story and the 1985 masterpiece The Time To Live And The Time To Die, by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Also in GHOSTS & APPARITIONS is a programme in partnership with the BFI, Reel Women / Real Lives: Britain’s Female Documentary Makers, will premiere the digital restoration of three films by Kay Mander, Margaret Thomson and Sarah Erulkar, preserved and restored by the BFI National Archive with the support of the Film Foundation as part of a major BFI documentary project, coming in Spring 2022. With Marc Isaacs as guest curator, a programme of Jon Bang Carlsen’s films will kick start a conversation about The Art of Staging Reality.

 Already announced by the festival is its RHYME & RHYTHM programme.

 The Sheffield DocFest ARTS PROGRAMME includes a range of activities, from exhibitions and talks to events and new commissions. Highlights include festival commissions In Posse by Charlotte Jarvis (in partnership with Site Gallery) and Alex Tyson’s moving image installation The Registry. The DocFest Arts Programme have also commissioned participants for Right on Time Radio, a temporary web radio station, including performances, discussions, contemporary literature, and sound experimentations. The featured broadcasters are: AWU Radio, Himali Singh Soin, Karim Kattan & Yasmine Benabdallah, Les Bonnes Ondes, Listening to the more-than-human (a collaboration with DocFest Exchange), and Yasmina Reggad. The Arts Programme will also include Daïchi Saïto’s earthearthearth and Georges Lacombe’s 1928 silent city portrait La Zone, projected on 35mm. Sam Smith’s desktop projection work E.1027 will be presented as a live performance.  

DOCFEST EXCHANGE: BEYOND OUR OWN EYES brings together voices from science, art, activism and beyond to create a generative space of sharing. The film programme includes premieres of From the Wild Sea by Robin Petré, The Ants and the Grasshopper by Raj Patel and Zak Piper and Who We Were by Marc Bauder. DocFest Exchange: Beyond Our Own Eyes also features a wide-ranging programme of online discussions,including Elizabeth Povinelli of Karrabing Film Collective, author and activist Raj Patel, microbial ecologist Suzanne Pierre and community leader Anita Chitaya

In Sheffield films will be screened at Showroom Cinema and Abbeydale Picture House, with the Arts Programme at Site Gallery, S1 Artspace and Sheffield Hallam University Performance Lab.  

Around the UK cinemas include; Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge, BFI Southbank in London, Broadway in Nottingham, Chapter in Cardiff, City Varieties Music Hall (in partnership with Hyde Park Picturehouse) in Leeds, Duke of Yorks Picturehouse in Brighton, Eden Court Highlands in Inverness, FACT in Liverpool, Filmhouse in Edinburgh, Glasgow Film Theatre, HOME in Manchester, National Media Museum in Bradford, Phoenix in Exeter, Quad in Derby, Queens Film Theatre in Belfast and Watershed in Bristol. (Physical screenings are subject to government guidelines). 

DocFest runs 4 - 13 June 2021, in Sheffield, in cinemas across the UK and online. Tickets and passes can be purchased here: