Monday 6 June 2011

Doc/Fest 2011 preview

This coming Wednesday the Sheffield Documentary Festival kicks off again for this, its 18th year, and for the first time I'll be in attendance covering as many films as I can possibly manage. Running from the 8th - 12th June, the festival has undergone a bit of a change this year, moving from the Autumn up to the Summer to get a head start on a lot of the other festivals. Has the move paid off? Well, they've certainly arranged a line up of some great looking films which should get a lot of interest.

Featuring 70+ features and a whole bunch of short films and industry sessions, there's a lot to take in during the five day festival at a variety of different locations. Making the most of what Sheffield has to offer, the docs are going to be scattered across the city centre, including some outdoor screenings on Devonshire Green which (weather permitting) should make a nice change from sitting inside all a dark cinema all day. I betcha it rains. Anyway, here's a list of the films I'm most looking forward to during the festival.

Quite literally the biggest title at the festival, Supersize Me director Morgan Spurlock arrives in town with his latest assault on 21st century life, taking down the advertising industry with his own brand of humour, stopping just short of selling his soul along the way. This film will be the opening night premiere with Morgan Spurlock in attendance to offer a few insights into the making of the film.

Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure
Based on tape recordings of a pair of obnoxious neighbours that have been doing the rounds since 1987, Shut Up Little Man looks to be one of the most funny and vulgar films at the festival. Raymond and Peter are the Odd Couple brought to life with added prejudices, and this documentary seeks to chart the effect the recordings of them have had on culture and society, as well as showcasing their entertainment value.

Albert Maysles' classic documentary about Big and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, the aunt and cousin of Jackie O who lived like hermits shacked up in Grey Gardens, a decaying mansion in the East Hamptons. From 1975, this film will be shown on Saturday 11th June as one of the outdoor screenings on Devonshire Green. I've not seen this documentary before, but think it's pretty much a necessity as part of my film education.

Project Nim
From James Marsh, the director of the award winning Man On Wire, Project Nim charts the amazing progress of a chimpanzee taken from his mother at birth and given to a typical 1970's family. More than just a real life Rise of the Planet of the Apes, they hope to teach Nim sign language and communicate with him, becoming part of the family until his natural instincts start to show how different the psyches of man and beast can be. This looks like a fascinating story.

One of the world's most respected publications, Page One shows us how the well oiled machine that is the New York Times keeps on running, looking at some of the talent and scandals that have been part of the Times' rich history. Among the questions being asked is, if print media really is a dead format, how will the publication adapt to survive?

One of the films that is closing the festival on Sunday, at only 60 minutes A Letter to Elia might not be one of the longest films at the festival, but it probably has the biggest name attached to it. Directed by life long Elia Kazan fan Martin Scorsese, he digs into the filmmakers troubled history, from directing Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront to naming names during the McCarthy witchhunts. There doesn't appear to be a trailer for this doc, so here's the original trailer for On The Waterfront to whet your appetite.

So there you have it. Stick with me over the festival, as I'll be reporting back about the films as soon as I possibly can. I'll hopefully be blogging left, right and centre, and you can always catch me on twitter for some pithy 140 character long one-liners. If you're planning on visiting the festival yourself, I recommend checking out the official Doc/Fest website to get all the information you might need. Most films are having more than one screening with tickets available to the public, so check there for screening times and how to book to avoid disappointment.

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