Monday 13 June 2011

Sheffield Doc/Fest - The Wrap Up

The 18th Sheffield International Documentary Festival came to a close on Sunday with a number of award announcements for a few lucky winners. Read on to see what I thought of the final day's screenings, plus a round up of the festival as a whole.

The only film I was able to see on Sunday was Barbara Kopple's anti gun documentary, Gun Fight. Picking up where Bowling for Columbine's gun legislation plea left off, it's an often frustrating look at the many legal viewpoints that cancel each other out and cost more lives to gun crime in the process. Maybe I'm just on a contact high from the experience of the whole festival, as there's not been anything I've seen that I've outright hated. This probably came the closest, as although its message might be an important one, it's also quite a dull and methodically presented one. Its viewpoint is made abundantly clear (America is going to kill itself if it doesn't tighten up gun laws), but it's rather preachy in approach. 

The experience was also slightly tainted from the moron sat behind us who thought it was the funniest film of the year. Admittedly, at times the film presents things that are laughably ridiculous, but he was sat there eating his stupid chocolate eclairs and laughing profusely at gun shot victims being wheeled into the Hospital. I was very close to telling him to shut up, but I suddenly got hit with the overpowering fear that he might be a secret gun nut looking to create his own personal Columbine. Hey, maybe the film had a powerful message after all.

The day continued on without me with the announcement of the winners of the Jury prizes. First up was the Special Jury Award, given to Steve James' The Interrupters with a special mention given to Alma Har'el's Bombay Beach. I didn't catch The Interrupters so I'll have to take the Jury's word for it, but Bombay Beach is certainly deserved of some praise.

The next prize was the Youth Jury Award, chosen by a selection of local film enthusiasts all under the age of 21. The award went to the locally produced We Are Poets, following a group of young poets from Leeds as they head to America to perform in competition. Again, I didn't see that film, but I'll look out for it in the future.

Next to the podium was the Sheffield Innovation Award, given to Welcome To Pine Point, an online interactive documentary directed by 'The Goggles'. It's not something I'd even heard of before it picked up this award, but having checked it out here, I'll agree that it's something incredibly creative. There was also an honourable mention to The Nine Muses which (guess what?) I also didn't see.

The Sheffield Green Award, honouring those films that highlight the environmental changes going on in the world, went to You've Been Trumped with a special mention to Up In Smoke. Once again I somehow didn't see either of these films, but You've Been Trumped, looking at Donald Trump's attempt to build a golf course in the undisturbed Scottish countryside, looks intriguing.

The second to last prize to be dished out was the Student Doc Award, this year going to the short, Eighty Eight. Might I say quite impressively, I managed to see not one of the films that took home an award this year (apart from Bombay Beach which got a special mention), so the thought process I had when planning my schedule was either stupid or as I'm going to describe it, "delightfully off kilter". I'll let you decide.

[The only award that's not been announced yet is the all important Audience Award. Watch this space as I'll update it once the award is announced sometime on Monday.]

So that's it. Not only my first Doc/Fest but also my first proper film festival, finished. Across the four and a half days I was there I saw 5 short documentaries, 16 feature length documentaries, 9 Q and A sessions and 1 press conference. It's safe to say that I'm a bit knackered now, but I hope you've enjoyed reading about my experience there, as well as my particular brand of long range photography.

On a personal note, I'd like to say that my experience at the Doc/Fest was one of the best I've ever had in Sheffield. Having lived in the city for 11 years, it's quite frustrating when you find yourself enjoying what the city has to offer precisely one week before you move away forever.  Never mind, lesson learned I suppose. Hopefully I'll be back at the Doc/Fest next year, bigger and better and covering all the shenanigans of 2012 just before an Extinction Level Event wipes us all out*.

*hopefully not.


  1. Great all round coverage. Been a pleasure reading. I've covered festivals before and I know how exhausting it can be. You musta been working pretty frantically to get all your posts up so quick - good work

  2. Thanks! Sorry it's took so long to reply, been recovering from Doc/Fest as you'd expect. It was my first festival but I thoroughly enjoyed writing about it. Glad you liked the coverage!