Film Festival Preview: Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015

Sheffield Doc/Fest just keeps on growing and is now firmly established as one of the most important and biggest documentary festivals in the world. Between June 5-10, Sheffield welcomes thousands of delegates from around the world, but there’s plenty on offer for the documentary fan. As well as having two free big screens this year, you can also pick up single tickets or a Doc/Lovers wristband which will give you access to all the films on offer.

2015 sees the strongest line-up to date, along with live events and a plethora of other attractions. Some of the film highlights include:

The Look of Silence

The Look of Silence is Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to the Oscar®-nominatedThe Act of Killing. Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: he confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions. This unprecedented film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.


Brenda Myers-Powell spent most of her life on the streets. The former prostitute and drug-addict was shot five times and stabbed thirteen. She decided to put her negative experiences to good use and created the Dreamcatcher Academy. This charitable organisation, which she runs as well, is dedicated to helping Chicago women escape from the sex industry. Brenda’s day job is working with female prisoners, whilst at night she can be found on the streets helping others.

The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead

From “Lemmy” filmmaker Wes Orshoski comes the story of the long-ignored pioneers of punk: The Damned, the first U.K. punks on wax and the first to cross the Atlantic. “The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead” includes appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones (The Clash), Lemmy and members of Pink Floyd, Black Flag, Guns ‘N’ Roses, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Buzzcocks, and more. Shot around the globe over three years, the film charts the band’s complex history and infighting. It captures the band as it celebrated its 35th anniversary with a world tour and found its estranged former members striking out on their own anniversary tour, while other former members battled cancer.


Planetary is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup call – a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins and our future as a species. It is a poetic and humbling reminder that now is the time to shift our perspective. PLANETARY asks us to rethink who we really are, to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us – to remember that we are Planetary.

The Russian Woodpecker

A Ukrainian victim of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster discovers a dark secret and must decide whether to risk his life by revealing it, amid growing clouds of revolution and war. 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner – World Documentary.

The Hunting Ground

From the team behind The Invisible War, comes a startling exposé of rape crimes on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families. Weaving together verité footage and first-person testimonies, the film follows survivors as they pursue their education while fighting for justice — despite harsh retaliation, harassment and pushback at every level.

Hustlers Convention

Hustlers Convention is a feature documentary on the forgotten roots of rap. The story centers around the life and times of Jalal Mansur Nuriddin of The Last Poets – and the forgotten influence of his seminal record ‘Hustlers Convention’. Along the way, it reveals the deep roots rap music has in the oral tradition of the Jail Toast. When Jalal’s toasting style met the politics of the post-Malcolm X era, we had the birth of rap as we know it today.

Landfill Harmonic

The world generates about a billion tons of garbage a year. Those who live with it and from it are the poor – like the people of Cateura, Paraguay. And here they are transforming it into beauty. Landfill Harmonic follows the Orchestra as it takes its inspiring spectacle of trash-into-music around the world. Follow the lives of a garbage picker, a music teacher and a group of children from a Paraguayan slum that out of necessity started creating instruments entirely out of garbage. Landfill Harmonic is a beautiful story about the transformative power of music, which also highlights two vital issues of our times: poverty and waste pollution.

Cartel Land

With unprecedented access, Cartel Land is a harrowing look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels.
In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor,” leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona’s Altar Valley – a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim “Nailer” Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border.

Little People, Big Dreams

A millionaire wanted to create a utopia for little people in China. A land where they could live and work among themselves, away from the discrimination of mainstream society. And so the ‘Dwarves Empire’ was born. This is an unlikely theme park where dozens of little people reside and perform for anyone who pays a US$16 entrance fee. Tourists can enjoy a fantasy world where little people work in mushroom houses, dress in fairy tale costumes and put on a variety of performances. 

This observational documentary chronicles the journeys of a few employees at a pivotal point in their lives. A change of heart, a secret escape, a struggle to find true love and a venture beyond the confines of the ‘Dwarves Empire’ lead to vastly different experiences. Connected by a will to pursue their dreams and a life of happiness, these little people take their chances in an uncertain world. For some, their destinies are forever changed. ‘Little People Big Dreams’ explores the cost of prejudice and the shades of modern-day morality.

To view the full schedule, purchase tickets and see what else is going on, visit the Sheffield Doc/Fest website.

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