Film Festival Preview: Sheffield Doc/Fest Part 1

Comprising a record 182 features and shorts, this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest promises to be the best yet. It’s a marvellous eclectic programme featuring 35 world, 21 International, 24 European and 73 UK premieres. Indeed, it feels like the focus of the world’s third biggest documentary film festival is squarely on the films this year. The festival takes place across Sheffield between 9-14 June. The opening night event will be the world premiere of Daisy Asquith’s Queerama, followed by a short live performance by John Grant at Sheffield City Hall.

Whilst Sheffield Doc/Fest is a thriving and vibrant Industry event, it’s also a great opportunity for the public to immerse themselves in some of the best documentary cinema from around the world. Not only does it offer the chance to see previews of the best in global cutting edge film-making, the festival also offers a unique opportunity to meet the makers and participate in lively and thought-provoking questions and answer sessions.

There’s something for everyone, but the sheer amount of choice can be slightly overwhelming. Here’s part one of our recommendations:

Still Tomorrow

Disabled by cerebral palsy, Yu has worked her entire life on her parents’ small rural farm, stuck in an unhappy arranged marriage. Her poetry initially serves not only as a means of exploring feelings of desire and longing, but as an escape from the drudgery of day to day life. As she gains in popularity, her poems become a gateway to fame, wealth and greater independence. We follow Yu over the course of a year on this transformative journey, at once moving and painful, towards greater artistic and personal freedom.


there was a tiny hill town in Tuscany that found a remarkable way to confront their issues – they turned their lives into a play. Every summer for the past 50 years, their piazza becomes their stage and villagers from 6 to 90 play a part – the role of themselves.

Singing with Angry Bird

A popular Korean opera singer started the Banana Children’s Choir in Pune, India. His quick temper earned him a nick-name ‘Angry Bird.’ Frustrated by the lack of support from the parents, the Angry Bird decides to train the parents to sing for a joint concert with their children. Probably the toughest challenge of his life. A journey full of tears and laughter.

Ghost Hunting

In order to confront the ghosts that haunt him, Palestinian director Raed Andoni assembles an eclectic group of ex-prisoners to build a replicate of Al-Moskobiya, Israel’s main interrogation centre, where he was himself jailed at age 18. From fragmentary memory, day after day, they give shape to the interrogation centre they all experienced, and re-enact its stories. As the walls of the cells rise, the tongues and the emotions loosen.

Do Donkeys Act?

“Burned, beaten, abandoned, donkeys look back at us humans with indifference, and bray.” David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s Do Donkeys Act?– filmed over 5 years––subtly subverts the notion of the “dumb beast” as it captures donkeys communicating emotionally with each other in the midst of healing from human cruelty and neglect. A poetic text threads through scenes “acted” by donkeys, a rhythmic script commentary voiced by Willem Dafoe.

Radio Kobani

Out of the smoke and dust of battle came Radio Kobanî, the brainchild of 20-year-old Dilovan. A young Kurdish woman, Dilovan took it upon herself to document the final days of IS control, and the stories of refugees returning to their flattened homes. Despite her harrowing experiences, Dilovan’s positivity is resilient. Her belief is vindicated by the strength of Kobanî’s citizens and their capacity to collaborate in the face of destruction.


Amir is a performance artist and stand-up comedian who creates real characters and stories that unfold online in media real time. When his staged fight videos from the streets of Oslo go viral and hit international news headlines in 2014, a Los Angeles based advertising agency thinks it’s all real and spots an opportunity to exploit Amir’s newfound controversial fame. They want to make it part of an edgy marketing campaign for an energy drink, but Amir has his own plans.

Bending the Arc

As the poorest nations battled intractable diseases, a fledgling group of unstoppable health advocates took on a seemingly impossible mission: global health equity. In 1980s Haiti, in a remote region devastated first by tuberculosis and later by AIDS, Harvard medical student Paul Farmer, idealistic physician Jim Yong Kim, and activist Ophelia Dahl successfully raised funding and opened a clinic — but their patients weren’t surviving after returning home from treatment.


Each year, thousands of grizzlies are killed worldwide for entertainment. Diving deep into the controversy across Canada and the United States, Trophy asks: can we truly justify killing these animals for sport?

The Force

The Force goes deep inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, MO, and an explosive scandal.

Chasing Coral

Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

The origin story for the trans movement comes to light as the mysterious cold case of Marsha P. Johnson, gains traction with an intrepid activist. Will bringing closure to the case help stop a record-breaking crime wave against trans women of colour?

You can buy full festival passes, Doc/Lovers passes and individual tickets now. For further information about the festival, and to secure your place, visit the Sheffield Doc/Fest website.

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