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Shef Doc/Fest 2012 Programmer: “These Films Show the Power of Ideas”

Rodriguez, the mystical star of Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man, which opens the Sheffield Doc/Fest.

After a year of social revolt and protest, the 2012 edition of the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival “holds a mirror up to ourselves,” festival programmer Hussain Currimbhoy tells movieScope.


Unveiled in the Guardian offices in London this week, the Doc/Fest will be showing 83 features and 27 shorts from 13 to 17 June 2012. In total, there were over 1500 submissions to the festival.

Fifteen of the films are a result of last year’s MeetMarket – which raised £5.5 million of development and production funding after 1300 meetings took place.

Currimbhoy says: “This year’s programme really feels like the docs are doing what they are best at: holding up a mirror to ourselves.

“These films shows how afraid governments are of ideas, the power of ideas, and, in the end, that’s what documentaries are all about. What better trend could there be?”

Beyond the cinema screens, the MeetMarket will be focusing on 65 separate proposals from 20 separate countries, from a record number of 571 applications.

There’s a strong homegrown element to the festival. Of 11 films programmed to premiere this year, nine are British.

Currimbhoy sats: “Morgan Mathews Britain in a Day is an exciting and innovative example of the documentary’s ability to hold a mirror, as is Jaywick Escapes – a beautiful ‘Bombay Beach‘ style doc that exposes a few clichés about England’s ‘South’.”

But, as always, the Doc/Fest will retain its sense of a global village with film screenings from every corner of the world, as Currimbhoy explains: “We’re showing films like The Sheik and I by Caveh Zahedi; it’s caused a storm in the US and has not had the exposure it deserves.

“To me, this is such an important film because it’s about the truths that have ignited the Arab Spring. People are sick of the hypocrisy of government and the fallacies of the establishment. It echoes a sentiment that is happening the world over, from here to Malaysia to the Middle East to Russia.”

Kicking off the festival is British documentarian Penny Woolcock’s From the Sea to the Land Beyond, a silent documentary made from 100 years of footage of the British coastline. It will be screened in the Crucible Theatre accompanied by a live musical score from Brighton indie band British Sea Power. The BFI are handling international rights to the film.

Woolcock’s project is produced by Sheffield Doc/Fest and commissioned by The Space, a new Arts Council funded digital arts service. She will be given the Doc/Fest Inspiration Award during the course of the festival, ten years after local production company Studio of the North funded The Principles of Lust, which is set in Sheffield city.

The first screening of the festival is the excellent Searching for Sugar Man, which came to life as a result of last year’s MeetMarket.

Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, it’s a multi-faceted, changeable documentary about a Dylan-esque Mexican-American folk musician who became a cultural icon in Apartheid South Africa despite disappearing from trace in his native Michigan. StudioCanal own the rights to the film.

The festival is also testament to the growing influence of distributor Dogwoof in the British documentary sector; the company are bringing 11 titles to the festival, including the European Premiere of The Undefeated, which won the Academy Award® winner for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars this year, as well as Berlinale award winner Marina Abramoviv: The Artist Is Present.

 An exclusive interview with Marketplace Producer Charlie Phillips is featured in the May/June issue of movieScope magazine, available to buy from the week of May 14.

The Sheffield Documentary Film Festival will take place between June 13 -17, 2012. A full list of films can be seen here

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