LSFM Senior Lecturer Janice Kearns said: This year’s Sheffield International Doc/Fest (5-10 June 2015) was bigger and better than ever with a mixture of film screenings, presentations, discussions, masterclasses, pitching sessions, live performances, exhibitions, installations and interactive media; as well as opportunities to meet funders and commissioners and chat to filmmakers and other people in the industry. There were several LSFM students and graduates working as volunteers at the festival, which is a great way to get involved.
For me highlights were: a live musical performance of the soundtrack to Michael Nyman’s War Work: 8 songs with film with a screening of the film; a really good pitching session for research funding for an environmentally themed TV series; a session on getting your film funded; some really interesting films including India’s Daughter (dir. Leslee Udwin), The Russian Woodpecker (dir. Chad Gracia ) Star Men (dir. Alison Rose) and The Look of Silence (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer), a companion piece to the acclaimed The Act of Killing and themed strands featuring films by Albert Maysles and John Akomfrah.
Female filmmakers were more prevalent this year and there were a larger number of films by female directors. There was also a really engaged discussion about women in the industry, which included some prominent filmmakers such as Leslee Udwin (India’s Daughter, East is East) and founder of The Bechdel Test Fest, Corrina Antrobus. It seems that courage and confidence are the keys to success in an industry, which, outside of the production office, is still predominately male. However the women on the panel were a testament to the increasing presence of female talent across the industry which was really encouraging.
Along with films there were a whole series of sessions by Crossover Lab, which focussed on interactive documentary and there were some really innovative pieces of work demonstrated in an exhibition at the Millenium Gallery. Including the latest interactive doc in the NFBC’s series Universe Within: Global Lives in the Digital Highrise
I also went to a session, which looked behind the scenes at Long Lost Family the popular factual series on ITV. Presenters Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell discussed their experiences of working on the show and special guests Jennifer and Judith Walton (twins reunited through the programme after more than 50 years apart) talked about the difference the programme had made to their lives. It was heart-warming stuff and a refreshingly ethical approach to factual entertainment.
The festival was a great experience and I would thoroughly recommend it if you are interested in any kind of documentary or factual media. It’s definitely worth getting involved either as a volunteer or a delegate. The next festival is 10-15 June 2016 and calls for volunteers will come out in spring next year.