Eclectic as ever, this month Sheffield Doc/Fest presents its films alongside virtual and augmented reality experiences and numerous talks and discussions. Once again, screenings are split across thematic strands, including Doc/Think, Doc/Rhythm and Doc/Visions. The focus of our preview is on these three, and some of the other most filmically interesting and thought-provoking films Doc/Fest 2018 has to offer.

Contrasting with films about human-animal relations from the Doc/Love strand – see For The Birds and Mountain – Doc/Think film When Lions Become Lambs poses difficult questions around the issue of poaching and the different battles for survival being fought by humans and elephants. Also thinking through violence, Boys Who Like Girls considers how the culture of gendered violence in India might change after the infamous gang rape in Delhi two years ago.

Thinking about the violence that we humans do, not only to each other and to animals, A Journey to the Fumigated Towns contemplates the emerging environmental crisis as it’s playing out in Argentina. Concentrating on the effects of agrochemicals on individuals and the Earth as a whole, this investigative film incorporates archive materials, photos and testimonies from locals, farmers and researchers.

The Doc/Vision shorts programme looks intriguing, especially, for instance, Here There Is No Earth, about the dangers of crossing borders in this modern age, and a terrifying tale of massacre in A God’s Shadow.

The collection of short 16mm films that make up Arboretum Cycle, and the feature-length Obscuro Barroco, also promise more avant-garde, visually explosive experiences. The same can be said for Sleep Has Her House, a film described variously as painterly, Lynchian and ‘like something from The X-Files‘, which uses long static takes, and mixes live action with stills, to create a ‘contemplative, hypnotic experience, akin to paintings that move’.

Continuing the visionary theme, the festival offers a chance to see a number of short films by an influential filmmaker and poet in Margaret Tait: A Century, films in which the everyday is revealed to be extraordinary. Documentary and fiction are blurred in Female Human Animal, an examination of sexual politics set amid an exhibition in Mexico of the work of the late surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, whose work and actual presence infuse the film.

Over in the Doc/Rhythm strand, one of the true masters of rhythm is profiled in Milford Graves Full Mantis, in which the influential jazz drummer and polymath (kung-fu master, inventor, herbalist, artist) is sure to provide insights into his roving mind.

Punk Voyage is the tale of the last years of the band who would become Finland’s Eurovision entry for 2015, PKN (Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät), an outfit who grew out of a workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. Seeing this band perform at Heeley Social Club a few years back was a unique and raucous experience, and this is the second documentary feature about the band.

Elsewhere, Moor Mother Live in London continues the musical intensity, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin pays tribute to the late sci-fi author, Wild Relatives explores an extraordinary environmental initiative linking Lebanon, Syria and the Arctic, and among film revivals featured, there is the interventionist Black Film, in which Yugoslav director Zelimir Zilnik attempts an unconventional approach to resolve the problem of homelessness.

A number of films investigate and bring to light little known or little understood corners of history which have pressing interest for current affairs. The Ballymurphy Precedent documents a secret massacre which foreshadowed the more infamous Bloody Sunday, while The Silence of Others explores the legacy of Franco’s Spain. Bringing matters up to the present day, When the War Comes is a chilling investigation of the recruitment of right-wing paramilitaries in Eastern Europe.

Also recommended is Amal, a portrait of a politicised Egyptian teenage girl finding her place after the Arab Spring’s aftermath; A Woman Captured, confronting at close quarters the ugliness of modern European slavery; and Whispering Truth to Power, a profile of South African anti-corruption champion Thuli Madonsela’s last year in office.

With screenings across eight cinema screens most days, plus free outdoor screenings in addition to talks, events and the Alternate Realities programme, Doc/Fest can be a challenge to navigate. Get a festival programme from the Showroom or look online to see all that’s on offer across a very full six days.

sheffdocfest.com

 

LISTINGS

THE TAKE
Avi Lewis & Naomi Klein, 2005
Thu 7 June | 7pm | Regather | £6
Regather hosts an opportunity to experience and discuss a politically-engaging documentary, focusing on the aftermath of disastrous International Monetary Fund policies in Argentina, begging the question of whether the workers’ subsequent occupation of factories poses a threat to capitalism or simply re-creates it. Link

A THOUSAND GIRLS LIKE ME
Sahra Mosawi, 2017
Fri 8 June, 3:45pm & Sun 10 June, 6:30pm | Showroom
Enjoying its European premiere at Doc/Fest, this Afghan-made film foregrounds the fate of women attempting to seek justice under the Afghan judicial system, documenting the story of Khatera, who fights her family and the system after years of sexual abuse. Link

AGAINST THE TIDE
Stefan Stuckert, 2017
Fri 8 June, 1:45pm & Mon 11 June, 9am | Showroom
Likely to appeal to fans of ShAFF, this Doc/Fest film documents Beth French’s attempt to become the first person to conquer ‘Oceans 7’, swimming seven of the world’s most dangerous sea channels in just one year. Link

IN THE FADE
Fatih Akin, 2017
UK-wide release 22 June
A triptych drama critiquing the legal system’s response to a bomb attack in Hamburg when the victim’s an immigrant, this film also explores the psychology of loss, grief and revenge through its central character, Katja Sekerci, played by Diane Kruger, for which she was awarded best actress at Cannes this year.

Samantha Holland & Stephen Chase