Doc/Fest is upon us once more, and this year is set to be one of the most remarkable in the history of this conglomeration of distant voices made present and subjects made tangible. Filmreel is sampling from all the different strands and sessions, with two delegates attending, interviewing and reviewing. This issue includes my own […]

Doc/Fest is upon us once more, and this year is set to be one of the most remarkable in the history of this conglomeration of distant voices made present and subjects made tangible. Filmreel is sampling from all the different strands and sessions, with two delegates attending, interviewing and reviewing.

This issue includes my own personal choices, listed here as previews ahead of any actual screening. It’s the usual mixed bag, which will be complemented by Imogen DeCordova’s reviews next month. So, with no further delays, my hopes and focus rest on:

Films.

BLACKFISH.
Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite | 2012 | US | 83 mins.
14th June (18.00) & 15th June (19.00).

Part of the Global Encounters strand of the festival, I’m drawn to this film for the microcosmic quality of its subject matter, which by definition is likely to express something universally profound about human and animal nature. It concerns a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Through its shocking footage and poignant interviews, the film becomes an exploration of the creature’s extraordinary nature, while exposing the species’ cruel treatment in captivity and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea park industry.

GOOGLE AND THE WORLD BRAIN.
Dir. Ben Lewis | 2013 | Spain & UK | 89 mins.
13th June (14.30) & 15th June (12.30).

Picked because it concerns us all, this film depicts what has been referred to as the most ambitious project ever conceived on the Internet: Google’s self-appointed mission to scan every book in the world. It appears to highlight Google’s noble intentions and the scepticism surrounding them in equal measure. I’m curious to see if they get the balance right and if the aesthetic language employed elevates the content to an engaging, cinematic experience.

GOD LOVES UGANDA.
Dir. Roger Williams | 2013 | US | 83 mins.
14th June (18.00) & 15th June (17.45).

This is said to be a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right, so I can’t help but step into its screening with very strong feelings. Again, it’s balance and tone that I will be looking at, but with the hope that I won’t have to endure propaganda of the worst kind. The film features American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting sexual immorality and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law. On some perverse level, I can’t wait.

PARTICLE FEVER.
Dir. Mark Levinson | 2013 | US | 99 mins.
14th June (15.15) & 15th June (12.30).

A healthier kind of God is sure to be found in this ‘behind-the-scenes’ of avant-garde science, shown as part of the Global Encounters strand. Not only will we be privileged to witness the discovery of the Higgs Boson (known in the field as the God Particle) at the Large Hadron Collider, but this is also a film blessed with the touch of one of the best filmmakers in the world, the editor and sound designer Walter Murch.

SALMA.
Dir. Kim Longinotto | 2013 | US | 90 mins.
14th June (12.45) & 15th June (15.45).

The artistic impulse overcoming oppression is a cornerstone of human essence itself, and that lies at the heart of this film concerning young Muslim poet Salma. Her work was written in defiance of her 25-year confinement to a small room and, despite all the odds, reached a publisher. Her presence at Doc/Fest to give a poetry reading is more than a bonus.

A MAN VANISHES.
Dir. Shôhei Imamura | 1967 | Japan | 130 mins.
13th June (09.45).

We’ll be sampling the Doc/Fest retrospective dedicated to Shohei Imamura with this film about the phenomenon of missing persons in Japan. It is set to be a challenging exercise in (self-) doubt by means of the alternating tension between fiction and reality. Made in 1967, it couldn’t sound fresher…

FILMS ON FILM.

The Films on Film strand also has two unmissable opportunities that I will endeavour to attend: The Exorcist (Director’s Cut) plus the documentary The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist, introduced by its writer and presenter Mark Kermode; and Apocalypse Now plus Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse with the presence of its aforementioned renowned editor and sound designer, Walter Murch.

SESSIONS.

Pretty much every session will be worth everyone’s time, but my personal highlights, both at the Crucible, are:

In Conversation : Alan Yentob and Nick Fraser.
14th June (14.00).
An insightful look at Alan Yentob’s career which spans six decades, from the days as former Controller of BBC One and Two to becoming the recognisable face of his art documentary series, Imagine.

Walter Murch: From The Godfather to The God Particle.
15th June (10.15).
An opportunity to see this legendary figure, mostly known for his work with Francis Ford Coppola and Anthony Minghella, delivering a masterclass following the world premiere of his new documentary, Particle Fever.

For the full Doc/Fest programme, visit sheffdocfest.com. Tickets can be booked via the Doc/Fest and Sheffield Theatres sites.

JOÃO PAULO SIMÕES.