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Doc/Fest returns with an international programme of films, talks and premieres

Highlights of this year's documentary festival include historian David Olusoga, punk singer Lydia Lunch and the world premiere of a new film by Steve McQueen.

Sheffield Doc Fest 2021

Sheffield Doc/Fest has revealed the full programme for its in-person return to the Showroom Cinema between 4 and 13 June.

Highlights include the world premiere of Uprising, a new BBC film by James Rogan and Small Axe director Steve McQueen about the 1981 New Cross fire.

Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga will be interviewed by the BBC's Clive Myrie on 5 June, and has also selected a screening of cultural theorist Stuart Hall's Redemption Song from 1991.

On 6 June, Betsy West and Julie Cohen present the European premiere of their film My Name is Pauli Murray, about a pioneering black attorney and activist "who wrestled with gender identity and shaped landmark litigation."

Festival director Cíntia Gil said the team were "very proud to present a programme that brings together a multitude of forms, landscapes and visions, with a myriad of incredible talent to whom we deeply thank for their trust."

Stewart Lee's documentary King Rocker, about cult Birmingham post-punk band The Nightingales will be shown on 12 June, alongside a Q&A with Lee and director Michael Cumming.

Avi Mograbi's The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation, a timely history of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine, receives its UK premiere on 12 June.

Selected by guest curators including Olusoga, a series of films will celebrate black British cinema including Burning An Illusion by Menelik Shabazz, The Black Safari by Colin Luke and Second Coming by Debbie Tucker.

This year's internationally-oriented programme includes 78 feature films and 88 shorts, representing 57 countries and 63 different languages, as well as 55 world premieres.

Among the talks and Q&As are cartoonist and queer activist Alison Bechdel, Yorkshire-born Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and New York punk musician and poet Lydia Lunch.

The festival's opening film Summer of Soul explores 1969's groundbreaking Harlem Cultural Festival, and will feature a Q&A with director Ahmir Thompson, better known as Roots musician Questlove.

The brand-new Northern Focus strand showcases nine shorts and features from the north of England, including Sophie Robinson’s I Get Knocked Down, a portrait of Dunstan Bruce, former singer of Leeds anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba.

Other strands include 'Ghosts and Apparitions', 'Rebellions' and a series of music docs categorised under 'Rhyme & Rhythm', as well as a series of films marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by bringing different perspectives to the attacks.

Part of the Rhyme & Rhythm music strand, Lee Cooper's Maisie stars 85-year-old David Raven and his alter-ego Maisie Trollette, Britain's oldest drag artist. After 50 years in the business, the film depicts Raven in the lead-up to birthday celebrations in Brighton, as he contends with both Alzheimer’s and a rivalry with 87-year-old American queen Walter Cole.

Closing the festival will be the world premiere of The Story of Looking by Mark Cousins, which follows the celebrated filmmaker as he prepares for surgery to restore his sight and "explores the role that visual experience plays in our individual and collective lives."

Now in its 28th year, this year's festival will also feature the usual marketplaces, pitching opportunities and networking events for documentary filmmakers around the world.

As well as taking over the Showroom, the neighbouring Site Gallery and S1 Artspace, this year's Doc/Fest will also share screenings with 16 independent cinemas around the UK, as well as online.

"We are excited about holding this festival in a way that welcomes everyone – in Sheffield, in cinemas across the UK, and online," said Gil. "The importance and urgency of cinema has only grown since we last saw a film on the big screen.”

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