Van Connor presents Slam Dunk Cinema, Sheffield’s flagship film programme, which broadcasts live every Saturday from noon to 1pm on Sheffield Live.
Last month Van attended Sheffield Doc/Fest which “brings the international documentary family together to celebrate the art and business of documentary making for five intense days in June.”
Over to Van for his commentary on this year’s Doc/Fest:
Launching with the usual fanfare, Doc/Fest returned to Sheffield this month with a veritable bevy of docs covering every possible taste. Continuing the trend of previous years, the festival seemed to have evolved more in scale than anything else; meaning it was impossible for any one person to have seen everything on offer, somewhat of a shame but we’d all agree it’s better to have too much choice than too little.
Shockingly, this was the twentieth year for the festival and saw less of a focus on the fashionably artsy content – don’t be alarmed fanboys, there was still at least one film about an Eastern European mining community – and more of an easygoing vibe to the selections.
Comedy seemed to be the added ingredient this time around. One particular doc, the utterly superb climate change film Thin Ice: The Inside Story of Climate Science, was downright hilarious in places; let down only by its bizarre relegation to the Library Theatre, which it still managed to fill to capacity.
Meanwhile, over in the Crucible, Adam Buxton popped along with a live edition of his ongoing internet series Bug, adding a much-needed stand-up style of brevity that never felt out of place with the rest of the festival.
The guest speakers in some regard lacked the “cool factor” of previous years (not having Adam Curtis in attendance feels like Christmas without your wacky uncle), but the festival managed to hold its own with the attendance of Walter Murch (ostensibly, the godfather of contemporary editing); who made his presence felt in every room in which he even peered and managed to evoke the nostalgia of every great director with whom he’d ever collaborated (and believe me, that’s a hell of a list).
Cherry on top
Also for the Hollywood fanbase was Celluloid Screams’ contribution to proceedings, a double bill of The Fear Of God: 25 Years Of The Exorcist, followed by The Exorcist itself and wrapped around a Q&A with the BBC’s Mark Kermode and director Nick Jones. An evening of tremendous enjoyment with a great atmosphere and top notch guests (Kermode never fails to elicit the requisite five laughs), the Exorcist evening was the playful cherry on top for this year’s Doc/Fest and the perfect example of the fine work Celluloid Screams have pulled off in their (surprisingly) short time on the local film scene.
Horrific, haunting insight…
Another documentary worth singling out was the superb (Channel 4 commissioned) hour long The Hunt For Britain’s Sex Gangs, an horrific yet terribly haunting insight into the police investigation of one of the biggest child sex abuse cases in the UK. A very precise and focused story, its director Anna Hall was able to address several people in attendance who were directly affected by events similar to those depicted, and did so with tremendous poise – until the event was spoilt by the bizarre onstage presence of Hardeep Singh Kohli, who saw it as the ideal platform to make presumably hilarious remarks about Channel 4 and crack jokes about Daily Mail readers in a fashion usually reserved for the sort of lazy comedians you find in working men’s clubs. Without fail, there is always one swaggering blowhard at Doc/Fest each year, and it’s safe to say Kohli took it to crescendo for this year.
Seduced by great selection of films…
Overall, the festival was a solid effort. Sure, the food was rather poor and overpriced, the delegates’ desk sat atop the narrowest staircase known to man (and, thanks to the crowds, took about fifteen minutes to climb every single time), and the festival’s increasingly massive spread saw most of us hauling our way across Sheffield City Centre at full speed once every two hours; but in the end, that’s part of the charm of Doc/Fest – a seduction built upon a great selection of films and leaving you fulfilled enough to return again the following year.