Sheffield DocFest 2016 Launch





The Sheffield Doc/Fest industry line-up was revealed recently week at the BFI, with Liz McIntyre, CEO & Festival Director announcing a dynamic and inspiring 23rd edition – showcasing a Film programme of the very best UK and international documentaries; a world-leading Alternate Realities programme of interactive media, virtual reality exhibitions and talks – this year, with a particular focus on artificial intelligence (including a keynote from an android); and a compelling and essential Talks & Sessions programme presented in association with Documentary Campus.

Says Liz McIntyre, CEO & Festival Director: “We’re living through extraordinary, tumultuous and exhilarating times and this year’s Doc/Fest captures this zeitgeist across its three programmes: Film, Alternate Realities and Talks & Sessions. I am excited that the Festival is bookended by two incredible talents, Michael Moore and Tilda Swinton; I am utterly intrigued to hear the android Bina48 give the keynote speech at the Alternate Realities Summit. The Talks & Sessions programme will tackle head on fascinating and challenging topics, from documentary disruptors, to an examination of diversity in the industry.

We look forward to welcoming new, emerging and established talents for a creative explosion of documentary and factual storytelling for all platforms.

For six days in June, the world’s film, TV and transmedia communities come together in Sheffield to discover, debate, provoke and celebrate documentary storytelling, and do business in Doc/Fest’s hugely successful Marketplace. The city’s cinemas, theatres, historic buildings, art galleries, gardens and outdoor spaces host the packed daytime and evening programme, including the beautiful Grade II Cutlers’ Hall, the new home for Marketplace including MeetMarket and MarketPlayer, and the newly created Doc/Fest Exchange on Tudor Square, designed by local award winning Sheffield architect Tony Broomhead (OS31), which will for the first time host talks and conversations, supported by Wellcome Trust, including Warp Films’ Mark Herbert and Charlie Phillips from The Guardian.

This year’s talking heads include: Michael Moore, Tilda Swinton, HBO’s Sheila Nevins, Joanna Lumley, Reggie Yates, Ken Loach, Roger Graef, Stacey Dooley, Jolyon Rubinstein, KG the Comedian, D. A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus, Nino Kirtadze, Louis Theroux, Freddie Flintoff; Lord David Puttnam, Adam Buxton, Crucible legend Ronnie O’Sullivan, vloggers Hannah Witton and Jonathan Saccone; the world’s most social robot, the android Bina48, and Google’s Principal Filmmaker for VR Jessica Brillhart at the Alternate Realities Summit.

Special Events

Where to Invade Next - MM
Doc/Fest will open with Where to Invade Next attended by Oscar© winning filmmaker Michael Moore at City Hall, which will be satellite live transmitted to 114 cinemas nationwide. The Festival closes 5 nights later with The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, attended by co-directors Tilda Swinton and Bartek Dziadosz at Sheffield Showroom.

In addition to opening and closing nights, this year’s Doc/Fest special events include a celebration of the resurgence of vogueing. Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan’s Strike a Pose looks at life after Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” tour for the seven backup dancers who became stars of the gay community. And following the UK premiere of the vibrant and moving Kiki about the LGBTQ underground vogueing subculture in New York, delegates can pull their own shapes at the Vogue, Strike a Pose Party at the O2 Academy. The mesmerizing Brooklyn dancer Storyboard P will give a live performance following the world premiere of Matt D’Arcy’s Storyboard P, a stranger in Sweden which chronicles talented US dancer Storyboard P’s early steps towards international stardom.

Aidan Moffat (formerly of indie band Arab Strap) will perform with special guests following the screening of Where You’re Meant To Be, the debut documentary by Paul Fegan which sees Moffat and 79-year-old Sheila Stewart disagree on how Scotland’s oldest songs should be performed; and Ken Loach, the subject of one of this year’s Festival retrospectives, will give an extended Q&A with director Louise Osmond following the screening of Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach. Following the Alternate Realities Summit, the world premiere of A Night of Surveillance: The Supernerds Experience is an interactive live experience with Georg Tschurtschenthaler, which will expose audience members to how open they are to online surveillance, making you think twice about your digital footprint.

The world premiere of A Night of Surveillance: The Supernerds Experience is an interactive live experience with Georg Tschurtschenthaler, which will expose audience members to how open they are to online surveillance, making you think twice about your digital footprint.

Our BBC, Our Channel 4: A Future for Public Service Television? offers delegates one of the last chances to hear Lord David Puttnam and a distinguished panel of speakers, including Ralph Lee, Head of Factual and Deputy Chief Creative Officer, Channel 4, Patrick Holland, Head of Documentaries, BBC, Hugh Harris, Director – Media, International, Gambling & Creative Economy, DCMS, and Jane Martinson, Head of Media, The Guardian, debate the issues facing public service television in the UK, before the White Paper is published this summer.

New ways of telling and understanding history is a strong theme right across the Festival programme, highlighted in Alternate Realities which includes the Festival premiere of New Dimensions in Testimony allowing visitors to “virtually” meet and hold a real-time conversation with the filmed, life-size image of Pinchas Gutter, a survivor of the holocaust. The Festival is delighted that Mr Pinchas Gutter will also attend the Festival in person, along with Dr Stephen Smith, who has pioneered this new technology, and his team from USC Shoah Foundation.

Headline Speakers

Michael Moore will give The Channel 4 Interview with the channel’s Deputy Chief Creative Officer Ralph Lee, talking about Where To Invade Next and looking back over his hugely successful career; broadcaster, actor, writer and director Reggie Yates will give the BBC Interview and discuss his career so far and share insights into future projects and ambitions. Cricketing legend Freddie Flintoff, along with journalist and co-presenter Robert Penn will talk to comedian Mark Dolan about their Sky 1 series Flintoff: Lord of the Fries and upcoming Freddie Fries Again. The ITV Interview will be given by Joanna Lumley OBE who will talk to journalist and newsreader Alastair Stewart OBE about her esteemed, exciting and eclectic career in TV and film.

EDITORIAL USE ONLY / NO MERCHANDISING Joanna Lumley starts her Greek Odyssey by visiting the Parthenon in Athens ‘Joanna Lumleys Greek Odyssey’ TV Programme – 2011 JOANNA LUMLEYS GREEK ODYSSEY In this new series for ITV1 Joanna Lumley will take viewers on an extraordinary odyssey through the vast and varied landscape of Greece – the birthplace of drama, democracy, language, western science and medicine, the wellspring of civilisation and modern European culture. Greece’s stunning landscapes, history and people have inspired many artists and authors over the centuries and this series will see Joanna discovering what makes this fascinating country tick. © ITV For further information please contact Peter Gray 0207 157 3046 [email protected] This photograph is © ITV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website

A powerhouse in the documentary world, Sheila Nevins has shepherded scores of the genre’s best films over many years and as President of HBO documentaries is one of the U.S.’s most powerful documentary executives. Nevins will appear in conversation with the BBC’s Nick Fraser, discussing some of the many breakout hits in a career that has garnered nearly thirty Emmy awards. Her game changing innovations are many, including the recent introduction of box set binge watching through HBO’s hugely successful series The Jinx.

Legendary filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus will be in conversation with BBC film critic Francine Stock to discuss their latest film Unlocking the Cage (which is screening in the programme) as well as looking back over a body of work spanning 40 years; Born in Tbilisi, Nino Kirtadze has established a distinguished career as both an actor and a documentary maker focussing on the relationship between Russia and Georgia. Nino will talk about her filmmaking techniques, her cinematic influences and the fine line between fiction and documentary.

Phenomenally gifted and outspoken world class snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan will return to the Crucible to be in conversation with Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone, to reveal for the very first time the documentaries that have inspired him throughout his life and snooker career.

International Film Programme

The international film programme is curated by Director of Programming & Industry Engagement Claire Aguilar and comprises a tantalising 160 feature and short docs from the UK and around the world. Alongside from new works from Michael Moore; Tilda Swinton; and D.A.Pennebaker, are filmmakers Barbara Kopple; Louise Osmond; Brian Hill; Chantal Akerman, George Gittoes, Joe Berlinger and Morgan Neville.


Reflected too in the Alternate Reality Alternate Realities? programme, the Doc/Fest Film programme is organised into award categories plus new strands: Get Up and Dance, No Place Like Home, Outdoor Adventure, Food & Drink, as well as firm favourites Behind the Beats, Instigators and Agitators, Women in Docs, Queer Screen, Global Encounters, Euro/Doc and Best of British.

With 27 world premieres, 15 international, 19 European and an astonishing 52 UK premieres, the Doc/Fest 2016 film programme is shaping up to be an incredible year of firsts for many amazing documentaries from 49 countries including Mexico, India, Ukraine, Russia, Cuba, China and Peru.

Among the many stand out films include a number which celebrate strong women of colour; the international premiere of Serena, a remarkable verité style portrait of sports legend Serena Williams; Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple profiles funk and soul frontwoman Miss Sharon Jones! as she confronts a cancer diagnosis, and a true icon of American politics and culture is celebrated in Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. Previous Doc/Fest MeetMarket success stories come to a wonderful fruition at Sheffield in 2016; the UK premiere of the innovative and profoundly emotional film Notes On Blindness; Sam Pollard’s Two Trains Runnin’ is a musical pilgrimage set against the harsh racist realities of 1960s America, and filmmaker Tom Fassaert is on a haunting quest to unpack the secrets of his mysterious grandmother in A Family Affair.  Director Richie Mehta will attend the Festival with world premiere of India in a Day, India’s largest crowdsourced documentary which reflects on what it means to be alive in India today, produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free.

Louis Theroux_My Scientology Movie
Picture shows_Louis Theroux at the Church of Scientology building LA

Filmmakers at this year’s Festival include Louis Theroux with his stranger than fiction film about the Church of Scientology, My Scientology Movie; Academy Award winner Morgan Neville with The Music of Strangers profiling acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble profiling the acclaimed cellist and his experimental band of musicians; winner of an IDFA Special Jury Prize, Roman Bondarchuk meets the men trying to keep the peace with neighbouring Russia in Ukrainian Sheriffs; and winner of the 2015 Sydney Peace Prize, George Gittoes, encourages children in Taliban controlled Jalalabad to put down their weapons and pick up a camera in the UK premiere of Snow Monkey.

Grand Jury
The Grand Jury selection at Sheffield Doc/Fest is known for showcasing films of a high calibre and this year is no exception; the Festival presents the international premiere of Brendan Byrne’s film Bobby Sands: 66 Days; The Settlers – a thought provoking film exploring the thousands of Jewish settlers living in the middle of the West Bank from Shimon Dotan; focusing on a different kind of history is Brothers, as director Wojciech Staron follows two nonagenarian siblings returning to their native Poland after 80 years in exile. Receiving its UK premiere at Sheffield is Ido Haar’s thoroughly modern fairy tale Presenting Princess Shaw as Israeli mash up artist Kutiman tries to launch his next viral music sensation – unbeknownst to her; drawing on over 25 years of footage, cinematographer Kirsten Johnson searches to reconcile the part she plays when filming the lives of others in Cameraperson; and the role of the journalist is further explored in Brian Oakes’ film on the devastating murder by ISIS of James Foley in Jim: The James Foley Story. Ashish Ghadiali’s The Confession – a first-hand account of the rise of modern jihad – receives its world premiere at Doc/Fest 2016; and The Land of the Enlightened is a stunning cinematic journey from Pieter-Jan De Pue into the beauty of war-tormented Afghanistan. Exactly how an Indonesian immigrant defrauded the international wine world is told in Jerry Rothwell’s Sour Grapes; living the high life is also explored via Russia’s City 40 from director Samira Goetschel, where residents enjoy higher than average living standards – before dying prematurely of radiation poisoning; and the Festival screens the UK premiere of Tatiana Huezo’s portrait of women caught up in Mexican cartel drug wars in Tempested.

Tempestad (1) copy

Environmental Jury
A fundamental part of any Sheffield Doc/Fest is the Environmental Jury with nine films competing for the award; billed as The Hurt Locker meets An Inconvenient Truth, The Age of Consequences from Jared P. Scott explores the political repercussions of irreversible climate change; in the world premiere of Per Liebeck’s There Will Be Water, Bill Watts has a big idea but can one man truly make a difference? The UK premiere of Seed: The Untold Story sees Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz follow local seed-savers as they try to protect a 12,000-year old food legacy; Sue Williams debunks the notion that electronics is a “clean” industry in her global tech expose Death By Design; Polish documentarian Marta Minorowicz’s beautifully shot Zud tells the story of 11-year-old Sukhbat and his family’s struggling farm in Mongolia; a rapidly disappearing sea wall threatening the Alaskan community of Kivalina, as director Gina Abatemarco examines the marginalising effects of global warming; with the UK premiere of Denis Delestrac’s Freightened – The Real Price of Shipping lifting the veil on the mechanics and perils of cargo shipping, plus the world premiere of Born to Be Free with Gayane Petrosyan uncovering the shocking international trade in Russian Beluga whales, and Valentina Canavesio’s Footprint takes a dizzying spin around the globe at a world straining to survive at its limits, 2016 will be remarkable year for environmental stories at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

The Youth Jury Shortlist

Nominated by five 18-22 year olds from across the country, the Youth Jury shortlist is just one area where notable films by female directors figure strongly at Doc/Fest; they include Sonita – when a young Afghan refugee and talented rapper is being forced to marry should director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami intervene?; and a group of girls learn to confront the violence around them through friendship and a love for performing in the UK premiere of Lyari Notes from director Miriam Chandy Menacherry. Another highlight is Flotel Europaformer refugee Vladimir Tomic’s profoundly personal reflection on his time as one of 1000 refugees aboard the Flotel Europa in 90s Copenhagen. The Youth Jury will also consider Storyboard P, a Stranger in Sweden and George Gittoes’ Snow Monkey.


Short Doc Award

As an Oscar©-qualifying Festival for the Academy Awards category of Best Documentary Short, the winner of the Short Doc Award will go on to qualify for the 2017 Academy Awards.
The shortlisted entries for this year’s Short Doc Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest are When You Awake – Jay Rosenblatt’s short from found footage of hypnosis experimentation; Dan Krauss’ Extremis – a documentary focusing on the ethical morass of end-of-life decision making in a public hospital; Silent Voices tells a personal story from director Pritha Chakraborty on the assent of growing up, as teenage girls travel through the real world and find themselves confined by society’s challenges; featuring images shot by refugees themselves, Anne-Claire Adet’s Bunkers is a sensorial immersion in the suffocating life of an underground shelter for asylum seekers; Gillian Callan’s film Recorded Absence is a short experimental glimpse into one of the many abandoned buildings dotted across Ireland; Johnny Physical Lives is shot by Joshua Neuman as he and his brother make a rock n’ roll documentary as Jonathan goes through treatment for leukaemia; art history comes with a highly personal narrative in Brillo Box (3¢ off) as director Lisanne Skyler’s parents bought an Andy Warhol Brillo Box for $1,000 in 1969 which now fetches up to $3,000,000; Toucan Nation, from Emmy© winner Paula Heredia, follows the uplifting story of Grecia, a toucan whose unconscionable abuse sparked international outrage and action in animal welfare; an 80 year old Basque woman with dementia, now living in a elderly residence in Santiago, Chile, is profiled in Giedr? Žickyt? and Maite Alberdi’s I’m Not From Here; and finally Yung Chang’s The Gatekeeper tells of a popular Japanese tourist destination, The Tojinbo Cliffs, and how one man patrols them to try and save those wanting to jump to their death.


Retrospectives in 2016 see Doc/Fest honouring the passing of filmmaker Chantal Akerman with a posthumous screening of her final work No Home Movie, featuring ‘conversations’ between Akerman and her mother Natalia, an Auschwitz survivor; I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman which explores Akerman’s 40-plus films, and charts the sites of her peregrinations as an experimental director; One Day Pina Asked… charts an encounter between two remarkable women artists of the 20th century, choreographer Pina Bausch and the filmmaker herself; and finally Jeanne Dielman: 23 Commerce Quay 1080 Brussels – a singular work in film history around the daily routine of a middle-aged widow whose life slowly unravels.

Also under the spotlight at this year’s Festival is the work of directorial maestro Ken Loach, looking back at over 50 years of filmmaking; the socialist dreams of the 1945 Labour government and a welfare state for all is reconstructed by Loach in Spirit of ’45; a 60s groundbreaking drama doc by Loach set his stake firmly as a political filmmaker, in Cathy Come Home.

In addition to D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus’ masterclass, the Festival will celebrate his work with two seminal works from the 1960s; Don’t Look Back, his pioneering music doc about 23-year-old Bob Dylan; and the glorious Monterey Pop which documents the three-day festival that pre-dated Woodstock and counts Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and a scene-stealing Ravi Shankar amongst its performers. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus’ new film Unlocking the Cage follows Harvard professor Steven Wise in a legal thriller that argues the case for chimps to be considered people in the eyes of the law.

New Dimensions in Testimony 2

Alternate Realities
The Alternate Realities programme, curated by Mark Atkin, allows audiences to experience how virtual reality, games and artificial intelligence are changing how stories are told. Two free exhibitions, supported by Arts Council England, and the one-day Alternate Realities Summit reveal the latest innovations in virtual reality, interactive and artificial intelligence storytelling.

Alternate Realities Summit
The Alternate Realities Summit on Sunday 12 June presents a day of intriguing panels and playful presentations from the leading voices in interactive factual storytelling and virtual reality, and brings together experts from documentary film and broadcast, theatre, journalism, engineering and neuroscience.

The morning will focus on artificial intelligence and kick off with Love, War + Robots, an interview between transmedia producer and director Romana Pringle, whose work focuses on the intersection of technology and the human condition, and the android Bina48 – the world’s most advanced social robot. Science Fiction Prototyping: Artificial Intelligence and Storytelling will see Sheffield Robotics demonstrate the importance of intelligent machines in the future of storytelling; Dr Stephen Smith of USC Shoah Foundation will showcase New Dimensions in Testimony: ground-breaking natural language software that allows audiences to have a “virtual encounter” with the recorded image of Holocaust survivor, Pinchas Gutter, who responds in real time, powered by complex algorithms providing realistic conversation.

The VRfternoon session will open with Jessica Brillhart, Principal Filmmaker for VR at Google talking about The Future of Virtual Reality; in 360 Sound for a 360 Experience: Dynamic Binaural Audio in VR audio engineers will demonstrate how cutting-edge spatial audio is being used to create richer and more immersive VR experiences, and it will talk about the role of sound in VR storytelling and how to start designing dynamic binaural audio; in VR & Journalism: Opportunities and Challenges the panel will examine the invaluable experiences of VR journalist pioneers and explore how this fledgling medium will impact on the industry; at United Nations VR Film Launch the audience will be the first to view the UN’s latest VR film in a mass VR viewing, about gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where factions fight over the country’s mineral resources. After the viewing, director Gabo Arora will be interviewed by Francine Stock of BBC Radio 4’s The Film Programme. In VR: The Machine to Make us More Human? representatives from British Council, Arctic Shore, Harmony Institute, Brink Institute and World Economic Forum bring together research in neuroscience and academia, and interrogate the idea of VR as the ‘ultimate empathy machine’. Creating VR is more like staging theatre than shooting film. In All The World’s A Stage, four VR producers with a background in theatre – Toby Coffey, National Theatre, Tom Burton, BBC, Catherine Allen, producer and May Abdalla, Anagram – will discuss what we can learn from producing drama when making VR. In Interactive Theatre, Technology & Empathy & In My Shoes: Waking in Slough, Jane Gauntlett will talk about the In My Shoes project and her mission to describe the indescribable and empathise with the inexplicable, based on her experience as an artist with epilepsy. This talk will include a performance of the first In My Shoes piece that she made: Waking in Slough.

 Alternate Realities: Interactive Exhibition at Millennium Gallery
The Alternate Realities: Interactive Exhibition in Millennium Gallery includes 14 immersive media projects allowing a depth of experience far beyond the limitations of the flat screen. The exhibition is divided into three distinct areas: art installations, interactive documentary experiences, and games for grown-ups.

Visitors to Millennium Gallery will be the first in Europe to experience USC Shoah Foundation’s New Dimensions in Testimony and “virtually” meet holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter. Visitors will be encouraged to have a conversation with the filmed, life-size image of Pinchas, ask him their own questions and hear first-hand his responses.  Doc/Fest is delighted that Pinchas Gutter will also attend the Festival in person, along with Dr Stephen Smith from USC Shoah Foundation, who has pioneered this technology.

One of the much discussed ideas around VR is its ability to evoke an empathetic response from the participant to the subject, but what is empathy? The Empathy Station will combine neuroscience and virtual reality to uncover unconscious biases and collect data on whether VR really is “the machine that makes us more human”.  The data collected at the station will be used in the creators’ panel on the nature of empathy during the Summit VRfternoon.

Tonje Hessen Schei’s iSynx is a personal AI operating system that revolutionizes your life, and Sharon Daniel’s Undoing Time is a multi-media installation of prison industry products linked to an archive of interviews reflecting on what it means to ‘do time’.

Within interactive documentaries, Avatar Secrets, made by Ramona Pringle (who will be in conversation with Bina48 in the Summit), explores the complexities of human connection in the networked world; Michael Epstein and Mark Thompson’s immersive journey John Lennon: The Bermuda Tapes recreates the summer of 1980, where Lennon found inspiration for the album Double Fantasy; supported by Wellcome Trust, Trick or Treat: Bhai-O-Scope celebrates the pluralities and complexities of Indian healthcare; while a prototype of The Enemy: Augmented Reality gives a voice to those living in violence; and A Polish Journey explores migration through a journey of discovery by the creator Julian Konczak to uncover truths behind his father’s arrival in Britain from Nazi Germany.

As gamers grow up, the games have too! Using original news footage spanning 21 countries Channel 4 News’ interactive video story Two Billion Miles recreates the extraordinary journeys behind the migration crisis; Juliana Ruhfus’ #Hacked: Syria’s Electronics Armies invites users to become a journalist and investigate a deadly cyber war; Tracy Fullerton’s Walden, a Game simulates the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living; Michal Drozdowski, Przemys?aw Marsza?’s This War of Mine: The Little Ones explores the hardships of wartime survival seen through the eyes of children; the exhibition also includes a video game from India: Antariksha Sanchar – Transmissions in Space, inspired by mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and the classical dancer Jayalakshmi Eshwar, is a cultural adventure game set in the 1920s in a temple town in South India.

Alternate Realities: Virtual Reality Arcade at Site Gallery & The Space

Among the 12 projects exhibited in the Alternate Realties: Virtual Reality Arcade, visitors will be invited to virtually visit the International Space Station; to better understand what it might be like aboard a migrants’ boat; to see how it feels to experience the onset of epilepsy; to navigate the world without sight; and experience a virtual acid trip…

Migrant and refugee stories are given the 360° treatment in three VR projects: Invisible by Darren Emerson, commissioned by Sheffield Doc/Fest & Site Gallery, with support from Arts Council England, will take audiences on an immersive journey into the uncertainty and despair of the UK’s immigration detention system; Home : Aamir is the first in a series of VR films created by the National Theatre which explore the meaning of home through the stories of refugees in the Calais Jungle; and We Wait, created by Aardman Animations for the BBC, will put the viewer on a boat with a terrified Syrian family.

Inspired by NASA’S training programme and the experiences of its astronauts, Home- A VR Spacewalk Experience created by Rewind & BBC, will invite participants to throw themselves into the void 250 miles above Earth; while Mars 2030 will put the viewers in the place of explorers on the surface of Mars. Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness – the VR partner of the hybrid documentary, which is playing in the Film Programme – goes into “a world beyond sight” through John Hull’s aural archive; while Jane Gauntlett’s In My Shoes: Dancing with Myself fuses film, theatre, technology and empathy to explore epilepsy.

Nonny de la Peña’s hard-hitting project Across the Line puts viewers in the shoes of a woman running the gauntlet of protesters as she attends an American abortion clinic; Francesca Panetta and Lindsay Poulton’s 6×9: A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement recreates the experiences of over 80,000 people who are locked in solitary confinement for 22-24 hours a day. Oscar Raby also returns to the Festival with Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel created by VRTOV for BBC, which uses aural and film archive to transport you to 1916 Dublin. Origins invites you to take a virtual acid trip with the originators of the hippy movement in 1960s California and Lynette Wallworth’s Collisions explores the collision of science and spirit in the land of indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan and the Martu tribe. And William A. Kirkley’s Origins invites audiences to take a trip into the early days of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the world’s largest suppliers of LSD and Hash.

 Talks & Sessions

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The Talks & Sessions programme, presented in partnership with Documentary Campus, draws its speakers, themes and subjects from both the Film and Alternate Realities programmes and reflects the current debates and creative trends in documentary world, as well as giving sound “how to” information and opportunities.

(Note to reader: below are open to Industry Delegates only and do not form part of the public programme).

The brave new worlds of distribution, platforms and the very future of the genre are subjects dear to Delegates’ hearts. In Beyond YouTube: What Can the ‘Other’ Digital Platforms Offer Filmmakers, experienced producers will share insights into collaborating with new partners. New US Platforms & Trends will bring explore the impacts of digital and highlight future trends, providing valuable insight into the world’s biggest marketplace. Is Documentary Relevant in a World with Information Available at Your Fingertips will look at the role of the traditional documentary in an age when an entire generation gets its news from social media.

Children’s docs and working with children will see Doc/Fest’s youngest ever speaker appear at How to Put Kids on TV: A Channel 4 Masterclass: the teams at the forefront of putting young children on TV will discuss the legal and ethical considerations, while 5-year-old Alfie from The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds will share what it was like to spend two weeks in an RDF rig. The BAFTA Masterclass: A Place at the Table – Why Documentaries for Kids Matter will look at how to make a winning documentary that keeps kids watching and wanting more.

Putting kids on the telly has its challenges; but making TV that engages young people is another story.  Chaired by filmmaker and performer Jolyon Rubinstein, vlogger’s Hannah Witton and Jonathan Saccone will join the panel for Vlogs vs. Docs: Tales of Our Time which will look at the pulling power of the vlog, what traditional broadcasters can learn, and whether they can or should try to compete. The Kids Are Alright: Creating Public TV Programme for a Forgotten Audience will look at the innovative formats and initiatives that have successfully connected with Generation Y in America, where half of young people never watch TV. What’s a TV Channel Granddad? How We’ll Be Watching Docs in the Future will explore how younger audiences are actually finding and consuming media; and what this means for channels, commissioners and documentary producers.

Diversity remains at the forefront, yet progress is painfully slow. A number of panels will look at the issues head-on: Minority Report: Diversity in Documentary, a panel of filmmakers and broadcasters, including KG the comedian, presents a no holds barred investigation into who’s telling stories about whom. The women on the Female Trailblazers: News Ways of Working in Media panel will tell how women are forging ahead with new business models and new ways of working that suit their lives, their choices and their careers. New Genderation: Has Factual Kept Up with the Revolution in Gender and Sexuality? will look at the attitude of broadcasters, programme-makers and the film industry towards gender identity and sexuality, and is there any diversity behind the camera? A Reasonably Adjusted Debate: Disability On and Off Screen will engage directly with solutions to disability underemployment. There’s Something About Muslims, filmmakers and talent will come together to explore the challenges and experiences of telling stories about a growing minority in the UK.

Five panels consider the motivations and challenges of documenting the tumultuous times we’re living through: How to Document the World’s Biggest News Stories: Telling the Refugee Crisis chaired by Roger Graef, will consider the urgent and challenging task of documenting this important moment in history; Viva la Revolucion: Video Activism and Citizen Journalism will explore different approaches to political filmmaking; Between Activism and Extremism: Storytelling for Change will look at new innovative ways of development, production and outreach strategies that are needed to increase the impact of the story. Investigative reporters Stacey Dooley and Seyi Rhodes, and Touching the Void subject, Joe Simpson will consider danger and risk-taking in Surviving Dangerzone Docs. In Documentary and Trauma: a Survivor’s Guide a panel of filmmakers and trauma experts will discuss the different approaches being used to protect vulnerable contributors, best depict the issues being witnessed, and to personally cope.

Getting docs into cinemas remains the Holy Grail for most. A number of panels will consider the territory: How to Get Your Theatrical Doc Funded and Distributed will be discussed by those that know from BBC Storyville, Dogwoof, Bertha DocHouse and Lightbox. Succeed to Screen: Getting Indie Docs to the Audience successful indie producers will discuss how their films were conceived, financed and brought to their audience. In What Makes a Feature Doc? Directors Discuss Morgan Matthews, Louise Osmond, John Dower, Anthony Wonke and Peter Middleton will discuss the ways in which they have adapted their directing style through the creative process of making feature docs.

The question of how to fund and where the money comes from doesn’t get easier. Three panels will steer a course: Does It Matter Who Funds My Film? Making Branded Documentaries will explore the ethical implications of being funded by a brand, and the possible creative freedom that additional cash allows. Filmmakers who have worked with NGOs offer an honest account of the pleasures, perils, and opportunities of work in the for-purpose world in Good Intentions vs. Good Viewing: What Happens When Doc-makers Join Non-profits?. Roadmap to Film Funding Success: Unlocking the Mysteries of Grant Proposals will feature case studies of several successful grant applications focussing on specific strategies.

The fast-paced world of VR and interactive storytelling will be looked at Tardis Docs: Telling Deceptively Big Stories in Tiny Online Spaces, a panel of masters of the craft explore how interactive docs can squeeze so much inside something which looks so small? Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness, A Film and VR Autopsy: from early conversations at Doc/Fest’s MeetMarket, to touring the film and VR to UK cinemas, the creators, funders and distributors of Notes on Blindness discuss the challenges in building a successful model for funding and touring cinema and VR together.

Notes on Blindness
Sydney Warbrick, Dan Skinner

Platforms may be advancing at a great pace, but archive footage remains the bedrock of the documentary trade. Three panels, supported by Creative Skillset, are Innovation in Archive will explore ways that filmmakers and artists are combining archive and new technologies to engage audiences across TV, cinema screens, VR, galleries and exhibition spaces, and what the future holds for film heritage; and the BAFTA Masterclass: Working with Archive will hear from filmmakers from both film and television, who’ve creatively used archive footage to tell their stories. Archives & Copyright: A Beginners Guide, walks us through the fascinating and sometimes bewildering world of archives and copyright with an expert panel.

The Doc/Fest commissioning panels, on Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 June, have opened up to include new focusses – Singles, Specials & Series, Specialist Factual, Factual Entertainment, Arts Documentary, Shorts for all Platforms, Arts Commissioning for Galleries.

And, Why You Should Work with Channel 5: Director of Programming Ben Frow and three key producers of the channel’s factual hits reveal how Channel 5 has transformed into television’s most varied and nimble commissioner of factual. Northern Exposure: Working with Nordic Broadcasters: opportunities for filmmakers from beyond the region, for acquisition and coproduction. Co-Production Possibilities and Festival Culture in Latin America: key players from Latin America we will discuss co-production possibilities between Latin America and Europe and the Festival Landscape.


Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016 will take place from 10-15 June 2016.


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