Once a year, Sheffield city centre is awash with pink flags, banners and posters as one of the world’s biggest documentary festivals lands on its doorstep.
It may be one of the biggest documentary festivals in the world but strangely it remains relatively unknown to many of Sheffield’s residents. It is cast aside as pretentious and exclusively for ‘film snobs’.
To change a general consensus is a difficult task, but you can’t blame me for trying.
Now in its 21st year, Sheffield Doc/Fest (often mistaken for dog/fest) is a celebration of history, art and a form of entertainment, education and joy that we take for granted; that is, film.
Filmmakers, industry folk and general enthusiasts come from all over the world (literally) to sample what the ever growing festival has to offer. Last year saw events such as screenings in caves, yes caves, to mesmerizing trips into Sheffield’s complex history; with the added bonus of appearances from Sheffield legends such as Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker.
I won’t lie, I was skeptical at first. I mean, when you think of documentaries, for most people the first thing that comes to mind is the revolving programmes found on the history or nature channels. Great, perhaps, in small doses, but to dedicate a whole festival to?
Doc/Fest proved me wrong in so many ways. Documentary is not only as exciting and inspiring as seeing the latest blockbuster, but more varied than you could ever imagine.
Take this year for example: never to be outdone, the Doc/Fest team have pulled together a delight of offerings. Whether you want to see the latest Martin Scorsese doc or to watch the sun set at Chatsworth, whilst being serenaded by Richard Hawley and musing over the history of love on film; the choices are endless.
This is not to say that Doc/Fest is for everyone, quite the opposite in fact. It is, however, to say that it adds another layer to the onion (to use a Shrek metaphor). A festival that would sit comfortably amoungst its contemporaries in London’s artsy Soho is and will continue to remain a part of Sheffield’s cultural history and its future.
So why not try something different? Not all documentaries are stuffy and boring. Trust me, little over a year ago I was of this opinion. Many of the films on offer are open to the public and you never know, you might just catch the doc bug.