Ultimate guide to Sheffield's DocFest international documentary film festival

International documentary festival Sheffield DocFest returns this weekend, with events being run in the city and online.
Sorious Samura in Sing, FreetownSorious Samura in Sing, Freetown
Sorious Samura in Sing, Freetown

The festival’s film line-up includes 55 world premieres, 22 international premieres, 15 European premieres and 59 UK premieres across 57 countries with 63 languages represented.

Opening night film Summer of Soul tonight (June 4) looks at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival’s celebration of black history, culture, music and fashion.

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The DocFest Retrospective strand celebrates black British screen culture, curated by guest curators including TV historian David Olusoga, who is also the subject of the festival’s BBC interview.

Films will include including Burning An Illusion by Menelik Shabazz, It Ain’t Half Racist, Mum by Stuart Hall, Looking for Langston by Isaac Julien and Second Coming by Debbie Tucker Green.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US, a series of films bring different perspectives to the tragedy, including the world premiere of In The Shadow of 9/11, by Dan Reed.

The main city venue for the festival is the Showroom Cinema on Paternoster Row but some events are being held at different venues around the city centre.

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This year, for the first time, Sheffield DocFest goes nationwide with five premiere screenings showing in up to 16 partner cinemas in cities around the UK and online, followed by pre-recorded Q&As.

Charm Circle is one of the films in competition at Sheffield DocFestCharm Circle is one of the films in competition at Sheffield DocFest
Charm Circle is one of the films in competition at Sheffield DocFest

Charm Circle by Nira Burstein will have its world premiere screening on Saturday (June 5). The film is slated for the international competition and up for the Grand Jury award and First Feature award.

Nira will be travelling to Sheffield to attend the festival from New York.

A deeply personal film that moves between the present day and old home videos, Charm Circle is a portrait of an eccentric New York family navigating the chaos that divides them.

The graffiti-damaged artwork that inspired the film RIP SENIThe graffiti-damaged artwork that inspired the film RIP SENI
The graffiti-damaged artwork that inspired the film RIP SENI
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RIP SENI has its world premiere on Sunday (June 6). The film looks at the crisis of mental health and racism in the UK.

Last June, graffiti reading ‘RIP SENI’ appeared on a public artwork outside a psychiatric hospital in South London. The red spray-painted letters called attention to Seni Lewis, a 23-year-old black man who died at the hands of up to 11 police officers while in the care of the hospital in 2010.

The artwork, called Some Questions About Us, is made up of eight mirrored placards asking questions about mental capacity and assessment.

Sing, Freetown, a documentary set in the West African country Sierra Leone, is another of the world premieres, taking place on June 11 and available online. It features Sorious Samura, Sierra Leone’s best-known Investigative journalist, who has covered everything from civil war to corruption and attitudes to homosexuality.

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Having grown tired of always telling negative stories about Sierra Leone, Sorious decides to embark on a journey to create an inspiring work of national theatre, to help bring pride back to a nation with an amazing history but facing many challenges.

Creative differences and practical problems threaten to overwhelm the project as the first night looms.

The showing of Sing, Freetown will be followed by an in-person Q&A with Clive Patterson and Sorious Samura.

For full details of the hugely diverse programme of films and events and to book tickets, go to sheffdocfest.com

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