‘Once in a lifetime chance’ to see films

Sheffield Doc:Fest'An image from an earlier event
Sheffield Doc:Fest'An image from an earlier event
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“Everybody knows these are films you can catch only once.”

The programmer of Sheffield Doc:Fest has explained what attracts 20,000 people to the world-renowned event.

Now in its 20th year, the festival brings the public, as well as industry professionals, together to celebrate the art and the business of documentary making.

Movie buffs can watch over 100 films from Wednesday, June 12, to Sunday, June 16, with an outdoor screen rolling 12 hours a day.

Films range in topic from the controversial Pussy Riot punk group in Russia, to the life of champion cyclist Bradley Wiggins.

One thing is certain - they aren’t flicks you can watch at your average multiplex.

Hussain Currimbhoy, event programmer, said: “Around 20,000 people came to the cinemas, the sessions and to the outdoor screen last year.

“Every year it gets bigger and everybody knows these are films you can only catch once - a lot of them are never released.”

Sheffield was chosen as the location to showcase British documentaries, when there was no festival or event to do so.

Canadian-born Hussain, who lives in the city centre, added: “Sheffield was chosen because it’s not in London so the films can stand out and make a statement.

“And because Sheffield people I think are very much about the story, they want to know the truth behind the truth.

“The perception that we are just about industry is not correct, we do have a lot of events for the public too.”

Over the years the festival has become more international, although British talent is still at its heart.

People have been so moved by feature films, documentaries, short films and other multi-platform offerings that they have left some screenings in tears in the past.

Featured films and professionals come from all over the world, from China to America.

And boy, does it pull in the big names.

US radio personality Ira Glass and British broadcasting legend Melvyn Bragg are to appear this year.

Michael Palin and former BBC controller Alan Yentob are taking part in ‘in conversation’ sessions.

Top billing on the guest list this year also includes Walter Murch, the man who edited The Godfather classic films, Apocalypse Now and American Graffiti.

Hussain added: “Who isn’t coming?

“Walter Murch is a massive hero to me and he is coming to talk about his work and his new film.

“To be honest every documentary is made in the editing. It doesn’t matter what you shoot, it’s the editing that tells the story.”

A new strand to the festival this year includes the showing of films, such as The Exorcist, alongside their documentary counterparts, in that case Fear of God.

Sheffield Doc:Fest takes place across various city venues including The Showroom cinema and The Crucible theatre.

Sheffield theme to festival opening night

The 20th Sheffield Doc:Fest will open with a spectacular celebration of its home city in one action-packed evening.

The Big Melt at The Crucible Theatre - co-directed by Jarvis Cocker and featuring the city icon’s music too - will show 100 years of archive film to forge a new live experience.

It is described as ‘a music and film journey into the soul of a nation, bringing to life the ghosts of our past, taking us into the belly of the furnaces and showing how our souls have been stamped from the mighty presses of our industrial heritage’.

Hussain added: “You don’t get much more Sheffield than that.”

It takes place on Wednesday, June 12, the opening night of the festival.

Later the same evening, at 9pm, High Peak Cavern in Castleton will be transformed into an outdoor cinema for a very special screening of The Summit: the story of a dangerous and deadly mountaineering mission.

People who turn up early can also have their own adventure by exploring the cave and inner cavern. The showing is co-presented by the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival.