Returning for its 25th edition, Sheffield Doc/Fest will be taking over Sheffield city centre in just 24 days. One of the largest documentary film festivals in the world, it consists of a programme of almost 200 films along with the Alternate Realities programme – exhibiting 25 virtual and interactive reality projects from across the world. With big blowout parties every night and an array of unmissable, unique live events and performances, the festival brings together over 35,000 people over just six days. The programme is vast and varied, spreading across multiple venues and cinemas and running from 9am until the early hours, everyday. With so much to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the activity on offer. To start you off, here are five films not to be missed at this year’s Doc/Fest.
Over the Limit
With unprecedented access to a Russian Olympic gymnast and her training team, Over the Limit takes us on an intimate journey into the relentless mental and physical practices that produces some of the best athletes in the world. Witnessing the shocking extent of the psychological strain experienced by the competitors makes for uncomfortable, baffling watching. Over the Limit ultimately asking larger questions about the price of success.
Minding the Gap
Film debuts rarely come as concise and complex as this. The premise is simple but the results are not. First time director Bing Liu documents his close friends and fellow skaters over several years, discovering more about the role of violence in all of their lives, the devastating results of a history repeating itself and the fragile masculinity of young men let down by their own fathers. It’s the skateboarding movie that’s not about skateboarding; sure to win over audiences with both its bleakness and charm.
Sandi Tan’s Shirkers is a love letter to 1990s independent cinema whilst also being a tribute to and a memorial for her own work. A beautiful swarm of pastel pink 16mm film, archive footage, honest interviews and self reflection – it’s a road movie like no other you’ve seen before. Gloriously original, visually compelling and painfully personal, Shirkers is a cinematic time capsule, which will enthral anyone who loves experimental documentary or film on film.
Love Means Zero
A character piece which revolves around the world’s most prolific but highly problematic tennis coach, you don’t have to love tennis to love Love Means Zero. Its central subject provides the film with captivating hypocrisy and stark, brutal honesty. Love Means Zero sees him interviewed extensively, challenged to reflect on mistakes and decisions he claims not to recall and/or care about.
A Woman Captured
Another documentary at this year’s Doc/Fest with remarkable access to a very unique situation is Bernadett Tuza-Ritter’s A Woman Captured. Spending many hours in the company of the filmmaker, modern day slave and factory worker Marish begins to consider breaking free from the family she’s served for over a decade. This is a dazzling, tragic tale of human endeavour, psychological manipulation and the power of hope in the face of suffering.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.