5 Films to See: Sheffield DocFest 2023
What is new in the world of documentary filmmaking? This year’s Sheffield DocFest brings together 122 films from around the world, exploring individual and collective stories and the ways our lives are changing. The 30th edition opens with Paul Sng’s moving portrait of social documentary photographer and trailblazer Tish Murtha, who dedicated her life to documenting the lives of working-class communities in North East England. Elsewhere, 2023 Guest of Honour and pioneering Iraninan filmmaker Rakhshan Banietemad is celebrated with a major retrospective of her documentaries, including the World Premiere of her latest short Narratives ad hominem. The event also brings leading voices in film, immersive media and activism to Sheffield, with the likes of David Olusoga, Rose Ayling-Ellis and Munya Chawawa joining the line-up to discuss the art of non-fiction as well as exciting new projects. Ahead of proceedings, we bring you five highlights from the programme.
Ella Glendining was born with no hip joints and short femurs – a condition so rare that there is little reliable information about it. The director records her personal journey to find people who live with this condition, challenging ableist assumptions and the way we see others, like and unlike ourselves. The revelatory feature gently tugs at the viewer’s biases and looks to a day when inclusivity is no longer an ‘issue’.
Acclaimed filmmaker Leo Regan first documented the complex life of friend and photographer Lanre Fehintola in 1998. Don’t Get High on Your Own Supply detailed how the artist apparently became hooked on heroin after researching for a book on the subject of addiction. My Friend Lanre jumps to a moment shortly after Fehintola has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Regan never set out to document someone dying, but this is what his film becomes.
In 2020, Brandon Scott became Baltimore’s youngest Black Mayor. Director Gabriel Francis Paz Goodenough follows his mayoral campaign in a city plagued by funding shortages and escalating crime. From tackling press conferences to watching the trial of George Floyd’s killer, Scott is shown as a politician who has the audacity to dream. His commitment to healing a fractured yet resilient area is a hope everyone can believe in.
In America, intersex people are still subject to invasive and premature surgeries, performed without consent upon children of a very young age. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Julie Cohen turns her focus towards the lives of three intersex people in this heartfelt and urgent call for equality. Now leaders in a global movement for intersex rights, River, Alicia and Sean embark on a journey to the White House where they hope to make history by changing the law.
The world of work is changing rapidly, and not just in the directions you might imagine. These beautifully cinematic films span the full spectrum of labour, from the gentle dedication of a woodcutter to the rise of robot waiters, surveying the past, present and future. Zima a Tma’s Cold and Dark follows a group of loggers on a delirious journey whilst Metabolism from Misho Antadze brings us a quiet observation on the mechanisation of labour. Empathy passes to the machines.
Sheffield DocFest | 14-19 June