5 Live Events: Sheffield DocFest 2021

Now on its 28th edition, the Sheffield DocFest is one of the world’s most prestigious and important non-fiction film festivals. While this latest festival features 55 world premieres, there are also some significant live events to enjoy. Here are five we recommend:

The Art of Staging Reality: Marc Isaacs in Conversation with Jon Bang Carlsen (June 11)

Jon Bang Carlsen, one of Denmark’s most celebrated filmmakers, has been working since the 1970s, producing innovative and searching projects like Hotel of the Stars (1981) and Portrait of God (2001). Here, he joins Marc Isaacs to explore his work and working methods, as the two lead a discussion on the necessity of inventing reality. His films Before the Guests Arrive, How to Invent Reality and It’s Now or Never are also screening in the Ghosts & Apparitions strand of the festival.

Reframing Our Desires (June 12)

Campbell X – writer, director and guest curator – joins filmmakers from his programme, Destroy | Disturb | Disrupt – Decolonizing Queer Desire, to explore how they create their own filmic language to disrupt our colonised historical framing by the white, straight cisgender lens. Part of the festival’s retrospective Films belong to those who need them – fragments from the history of Black British Cinema, speakers include Natasha Ruwona, Topher Campbell, Diego Paulino and Isaac Julien.

BAFTA Masterclass: Betsy West & Julie Cohen (June 12)

Betsy West and Julie Cohen are two filmmakers who enjoyed incredible success with their 2018 Oscar and BAFTA-nominated documentary RGB, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This year, they return to the Sheffield DocFest with My Name is Pauli, about the life of trailblazing activist Pauli Murray. In conversation with Mariayah Kaderbhai, Head of Programmes at BAFTA, West and Cohen will front this BAFTA masterclass, discussing their work.

The Story of Looking: In Conversation with Mark Cousins (June 12)

This year’s closing film is filmmaker Mark Cousins’ latest documentary, The Story of Looking. Facing the threat of losing his sight, with cataract and macular degeneration issues, Cousins chose to turn this into a film, exploring the role of looking in his own life and in the past, present and future of human experience. Here, he joins Cíntia Gil, the Sheffield DocFest Festival Director, to unpack his latest film and explore how the art of looking helps paint a picture of our culture.


The Sheffield DocFest runs to June 13. For more details, click here.

James Mottram