5 to See: Sheffield Doc/Fest 2021

Now launching its 28th edition, Sheffield Doc/Fest is one of the world’s most prestigious and important non-fiction film festivals. Boasting an incredible array of features and live events this year, playing online and in-person in theatres around the country, ASFF picks five must-see features from the line-up.

Charm Circle | 5 June

Nira Burstein directs this cinéma vérité portrait of her own eccentric New York family. Using a wealth of recently found but decades-old home videos, she returns to her childhood home to explore and come to terms with her own personal history as she and her two sisters attempt to reconnect with their parents. Burstein and producer Betsy Laikin will participate in a livestreamed Q&A.

Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) | 4 June

A multi-hyphenate, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is musician, songwriter, DJ, author and music journalist, who voiced one of the characters in the recent Pixar movie Soul. Now he makes his directorial debut with Summer of Soul, which opens the Sheffield DocFest. The film promises to explore a unique moment in history, the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, where the likes of Nina Simone, B.B. King and Sly and the Family Stone all performed.

Uprising | 5 June

Last year, Steve McQueen made TV history with his five movie anthology Small Axe for the BBC. Now he’s back there with this three-part documentary set in 1981 around three major events: the Brixton Riots, the New Cross Fire and Black People’s Action Day, the first organised mass protest by British Black people. McQueen and co-director James Rogan will participate in a live-streamed Q&A after the screening.

The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation | 11 June

An incredibly pertinent documentary, given the current political situation in the Middle East, Avi Mograbi’s film is an account of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Featuring interviews with Israeli soldiers about their service there, across the past 54 years, it’s a frank account of the occupation at a time when its yet again in the news.

9/11: One Day in America | 13 June

11 September 2021 will be the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on New York City. Here, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin – who have just seen their Tina Turner documentary Tina hit screens – are back with a series marking the tragedy. Made in official collaboration with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, it blends archive footage with interviews and eyewitness accounts of a fateful day that changed the world forever.


Sheffield DocFest runs from June 4 to June 13. For more details, click here.

Words: James Mottram