Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 – Round Up Part 2

After a trip to local pub The Rutland Arms for a slutty rutty butty (trust us, go and try it), we took on Swedish serial killer doc The Confessions of Thomas Quick. An interesting case, reminiscent in some ways of the Orkney child abuse scandal, but the film is rather flimsy. It leans too heavily on its twist, and in many ways feels like a doc made far too soon, with some potentially fascinating events yet to occur.

Fohnjang and I then went our separate ways as she sat down to watch Dreamcatcher before heading back down south, and I took my flu-ridden self home to bed to catch up with Rodrigo y Gabriela via the festival’s online videoteque. For Those About to Rock is a lovely fairytale, with some quality music. Light and frothy, it should turn any frown upside down.


Not so light and frothy but nonetheless a must-see documentary is Dreamcatcher. Kim Longinotto’s new film follows former prostitute Brenda, who now runs the Dreamcatcher Foundation – an organisation which helps woman in Chicago get out of the game, and attempts to stop young girls getting into in. While Brenda understandably still appears to keep one or two things close to her chest, what we are privy to from her and the girls (which is, actually, almost everything) is deeply moving and brought the boss lady to tears (not an easy task!). Dreamcatcher is a true survivor’s story.

The following day, having slightly recovered from my maladie, I took myself to watch Jungle Sisters. At the start this didn’t seem too promising, beginning like a Guardian opinion column brought to life, but as the film went on it developed into a nuanced and refreshing look at western capitalism’s influence on India. The Q&A which followed engaged with some of the difficult issues raised by the film.

Showing the sort of contrasts Doc/Fest does so well, the next film was Orion: The Man Who Would Be King. A film full of heart, with the director explaining that she had to make the film after finding an LP at a jumble sale. Her passion for the project is clear in every frame. It plays rather like Searching for Sugar Man, but with a far more downbeat conclusion. Recommended, then, but sad.

For our final day we began with some of the other Doc/fest offerings beyond the films, starting with some time in the interactive lounge. As usual there were a number of fascinating installations, and we didn’t have time to see them all, but we were particularly fascinated by Karen Palmer’s project, wherein participants watch a video and have their level of attention measured. Fun for a bit of friendly competition, even if we didn’t really understand the science behind it!

After this, we decided to check out a Doc/Fest regular fixture, Adam Buxton’s Best of BUG, for the first time, and we were not disappointed. The energetic comedian took us through a series of recent pop videos, some excellent, some just downright bizarre. We were also treated to John Hardwick’s wonderful video for the Arctic Monkeys song Leave Before the Lights Come On, which looked great on the Crucible’s Big Screen.


Our final film was The Meaning of Live, a funny and touching account of the recent Monty Python reunion stage show. The magnitude of Python’s effect on comedy and culture does not go unnoticed, yet the charm of the remaining members of the troupe is such that the film still feels small and intimate. Comedian Josie Long chaired the post-film natter with Michael Palin (becoming something of a Doc/Fest regular), co-director James Rogan and co-producer (and Python offspring) Holly Gilliam. It was a warm and delightful chat, with Palin as happy as ever to be back in his hometown – ‘god’s own city’, as he put it. Indeed!

An illness-ridden week here in Sheffield, but one full of great weather, great films and the unique Doc/Fest atmosphere. The behind the scenes staff changes did not impinge upon the quality of the events, and everybody we spoke to was having a great time. Business as usual, then. Bring on Doc/Fest 2016.

Docfest 2015 bus

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