(Image: A page from Sheffield Doc/Fest catalogue & A drawing by the artist and tattooist Thereza Nardelli that became viral when Bolsonaro won the presidential election. "No one let go of anyone’s hand". That’s what you do when the world is on fire.)

There are moments when we suspect there are cosmic rhymes that come to defy our reasoning and our imagination - to wake us up, like the line above, from a 16th century poem that crosses times and resonates now. This is a collective moment of strangeness and mourning, a call for lucidity and change. Nothing will be the same as before, and maybe that’s just how the world finds its balance.

Sheffield Doc/Fest is also looking for its form and meaning through this world crisis, and how we best stand for cinema, for the filmmakers and artists, colleagues in the industry and for its audiences and supporters. By choosing to extend our presence and activities from June to November, by curating programmes online but also standing firmly for the collective experience of cinema and works of art in physical venues, by assuming its international character but also its roots in the city of Sheffield and the Yorkshire region, this Festival is making clear its origins and its future. Doc/Fest is an international and internationalist Festival, grounded in a clear notion of the importance of its local community.

The programme we have built is an experiment to all of us: none of us have ever lived through such circumstances, and we have had to learn to think and work within a specific and unprecedented context. It is a challenging task, but it is also a lesson in humility and humanity - millions of people in this world have been living for centuries in constant crisis, under pressure and threat, some in confinement, others with nowhere to go. This is not new. The novelty is that now it is affecting each and every one of us. How does a Festival react to that? It asks questions about priorities, values and dreams. What can we do when the world is on fire?

This programme is an invitation to experiment, a different way of sharing films and works of art, ideas and projects. But it is also an invitation to open conversations and own them. This crisis has uncovered the lack of transparency from political institutions, the lack of trust in media, in science, and in the countries’ capacity to respect everyone’s right to life, freedom and safety. It has exposed the need for stronger bonds between us. It has made even more evident the inequalities, the privileges and the unfairness of our societies. It has given us an even more acute sense of the need for change. This crisis did not only change the world, it changed us. And we are on fire.

The films and artworks we have curated, the talents we have invited to speak, the projects we are supporting can be a starting point for imagining what our world can be. They are here to wide open our minds and our souls, and start micro revolutions in each of us. From Chile to Taiwan, from Brazil to Spain, from the UK to Azerbaijan, from young artists to old storytellers, from modern cities to a cabin in the forest – this programme is a canvas of humanity and its richness, and nobody knows what a lm can do: each one, just like each person, is a new world to come.

We invite you to discover our programme and to contribute to a community that experiments with the love for cinema, for arts and documentary, with curiosity and urgency. Through our digital platforms, Doc/Player and Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects, through our weekend screenings in Sheffield, and through the streaming platforms that so kindly have partnered with us, you will find selections of lms from our programme.

Finally, we want to say thank you to those who have stood by us with strength and sincerity since the first moment of this crisis: our funders, sponsors, partners, lmmakers, artists and producers, and of course the people of Sheffield. Thank you for trusting us with this beautiful Festival, for allowing us to inspire you with what we make of it.

On a personal note, I want to thank the Doc/Fest team: for their warmth, their imagination and openness, their generosity in building this programme in such fragile circumstances.

This text would finish with a call for meeting you all in Sheffield in June. Instead we wish for everyone to stay healthy and safe, that we are able to find ways of staying connected and feeling close to each other throughout this programme, and that we can come together in Sheffield later in the year.

Allow me to finish with the Brazilian call for solidarity and resistance in face of threat: NINGUÉM SOLTA A MÃO DE NINGUÉM – No one let go of anyone’s hand. That’s what you do when the world is on fire.

Cíntia Gil

Festival Director