Sparking Curiosity with Documentary
We are proud to reveal our full Film programme, Alternate Realities exhibitions, and public Talks for the 30th edition of Sheffield DocFest. This year, we are ‘Sparking Curiosity’ with documentary - and each other - in Sheffield, 14-19 June 2023. Come and explore the programme.
- 37 World Premieres, 20 International Premieres, 10 European Premieres, 47 UK Premieres and 8 retrospective films, from 52 countries of production
- In addition to films, our documentary offering includes an abridged verbatim play (Jews. In Their Own Words), live podcast events, premieres of TV series and virtual reality exhibitions
- Stand-out music documentaries including the world premiere of Wham!, the international premiere of TLC Forever, the international premiere of the Cyndi Lauper portrait Let The Canary Sing, and the world premiere of Kim Longinotto and Franky Murray Brown’s Dalton’s Dream, which was part of the Sheffield DocFest MeetMarket in 2022
- The Alternate Realities exhibition includes a five-part VR series with acclaimed filmmakers Abel Ferrara, Tsai Ming-Liang, Catherine Hardwicke, Lee Myung-Se and Naomi Kawase
- Key Broadcaster talks include the BBC Interview with actor, director, author and activist David Harewood to discuss his documentary work; the ITV Interview with presenter Laura Whitmore to talk about her series Laura Whitmore Investigates; and the already announced Munya Chawawa talk, discussing his unique approach to integrating satire in documentary, as seen in BAFTA-nominated How To Survive a Dictator on Channel 4
- Compelling public talks from actor and Strictly Come Dancing 2021 winner Rose Ayling-Ellis, TV historian and producer David Olusoga and director Chris Smith, and extended Q&As featuring the final winner of The X Factor UK, Dalton Harris, and activist and competition swimmer Sara Mardini
Alex Cooke, Chair of the Board of Trustees, says: “We are delighted to celebrate our 30th edition with such a strong and varied lineup. From humble beginnings, Sheffield DocFest continues to grow, helping to forge lasting careers, develop new talent, and facilitate exciting new works to be funded, produced, and exhibited. We are very grateful to our dedicated partners and sponsors for helping us to inspire the next generation of filmmakers and audiences, and to be so instrumental in promoting the thriving documentary culture we are so proud of.”
As previously announced, Sheffield DocFest 2023 opens with the world premiere of Tish on 14 June 2023: an intimate portrait of British documentary photographer Tish Murtha and her daughter’s fight to preserve her legacy. The film is also screening in the International Competition.
In Tish, Paul Sng celebrates the vision and profound humanism of this gifted artist. As the film questions the value placed on art and artists from working-class roots, we follow Tish's daughter Ella as she fights to preserve her mother's legacy. No less striking than the work of its subject, Tish is a powerful tribute to a vital artist, activist and social chronicler, and a rallying call to all whose engagement with art questions who gets seen and heard, who doesn't, and why. This is a story of contemporary Britain and the fight for culture, as well as the life of a mother and activist.
Annabel Grundy, Sheffield DocFest Managing Director, says: “We are so happy to present a truly international, intersectional and innovative lineup of films and events as we celebrate our 30th edition. Sheffield DocFest has a long history of bringing new perspectives into the documentary arena, inspiring industry and audiences to immerse themselves and discover something new.”
Diana Buckley, Director of Economy, Skills and Culture, Sheffield City Council, adds: “After a successful return to an in-person event last year, we are delighted to see Sheffield DocFest back in venues across the city for 2023, including the Site Gallery, Crucible Theatre and Showroom Cinema. We always look forward to seeing what surprises are in store for the city and the range of international visitors who join us from around the world to celebrate this unique and world-leading cultural event.”
Our 2023 film programme totals 122 films (86 features and 36 shorts), drawn from just under 2,500 entries, including 37 World Premieres, 20 International Premieres, 10 European Premieres, 47 UK Premieres and 8 retrospective films, from 52 countries of production. 54% of the films in the programme are directed by women. Titles screen in three competition sections - International Competition, International First Feature Competition and International Short Film Competition - as well as in Special Programmes, and in six strand sections: Rhythms, Debates, People & Community, Memories, Rebellions and Journeys.
Raul Niño Zambrano, Sheffield DocFest Creative Director, says: “Covering the whole spectrum of documentary storytelling, from direct documentation of events to poetic experimental artworks, and everything in between, the 2023 film programme is full of stories that will spark our audience’s curiosity like never before. As a team we have selected the most thought-provoking, cinematic and relevant works of recent non-fiction, and will proudly present them in June with the context and attention they deserve.”
Perspectives on Iran
We previously announced that this year will have a special focus on Iran, which includes a retrospective of Guest of Honour Rakhshan Banietemad. Playing in tandem with Rakhshan Banietemad’s films are a selection of new and vital documentaries. They range from female filmmakers surveying the limitations placed on their lives and work; a reassessment of the male gaze in cinema; and an account of the insidiousness of censorship, to a dark portrait of political interrogation and a celebration of friendship across two continents. Together, they explore the challenges of everyday life in Iran, but also hope for changes and a brighter future.
We are proud to support and celebrate all mediums of documentary and this year the programme includes presentations of two live podcast events.
Witch, the ambitious new series from India Rakusen, the creator and host of 28ish Days Later (BBC Radio 4), seeks to answer the question 'What does it mean to be a witch?'. From there, the audience journeys deep into compelling stories of covens, spells, magic and misogyny, ranging from the historical to the contemporary.
The multi-award-winning series Soul Music is one of the BBC’s longest-running documentary audio shows. We are proud to host Soul Music’s first live event in Sheffield, offering audience members the opportunity to meet the creators behind the podcast and enjoy an exclusive preview of an upcoming episode, which includes special guests.
TV Series premieres - First Impressions
We are thrilled to host three exclusive previews of the first episodes for new series at this year’s festival. All events will include a conversation with the creators and special guests.
Previews include: Evacuation (World Premiere), a searing three-part series that charts the 2021 evacuation of Kabul, showcasing unparalleled access and previously unseen footage; The Good Fight Club (World Premiere), which charts the fortunes of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athletes fighting to make it from their South London gym to Las Vegas and the world championship; and The Greatest Show Never Made (World Premiere), which follows six young people who agreed to appear on a radical new TV show, unaware of the reality of what was actually going on.
The Alternate Realities exhibition programme showcases innovative non-fiction and immersive documentaries in all forms, breaking the boundaries of traditional documentary practice and using cutting-edge technology – including virtual reality, artificial intelligence, video gaming platforms, augmented reality, and interactive web documentaries. This year’s festival will present 15 works at Site Gallery that are free and open to the public, and the return of the Alternate Realities summit on 18 June, supported by Arts Council England.
Verity Nalley, Alternate Realities Consultant, says: “2023 is an exciting year for documentaries in alternative formats. As technologies such as virtual reality are becoming more mainstream, creators are truly starting to understand how to make the most of the transformative power they hold to bring the stories they are telling to life in ways we just haven’t experienced before.”
We will present nine public talks which will all be held at the Crucible Theatre.
Beccy Ashdown, Talks & Sessions Senior Producer, says: “We’re honoured to welcome some of the leading voices and emerging talent in documentary to Sheffield. This year we explore the art of docs from verbatim theatre, to the use of satire within documentary, to audio narratives, and the profound impact documentaries can have on the world. Our guest speakers are pushing the boundaries of storytelling with their innovative approaches to documentary. Prepare to be inspired!”
Sheffield DocFest 2023 runs from Wednesday 14 - Monday 19 June. Public tickets and Industry Passes are on sale now. Explore the programme now. The full Industry Programme will be announced on 17 May 2023.