Sheffield makes its move

Sheffield Doc/Fest, the UK's largest documentary festival, moves to the summer for the first time this year. Ahead of its launch on Wednesday, festival director Heather Croall (pictured) discusses the reasons behind the shift and what to expect from this year's event.
June 6, 2011

This summer sees Sheffield Doc/Fest, the UK’s largest documentary festival, moving to June for the first time, from its former November perch.

The shift takes it out of an extremely crowded autumn event run that includes MIPCOM, Jackson Hole, DOK Leipzig and realscreen‘s Branded Entertainment Forum in October; IDFA, CPH:Dox and DOC NYC in November; and WCSFP, which runs into December.

“People have been asking us to move to June for years, particularly the commissioners, who really didn’t enjoy the crowded autumn in Europe,” explains Heather Croall, Doc/Fest’s festival director. “The industry needs a calendar that’s manageable and people need to physically get together because it is how the whole industry works and how people end up putting together their tapestry of deals.”

Among the highlights this year are a number of themed days, with ‘commissioning for convergence’ on June 8, a social media day on June 12, and a focus on crowdfunding on June 11. With the latter, Croall explains: “The crowdfunding day is kind of becoming a permanent part of the festival now, in the same way that the Crossover Summit has become a fixture.”

Industry events aside, Doc/Fest is also notable for hosting a huge range of films. This year’s festival opener, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, comes from Morgan Spurlock and sees the filmmaker “back to the form that people loved him for with Super Size Me,” says Croall, adding: “We’ve just had the law changing here [in the UK] around product placement, so it’s really good timing – it’s very now.”

Among the other doc highlights, she identified Daniel Lucchesi and Alex Ramseyer-Bache’s We Are Poets, Dominic Allan’s Calvet and Sue Bourne’s Jig as must-see efforts, as well as Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. Also of note is a masterclass by Albert Maysles, with a number of the cinema vérité master’s films also screening.

In tandem with Doc/Fest’s move, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) will on June 7 and 8 hold its bi-annual plenary meeting – previously held in France to tie in with Sunnyside of the Doc – in Sheffield. While the UK event’s move puts it two weeks from Sunnyside, Croall downplays any conflict.

“La Rochelle is obviously a different style of event to us because we also have a film festival, whereas they’re more of a meeting-style event,” she says. “And the spring is a lot quieter than the autumn in Europe. We’re just before Silverdocs, which works fine – people have got enough time to get back to their offices for a week or so before that.”

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.