Festival Programmers: Sheffield Doc/Fest

Sheffield Doc/Fest
August 1, 2008

Sheffield Doc/Fest
Hussain Currimbhoy
Date: November 5 to 9, 2008

What is your mandate?
I’m looking for films that can take an audience into a totally new situation, or [introduce them to a] group of people that we’d never otherwise have the chance to experience. I find that I respond to filmmakers who enter situations and let the characters or landscapes speak for themselves. When you’re watching and you’re like, ‘There is too much manipulation going on’ you start to feel distanced and think to yourself ‘This guy is going into this with a totally predetermined position and this film is just reinforcing that!’ A lot of filmmakers go into familiar territory for their first doc… but it’s only really worthwhile when they go into a known subject and give it a different take. If you’re going to go to the trouble, do something different.

How can filmmakers stand out?
Filmmakers should take the time to research festivals before submitting. Don’t blanket hit every fest you Google. Find out what the festival has done in the past, what their bent is, why they’re different from the other festivals in the area and see if it’s congenial to you. Doc/Fest is looking for ‘regime change’ films this year since the fest happens during the US elections. Also, try to get your film in before the deadline. I know I’m going to get a flood of films after our film submissions close [on June 30]… It makes it hard to give the film the consideration it deserves.

Standout films from the most recent fest?
I loved Terror’s Advocate by Barbet Schroeder and Darkbeat by Iris Cegarra. Advocate was as energetic and controversial as it was emotional and logical. But locally I loved Love Customs of the Welsh, a short doc by Catrin Doyle and Hajime Yoneda; so hilarious and distinctive.

But the standout for me was Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go by Kim Longinotto about a school for children with social behavioral trauma and ‘issues,’ to say the least. It was so unexpected – dramatic and lachrymose, but in a positive way – the form and structure especially made you think about who it is you really care for in life. How far does human love and compassion extend? I think about that film almost every week, even though I saw it six months ago. You can’t go into a shopping center and see a family having an argument without thinking of the film. You feel like going up to them and saying, ‘Have you seen this film? You should really take a look at it.’

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.