Sheffield Doc/Fest to open with Questlove’s “Summer of Soul”

The opening film of this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest is showing its Roots. The European premiere Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, ...
April 23, 2021

The opening film of this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest is showing its Roots.

The European premiere Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, co-founder of hip-hop band The Roots, will open the 10-day fest.

The 117-minute film, which enjoyed a world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, spotlights the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, held at Mount Morris Park in Harlem over a six week stretch and headlined by Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family Stone, Gladys Knight & The Pips and others.

Historically seen as an obscure event in pop culture, the footage was resurrected by Thompson after spending 50 years in a basement. Summer of Soul won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance and its film rights were purchased by Searchlight Pictures and Hulu.

Thompson is expected to introduce the documentary’s trailer Sunday (April 25) at the 93rd edition of the Academy Awards, for which he is serving as musical director.

Closing the Sheffield Doc/Fest will be the world premiere of Mark Cousins’ The Story Of Looking.

Adapted from his 2017 book, Cousins examines how our looking at ourselves develops over the course of a lifetime, and the ways through the centuries that looking has changed.

The festival has also announced four films as part of their Into The World strand: 

The Return: Life After Isis (Alba Sotorra, UK, Spain, 2021) focuses on a group of Western women – including Shamima Begum and Hoda Muthana — who supported ISIS when they were teenagers, but now wish to return to their countries and change their lives.

Minimata Mandela (Kazuo Hara, Japan, 2021) is a three-part, 15-year journey where Hara treats individuals and  local communities with empathy as he raises global questions about public health, corporate accountability and the environment.

Carlos Ghosn: The Last Flight (Nick Green, France, UK, Lebanon, 2021) is a documentary about the former CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance who has been charged with various financial crimes, is the portrayal of a fascinating character in a complex story that divulges new details regarding his spectacular escape to Lebanon.

Alvorada Palace (Anna Muyleart and LôPoliti, Brazil, 2021), set in Brazil’s Presidential Palace, chronicles the days of Brazil president Dilma Rousseff and her closest members of staff that lead up to the impeachment trial that resulted in her downfall.

Each of the documentaries are UK premieres, with the exception of Alvorada Palace, which is a European premiere.

The Sheffield Doc/Fest usually amasses members of the film and arts communities from 60 countries around the world and screens over 180 films, but this year, the fest will be a hybrid event.

Attendees in Sheffield will be able to physically watch films screening at the Doc/Fest, while others will gather online to watch the programs. The international industry program, including the marketplace, pitches and panels will be held exclusively online in 2021.

The festival runs from June 4 to 13.

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.