Sheffield Doc/Fest becomes bigger and more successful by the year. Its twentieth ran from 12-16 June 2013 and boasted an impressive schedule of screenings and talks by various prolific speakers. Michael Palin, Jarvis Cocker, Melvyn Bragg and Mark Kermode all took part, to name a few. Live musical performances from pianist James Rhodes and Mercury prize nominees The Unthanks also took place to accompany screenings. Doc Fest received a hefty 2000 submissions and narrowed these down to 77 feature films and 33 short films. Sheffield was vibrant and bustling with people wearing vivid pink lanyards, the colour theme of the festival, scurrying between venues which were conveniently located near each other. Front Row Reviews were delighted to have access and thoroughly enjoyed being both educated, entertained and fed complimentary amaretto sours. The only downside was that there was so much on it was impossible to see everything, and you had to get your ticket for an event pronto to avoid disappointment as all were incredibly popular.
A great touch was the Q&As with directors that took place after each film showing, it made each screening feel like a unique, engaging and informative event rather than just a screening. Directors had come from all over the world, many to showcase their premiere of their film. FRR highlights had to be the uplifting ‘Project Wild Thing’; the ever entertaining Adam Buxton and his ‘BUG: The Evolution of Music Video’ event; The harrowing, daring and superbly original ‘Act of Killing’; ‘Public Service Broadcasting’; and Mark Kermode gushing about the Exorcist in a talk after the screening of the BBC documentary ‘The Fear of God: 25 Years of ‘The Exorcist’. As well as going along to films that were in our comfort zone, we made the effort to challenge ourselves with enlightening documentaries such as ‘There Was Cuba’ and ‘Plot for Peace’, about the Cuban Missile Crisis and South Africa’s transition out of Apartheid respectively. It was wonderful that there were a mix of new releases and classic documentaries on the calender. It was a pity to miss the critically acclaimed Japanese documentary ‘A Man Vanishes’ and the intriguing ‘Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe’ which is apparently self explanatory. However, it still gave ideas of what to look out for in the future. FFR will hopefully be queuing up at Doc Fest 2014, as should anyone who wishes to be emerged in something new.