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Sheffield DocFest

Sheffield DocFest highlights

Lisa Campbell reveals her pick of Sheffield DocFest so far.

From the Sea to the Land Beyond

Penny Woolcock has dusted down 100 years of BFI archive footage and turned it into poetry.  A cinematic voyage which takes us along the British coastline from the pavilions of the Edwardian era to Blackpool in all it’s windswept glory today.

From its bathers in top hats, to our once mighty shipbuilding industry, it makes you laugh and cry; it makes you proud and ponder and it makes you feel excited about how we can unlock our past in such creative ways.

A soaring soundtrack performed live by British Sea Power brought the whole thing to life. I can still feel the wind in my hair and the salt on my skin. In a time of recession, could archive, be the new fixed rig? Watch it on www.thespace.org or make your own video postcard using clips of the footage and music samples via: www.sheffdocfest.com/view/thespace.

Searching for Sugar Man

Several grown men admitted to me last night that this made them cry - for all the right reasons. Not only is it one of the most incredible stories you will ever hear, it is so cleverly told by director Malik Bendjelloul that you are gripped, awe-struck and on the edge of your seat until the final frame. 

This is a story about 70s musician Sixto Rodriguez. Lauded by US producers who thought his poetic songs about inner city working class topped Dylan’s, he was nevertheless a flop.

Yet in Apartheid Africa, where a bootleg copy found its way, he was bigger than Elvis. With no contact with the outside world, all that was known about Rodriguez was that he had spectacularly killed himself on stage.

The film follows two of his biggest fans who set off to discover the shocking truth behind the legend.

With beautiful cinematography, incredible characters and a tale which spans the personal and the political, this, not surprisingly was the winner of two major awards at the Sundance Film Festival. You have to see it.

Chopin Saved My Life

Chopin’s Ballade Number One has become one of the most iconic and influential pieces in the classical music world.

This film, directed by James Kent, follows it’s life changing effects on two individuals, a Japanese teenager whose community was devastated by the Earthquake in Japan and a Scottish teenager on his 5th brain surgery.

Beautiful, inspiring and haunting, it ends with a nine minute performance of the piece - something that would usually be considered a tough ask for an audience. Credit goes to Channel 4’s Tabitha Jackson for ensuring that element of the film was preserved in tact.

Michael Apted and Leslie Woodhead

These two legends of film in conversation provided a wonderfully in-depth analysis of Apted’s 7Up series and the challenges facing doc makers including structure, drama, bias, ethics. 

On 56Up, he says:  “To a degree they’ve (the contributors) taken ownership of the film. I have to be a blank slate; I can’t go in with a prediction. I have to give a totally honest snapshot of their lives at this time. I got caught out in the past trying to anticipate their lives.”

Aluna

Two of the Kogi tribespeople journeyed for three days from their mountain home in the Sierra Nevada before catching a flight to Sheffield. Their aim is to help us to save the world from environmental disaster.

It follows on from the 1990 film From the Heart of the World.: The Elder Brothers’ Warning which contributed to the agenda for the Rio Summit in 1992.

After Sheffield, the Kogi and the film’s director Alan Ereira will make the trip to Rio again, where, accompanied by scientists, they will make their case, and this time hope someone listens.

See next week’s Broadcast magazine for the full Sheffield round-up.

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