Sheffield Doc Fest 2014

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So, I recently was able to attend the world famous Doc fest in Sheffield and safe to say amazing doesn’t really come close. I was able to attend some fantastic talks with multiple heads of global media companies, attend world premiers with Q&A’s and meet a load of lovely people too! Here are some reviews of just a few of the films I saw over the festival:

Rustle Brands the Bird

Omni Timoner’s latest film doing what she does best, embedding herself under the skin of a movement. Much like her earlier work, this text follows a public figure in the shape of Brand as he develops alongside the technological titan that is Twitter. This is 16 minutes of Brand asking many great questions and answering a few. Timoner uses Brand well, as he is currently in flux, evolving from actor/comedian/celebrity into activist/political voice. Fans may ask how/why he is doing this? Omni Timoner is able to provide a deeper insight, whilst also tying in Brands’ use of new technology to reflect how the world is developing as a whole. A thoroughly brilliant piece.

One Rouge Reporter

Tabloid reporter turned stand up Rich Pepitatt provides a deeper and richer Doc along the lines of The Revolution will be Televised. He brilliantly sets up his tabloid status which came about following the Levison enquiry. This is included to portray Pepitatt as some sort of tabloid bashing Batman, seeking revenge on the people that ruin his Gotham (the British press) and besmirched his profession. One by one, the meads of various papers from The Sun to The Daily Mail get directly ambushed in comical fashion. Each prank is set up through perfect editing of hypocritical speeches intercut with Pepitatt’s own stand up. Overall, the text was a direct hit on what it set out to do and hold possible potential for a follow up. The One Rough Reporter pranks are so ballsy that maybe there is a position for direct Dark Knight right now?

All This Mayhem:

I had no idea what to expect from this one. Eddie Martin’s film focusing on Tas and Ben Pappas, 90’s skateboarding icons. Most impressive about this text is its flawless transition for archive home footage of the Brothers, juxtaposed by the professionally shot interviews and television footage. This is all combined with the perfect pacing the text holds. This is far from a text for the skateboard enthusiasts. It demands your attention through and unravels the heart-breaking tales of the duo in such a way that you have NO idea what waits around the corner. Another direct hit of the festival that is able to draw in a wide audience, from a niche subject.

Chemsex

A hard hitting text to start the day with, I was beginning to expect this from Doc fest. This was an unfinished screening taking you as far as possible into the underbelly of Gay culture in Brittan today. This could have easily become a shocking exposé , that would have been the easy route. Yet what makes this film so brilliant is that it refuses to take the easy route and instead makes and gripping piece of film. Introducing a London based clinic that includes the treatment of Chemsex introduces the topic of the text gradually. AFTER this is when the shocking testimonies of the patients are used. Had this been done the other way round the film would have had an entirely different tone, one shocking yet less credible. Here no element of this hybrid of gay and drug culture is left unexplored. We see it all, through every character involved. This element of various points of view is the most amazing part of the film as it forces the audiences to take their own individual stand. It denies you a spoon fed agenda, and instead provides the opportunity for thought. It was enlightening and hopefully retains this feature when it is complete.

Nelson Mandella  – The Myth and Me

I was intrigued to see this following the title. I was unsure what take on this iconic figures life it intended to take, all I knew is it had to be seen. Khalo Matabne narrates through each section of his text in the form of an open letter to the deceased president. This allows a comfortable routine for the film which takes a chronological look at Mandela’s life slowly comparing the western world’s view of him, in comparison to the view of him in his own country and just how fast his momentum grew. My only criticism of the text was that I would have preferred more focus on Mandela’s youth, as I feel like it was only toughed on slightly. Mandela’s was a highly controversial figure, so I feel like there was more ground to cover here. The text ends with young African students reflecting on Mandela, which allows an element of naïve reflection through the simplification of is actions. In a way it embodies the point of the film, how the perceptions people hold can affect the truth.

Mr Somebody

Document on local celebrity Jake Mangle-Wurzel had me intrigued form the moment I read about it. This five year piece on the “professional lunatic” turned elderly hoarder creatively forces empathy through the film. The ongoing collaboration between Jake and filmmaker, Michelle Heighway can be felt throughout the Doc and takes the audience through Jakes’ life along with the sense of his own realization of his situation as he describes his current state of life. What is so great about this film is it is literally unique. About a man who treads the line of creative genius and recluse. Most interestingly, its Jakes self-aware interviews that include his own diagnosis of mental illness that allows a refreshing experience. That and the fact that Jake provides constant commentary throughout the screening as he is in attendance. Mr Somebody is like nothing you have / will ever see again and what makes it more perfect is it’s about a real, local person; projecting real emotion.

So there you go, one of the most moving pieces of the week was about a local man who makes artwork out of phlegm, refuses to conform to society and holds the occupation of “professional lunatic.” I like to think of it as Doc fest showcasing home grown talent; however next year’s attendance might do the talking.

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