Film and Television Features

Preview: Sheffield Doc/Fest 2011

Next week, Sheffield Doc/Fest returns early in a new summer slot, with a pretty sharp-looking line up I have to say. Here’s a brief look at this year’s runners and riders.

Fresh from leading US forces to Osama Bin laden’s hideout, Morgan Spurlock will be opening the festival in his typically understated style with Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Spurlock may grate on some, but his look at the world of product placement should make for entertaining discourse. For those who like a little less hubris, Adam Curtis will be presenting the feature length version of his All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, whilst Asif Kapadia brings with him the critically lauded portrait of Formula 1 maverick Ayrton Senna, imaginatively entitled Senna.

The Interrupters

Anyone who has seen Steve James’ stone cold classic Hoop Dreams will be off their tits with happiness to know he will be attending with his new film The Interrupters, an inner-city tale of ex gang members attempting to bring an end to gang violence with a unique anti-crime initiative. Elsewhere, war photographer-turned-filmmaker Danfung Dennis takes us to Hell and Back Again, with a grim dispatch from the frontlines of Afghanistan, double Oscar winner Barbara Kopple examines the holes in US gun control laws in Gun Fight, whilst billionaire idiot Donald Trump’s despotic attempt to build the world’s greatest golf course in the Scottish wilderness is documented in You’ve Been Trumped.

In the music strand, we have Michael ‘it wasn’t a 90s US indie flick if I wasn’t in it’ Rapaport’s Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, a Sundance hit, likely to make me berate any youths within earshot on the grounds that the filth they listen to isn’t ‘real hip hop’. Also screening is SXSW smash Hit So Hard, which details the drug addled, tragedy infused life of Hole drummer Patty Schemel.

Terry Pratchett writes books about wizards that people get all weird and defensive about. He’s also at Doc/Fest with Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, which is a documentary about assisted suicide and not an adaptation of a lost, rather bleak Discworld adventure. For shame.

Legendary documentarian Albert Maysles will be in the house for retrospective screenings of his classics SalesmanRunning Fence and a special outdoor screening of Grey Gardens. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own headscarves and stray cats. Speaking of legends, two films about legendary directors catch the eye for very different reasons. Martin Scorsese’s paean to his childhood idol Elia Kazan entitled Letters to Elia should make for compelling viewing. On a similar tip, Angelique Bosio has made a film dedicated to the work of a very different, but no less fascinating cinematic iconoclast, Bruce LaBruce – the ‘grand master of queer cinema’ in The Advocate for Fagdom. Another askew look inside the film industry comes in the shape of The Hollywood Complex, which follows a dozen child actors as they go from audition to audition, attempting to land coveted and hugely lucrative roles against frankly preposterous odds.

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure arrives with no small amount of buzz from Sundance, telling the story of two friends who record the arguments of their next-door neighbours over several years to hilarious results. Another film I’d marked down from Sundance is Jon Foy’s Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, which explores the fascinating story of the Toynbee Tiles. Since the mid-80s, said tiles have appeared in a number of American cities containing odd, cryptic messages. Who is writing them and what the chuff do they mean?

In Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times filmmaker Andrew Rossi spends a year at the media desk of the iconic rag, offering a fascinating insight into an institution and an industry in flux. Man on Wire director James Marsh follows up his Oscar winner with Project Nim, the story of a baby chimpanzee (the titular Nim), who in the mid seventies was brought up by humans in an attempt to understand how primates communicate. Nim is now the deputy editor of Total Film.

There are a couple of high profile fashion types in attendance this year. Purveyor of sharp suits Ozwald Boateng brings with him A Man’s Story, of which he is the subject, detailing the ups and downs of life at the very cutting edge of fashion. Do It Yourself! allows us a candid look into a year in the life of fashion icon and national treasure Vivienne Westwood.

The above is nary a taste of the treats on offer at Doc/Fest. Watch this space for my dispatches from the front line, reviews and giddy tweets if I see someone half famous. As you were.