Monday, 17 June 2013

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013: Day Three

To kick off day three we decided to take a break from the docs to partake in some of Sheffield’s unique culinary delights. Brunch (with pudding) came courtesy of Fancie, one of Sheffield’s trendiest restaurants, and we followed this up with some chocolate concrete from Cooplands.

A shot from inside the tent of Coral: Rekindling Venus

Our next adventure was a foray into immersive cinema, right in the middle of the Winter Gardens. Lynette Wallworth’s wordless exploration of coral reefs, Coral: Rekindling Venus was projected across the ceiling of a small tent, with the audience invited to lie back and lose themselves in the images. The images seemed to dissolve at times into abstract shapes, colours bursting through one another like the star gate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey – perhaps an apt comparison, given the film’s extraordinary evocation of an almost entirely alien environment. We felt that some of the images could have been sharper, but this was perhaps more to do with our distance from the screen. In a larger, planetarium-like space this would be incredible. As it was, the womb-like tent still contributed to an odd yet compelling viewing experience. This was compounded by the comedy of watching people get stuck on the Velcro flaps that sealed the door!


No need to call the midwives; these guys have got it covered!

Our next film was Gabriella Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish, one of our most eagerly awaited docs.
Exploring the events surrounding the killing of a SeaWorld trainer by a killer whale, the film showed the harrowing story behind whale shows. Some superb editing and the strength of the interviewee’s testimonies made for an affecting watch. The director was present for a very engaging Q&A session afterwards, and outlined her nuanced and informed views on the problems and advantages of keeping animals in captivity. Martin asked about her use of footage from the film Orca: Killer Whale, and it transpired that she, like him, had been particularly shocked by a graphic sequence from that film, one which illustrates the callous approach that whalers have to this intelligent and emotional species. The film is coming to cinemas in July and we highly recommend it.


Gabriella Cowperthwaite

Martin’s last film of the day was Simon Klose’s TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard. As one honest man during the Q&A said to the director, this was a far more interesting film that we had anticipated! The subjects were an interesting bunch, often kings of their domain completely out of water in real life (or ‘away from keyboard’ as they prefer to call it). Though the film fell on the side of the pirates, it did nonetheless provide a warts-and-all picture of them, not shying away from the moments where they are overtaken by paranoia, loneliness or extremism. An interesting aspect of the film is its distribution strategy – the film was released first onto YouTube, yet was also pre-sold to a number of television channels on the understanding that this sort of release would not harm their audience figures, given that the online audience would most likely not have watched the film on TV anyway. This sort of model is an exciting indication of the future of documentary distribution, and indeed film distribution generally.


TPB: AFK director Simon Klose

While Martin was hanging with the pirates 'away from keyboard', Fohnjang was learning all about comedy legend Richard Pryor in a fitting venue reminiscent of a dingy comedy club. At this point a quick shout out must be given to the organisers of this year's Doc/Fest for never failing to give festival goers a fully immersive experience. Anyway, back to the Library Theatre... Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic was a fascinating look at the man so many comics of today call their hero. Raised by his grandmother in a brothel, Pryor rose to become the most foul-mouthed, nigga-loving then nigga-hating (the word), comedian of the 70s. Featuring clips of his electric stand-up shows, and a glittering back story, Omit the Logic is a comprehensive, fresh, occasionally sad and, of course, funny look at the highs and lows of a megastar. Whether you're a fan or a doe-eyed comedy novice, there's something in this documentary for all.

And on that note, Fohnjang and Martin, or Ebony and Ivory (for one post only), ended the night in the usual evening spot, the East End Bar, enjoying all things black, white, and Mexican. Hello free burrito!

MP & FG 

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