Saturday, 15 June 2013

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013: Day Two

Having reached The Summit in a cavern on day one, Fohnhouse were back on more familiar turf on day two with a plethora of screenings and sessions in the city centre.

Martin’s first film was Fuck for Forest. A well-crafted and pleasantly non-judgemental look at the weird titular NGO, whose members sell pornographic videos online to raise money to fund ecological projects, the film especially impressed through director Michal Marczak’s masterful eye for composition. Although the subjects are an odd bunch, their free-loving, utopian dreams are strangely infectious. The film does not shy away from the more explicit aspects of their work, and for this refreshing openness alone the film is a must-watch.

Next, we caught the new film from Avijit Mukul Kishore, To Let the World In Chapter 1, which was making its UK debut at the festival. Fohnhouse last spoke to Kishore in 2011 when he came to the festival with his short film Vertical City, a fascinating look at life in the slums of Bombay. This time Kishore swapped his roving observational camera for a series of talking head interviews with prominent Indian artists. What could have been a boring prospect is enlivened by the insight of the interviewees and some playful cross-cutting with examples of their work, and it is nice to see this relatively obscure field explored in more detail. The film ends abruptly, however, and it would be nice to see Chapter 2 in the not too distant future.

While Martin got reacquainted with the work of Kishore, Fohnjang sat in on a couple sessions showcasing the work of the BBC. In The Art of the Interview, filmmakers Richard Macer, Bart Layton, Vanessa Engle and Olly Lambert engaged in an amicable roulette-style showdown, which saw them take it in turns to interview one another. It wasn’t quite what we expected and we felt that the objective wasn’t quite achieved, but it was, nonetheless, a great opportunity to listen to a group of respected filmmakers talk about their work.

Sue Perkins

Following The Art of the Interview, we decided to attend a session featuring the more winning exchange between broadcaster Sue Perkins and BBC executive Janice Hadlow. Speaking about her transition from radio to TV, we were privy to insightful tales from Hadlow’s time at BBC, working on productions such as The Late Show and A History of Britain, and her stint at Channel 4 as Head of History, Art and Religion.

Paul Hamann, Sir Trevor McDonald and Michael Waldman

Both cats met up in the afternoon to attend the session on The Art of Access. A nice and simple discussion of the topic, the session was important as it highlighted an oft-overlooked yet integral aspect of the documentary process. Chaired by Sir Trevor McDonald, his witty comments kept the audience amused.

After last night’s unique foray in the Peak District, in the evening Fohnjang decide to indulge, once again, in the world of extreme sports and settled down to watch Lucy Winter’s latest oeuvre The Crash Reel, a documentary chronicling the recovery of the gifted and passionate pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who was critically injured in 2009 when a new trick on a training pipe went horribly wrong. Thrilling, shocking, informative, distressing, and a bit of a tearjerker, The Crash Reel is a brilliantly crafted and captivating piece of work from the Oscar-nominated director that sympathetically deals with the struggle to let go of shattered dreams, and raises questions about the awareness of the ramifications of competitive snow sport as many pros are affected by life-threatening injuries each year.

Michael Palin

While Fohn opted for the jaw-dropping perils of winter sports, Martin went to Sheffield’s Crucible theatre to listen to Michael Palin in conversation with Miranda Sawyer. Palin back in Sheffield is always a treat, and today was certainly no exception. The audience listened with rapt attention as Palin discussed his documentary work, beginning with his Around the World in 80 Days series and continuing right up until last year’s Brazil with Michael Palin. There was also time to touch upon his work with Monty Python. Palin was frank about what worked and what didn’t from his career, and engaged with some challenging questions both from Sawyer, who was a well-informed and likeable questions master, and the particularly tuned-in audience. When asked about Sheffield having recently been named as the happiest city in the UK, Palin noted that Sheffielders are ‘stroppy, but in a good way’.

Kate Townsend and Havana Marking

The final film of the day was Smash and Grab, Havana Marking’s film about the Pink Panther gang of international jewel thieves. The film was a comprehensive exploration of the subject, something which perhaps meant it lasted a tad too long. However, the juxtaposition of the rather sexy antics of the group (their high profile heists compared by the police chasing them to something out of Hollywood) with their background, coming out of war torn former Yugoslavia, is fascinating, and adds a real depth to the story. Disaronno sponsored the screening, and we all enjoyed a few cocktails afterwards, before heading off for a midnight burrito.

That’s it from day two. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.


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