Sheffield Doc/Fest announce 2018 programme

The UK's biggest celebration of non-fiction filmmaking returns, with a lineup that includes vital new documentaries, virtual reality installations, guest speakers and a recreation of the terrifying docudrama Threads

Article by Jamie Dunn | 04 May 2018
  • A Northern Soul

Sheffield Doc/Fest returns in June for its 25th edition with a bursting programme of over 200 documentary features and shorts. Already announced is the world premiere of Sean McAllister’s A Northern Soul as the opening film, which sees the Yorkshire-born filmmaker following Steve Arnott, a struggling warehouse worker by day and hip-hop performer by night. Also part of that opening evening will be Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s McQueen, an intimate portrait of revolutionary British fashion designer ‘Lee’ Alexander McQueen, told through archival footage and personal testimonials.

Displaying the urgency and immediacy of documentary filmmaking is Ben Anthony’s Grenfell, which reflects on the one year anniversary of the tragic events of last summer, and will feature accounts from the people whose lives were irrevocably changed by the devastating fire. Anthony’s film is joined in the programme by another Grenfell project: Grenfell: Our Home. A VR film from Jonathan Rudd, we’re told it’ll combine powerful interviews with animation to visualise the memories of home still held by the survivors of the Grenfell fire.

Doc/Fest were early adopters of this kind of interactive cinema, and Grenfell: Our Home is one of 27 immersive projects in this year's programme, including seven virtual reality installations in the Alternate Realities Exhibition held at Trafalgar Warehouse.

One of these VR pieces we’re particularly intrigued by is DOUBLETHINK, which has been specially commissioned for Doc/Fest’s 25th edition. A collaboration between brilliant filmmaking duo Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard (best known for Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth), novelist Stuart Evers and actor George MacKay (Pride, Sunshine on Leith), this interactive installation invites audiences to make a binary decision: enter the container marked HATE or the one marked HOPE. It should prove an interesting gauge on the country’s mental health in the age of Brexit and our increasingly hopeless government.

If the current dystopia we’re living through isn’t grim enough for you, there’s always Threads: Redux, which sees performance artist Richard DeDomenici recreate several minutes of the terrifying Threads, Mick Jackson’s docu-drama imagining what would happen to Sheffield if a nuclear bomb had been dropped on the UK during the Cold War. Brilliantly, DeDomenici will be using the same locations used in that 1984 film, with the people of Sheffield invited to take part in this guerilla recreation on Wednesday 6 June. Three days later, DeDomenici will show the results at a special live show at the Leadmill.

As well as films there is always a huge variety of guest speakers and masterclasses at Doc/Fest. Legendary ITV news anchor Trevor McDonald will be in Sheffield for a discussion on what drives him to make crime documentaries; other talks to look out for include chats with classicist and author Mary Beard, and actor Vicky McClure. There will be masterclasses from directors Matthew Heineman (City Of Ghosts), Khalik Allah (Black Mother) and prolific Edinburgh-based filmmaker Mark Cousins (I Am Belfast).

Another highlight is the Doc/Question Time event, which will be concerned with the subject of ‘Big Data, Dark PR & Whistleblowing’, and will include a panel of whistleblowers, journalists, media lawyers and filmmakers discussing this timely topic.

All in all, this is a festival that invites you to examine and question the world around you. “Documentary cinema offers a space to connect, trust and doubt, to look and be looked at through moments we otherwise would not encounter,” say Doc/Fest’s director of film programming, Luke W Moody. “Through images of the local and visions of the world around us, we want to celebrate contemporary storytelling in Sheffield. This is a Festival with a dialect, and a Festival to reflect upon and change the world we live in – Sheffield audiences can share their stories and debate with leading filmmakers from across the globe.”

7-12 Jun, Sheffield, various venues. For the full programme and tickets, head to