Film programmer Hussain Currimbhoy speaks with Kylie Boltin about the 2012 Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Sheffield Doc/Fest is a film festival, a market place and industry session program—which this year includes master classes with Russian doc maker, Victor Kossakovsky, Dreams’ of a Life director, Carol Morley and Michael Apted, director of the long standing Up Series. Running from June 13-17, the festival boasts 82 features, 27 shorts, 10 outdoor films, four cross-platform films, one art installation and hosts more than 2,300 international delegates.
An Australian film on the Sheffield Doc/Fest schedule for 2012 is Catherine Scott’s Scarlet Road, which has previously screened on SBS. It follows Sydney sex worker Rachel Wotton’s specialised work with disabled clients. Of the film Currimbhoy says, “This woman is almost like a sexual saint. She is obviously really positive and happy, a very rare kind of person. Scarlet Road is the kind of documentary we try to find. It played at SXSW in March, so we thought we’d capitalise on the buzz and play it here”.
Watch the SBS interview with director, Catherine Scott here.
“One of the films that came in late was The Sheik and I,” Currimbhoy continues. “I met the director, Caveh Zahedi at the Brisbane Festival five or seven years ago. He usually makes feature films. The Sheik and I is about art as a subversive act. Zahedi gets commissioned to make a film by a Sheik in a small Arab island state. There are no rules except there is to be no full frontal nudity, no making fun of the prophet, and he is not to mention the Sheik. In the documentary, everything goes wrong. It’s one of the best insights into the ethos of filmmaking I’ve seen in docs for ages. Zahedi’s in the film and he reveals all kinds of racism that exists in many Arab countries. He reveals the hypocrisies in the culture. To me, it’s the root of the Arab Spring. Zahedi does all of that with a hilarious film. Your illusion of docs will be changed. They can be both humourous and political.”
Roughly one-third the films are sourced from other festivals and Currimbhoy admits that ratio increases every year. Of the remaining films, one third are from broadcasters including Chanel 4 and the BBC, and one third are direct submissions. “It means a lot when you discover something,” he says. “You give it a launch, give it a life – you feel like you’re part of the film in a way.”
Reviewing the 2012 program, Currimbhoy states that it’s “been a particularly great year for North American docs and docs from Canada.” In addition to US, Canadian and European titles, the 2012 program also features films from Russia and new films from India, Australia and China. Of the slated films, approximately one half are English productions, showcased in The Best of British, First Cut, Resistance and The Habit of Art. “We are the home of British documentary,” Currimbhoy says now. “The industry comes here to see their films, network and see their peers work.” In 2012 the festival is also set to share and cross promote film titles with the East End Film Festival. “The festival landscape means that you have to collaborate and give films the highest possible profile,” Currimbhoy explains. “We’ll screen a film here and then a week and a half later it will screen in London. We try to bridge gaps between festivals in the UK,” he says.
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