Sheffield DocFest to feature Perspectives on Iran and auteur Rakhshan Banietemad as Guest of Honor

Other highlights of the festival include a one-hour version of the theater production 'Jews. In Their Own Words', created by Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, the world premiere of 'Wham!', an intimate celebration of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s enduring friendship and the preview of 'Evacuation', a searing three-part TV series charting the 2021 evacuation of Kabul.
Sheffield DocFest to feature Perspectives on Iran and auteur Rakhshan Banietemad as Guest of Honor

Right before the madness of Cannes kicked off, the Sheffield DocFest announced their lineup and some of the special events that will take place during the upcoming 30th edition of the festival. Under the banner "Sparking Curiosity" this year's edition will present 37 world premieres, 20 international premieres, 10 European premieres, 47 UK premieres and 8 retrospective films, from 52 countries of production.

This includes the festival’s most innovative documentary offering yet which, in addition to films, includes an abridged verbatim play (Jews. In Their Own Words), live podcast events, premieres of TV series and virtual reality exhibitions.

Stand-out music documentaries will include the world premiere of Wham!, the international premiere of TLC Forever, the international premiere of the Cyndi Lauper portrait, Let The Canary Sing and the World Premiere of Kim Longinotto and Franky Murray Brown’s Dalton’s Dream, which was part of the Sheffield DocFest MeetMarket in 2022.

The festival's Alternate Realities exhibition will include a five-part VR series with acclaimed filmmakers Abel Ferrara, Tsai Ming-Liang, Catherine Hardwicke, Lee Myung-Se and Naomi Kawase -- the latter was most recently Jury President at the 2022 Cairo International Film Festival.

Also during the festival, Key Broadcaster talks will include the BBC Interview: with actor, director, author and activist David Harewood to discuss his documentary work; the ITV Interview: with presenter Laura Whitmore to talk about her series Laura Whitmore Investigates; and the already announced Munya Chawawa talk, discussing his unique approach to integrating satire in documentary, as seen in BAFTA Nominated “How To Survive a Dictator” on Channel 4.

And finally, compelling public talks from actor and Strictly Come Dancing 2021 winner Rose Ayling-Ellis, TV historian and producer David Olusoga and director Chris Smith, and extended Q&As featuring the final winner of X-Factor UK, Dalton Harris and activist and competition swimmer Sara Mardini will round out the selection.

Annabel Grundy, Sheffield DocFest Managing Director, said: “We are so happy to present a truly international, intersectional and innovative line-up of films and events as we celebrate our 30th edition.  Sheffield DocFest has a long history of bringing new perspectives into the documentary arena, inspiring industry and audiences to immerse themselves and discover something new.”

The festival also previously announced that this year will have a special focus on Iran, which includes a retrospective of Guest of Honor Rakhshan Banietemad. Playing in tandem with Rakhshan Banietemad’s films are a selection of new and vital documentaries. They range from female filmmakers surveying the limitations placed on their lives and work, a reassessment of the male gaze in cinema and an account of the insidiousness of censorship, to a dark portrait of political interrogation and a celebration of friendship across two continents. Together, they explore the challenges of everyday life in Iran, but also hope for changes and a brighter future.

Raul Niño Zambrano, Sheffield DocFest Creative Director, said: “Covering the whole spectrum of documentary storytelling, from direct documentation of events to poetic experimental art works, and everything in between, the 2023 film programme is full of stories that will spark audience’s curiosity like never before. As a team we have selected the most thought provoking, cinematic and relevant works of recent non-fiction, and will proudly present them in June with the context and attention they deserve.”

The festival's opening film will be the UK title Tish by Paul Sng (2022, World Premiere), Sng’s riveting portrait of Tish Murtha which captures the passion and commitment of a trailblazing photographer who dedicated her life to recording the hopes, dreams and struggles of working-class communities in the industrial Northeast.

From Lebanon, the International Competition will include Q, a USA co-production by Jude Chehab (2023, International Premiere) and Chehab’s debut feature untangles her family’s connection to a Syrian religious order, making for a nuanced and tense exploration of matrilineal trauma.

Among the films included in the festival's Debates section is the stunning and thought provoking After the Bridge from Italian filmmakers Davide Rizzo and Marzia Toscano (2023, European Premiere), an intimate portrait of Valeria Collina, the mother of Youssef, one of the jihadists who took part in the 2017 London Bridge attack.

Alex Cooke, Chair of the Board of Trustees, added: “We are delighted to celebrate our 30th edition with such a strong and varied line up.  From humble beginnings, Sheffield Docfest continues to grow, helping to forge lasting careers, develop new talent, and facilitate exciting new works to be funded, produced, and exhibited. We are very grateful to our dedicated partners and sponsors for helping us to inspire the next generation of filmmakers and audiences, and to be so instrumental in promoting the thriving documentary culture we are so proud of.”

The Sheffield DocFest is the UK’s leading documentary festival and one of the world’s most influential markets for documentary projects. The 30th edition of the Festival will take place in the South Yorkshire city of Sheffield from 14-19 June 2023.

For the full lineup and to learn more about the Sheffield DocFest, check out their website.

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