Friday, November 21, 2008

Sheffield Doc/Fest 07.-10.11.2008

Sheffield Doc/Fest website


For a day it’s reasonably warm, an almost gentle kind of weather here. Then the rain comes down sideways and the wind blows tearing umbrellas and their owners. Sheffield, striving from the steel industry, shows the disfigured face of the autumn. The locals here are more interested in football than films, despite Sheffield Wednesday F.C. dropping out of the Premier League to the First Division some years ago. It was a hard knock for the city. Almost like the steel industry falling overnight. Culture isn’t something to lift the city’s confidence, but luckily documentary films are meaningful here too, at England’s leading documentary film festival, and to some they mean a great deal – even though the masses are sitting in the warmth of the pubs, eyes glued to the football match on TV.

Saturday night football match brings the police to the front of the pub

The festival delegations are plentiful here from around the world – so there is a reasonable amount of people in all the screenings. However, it would be wise to invest more into the local population. Of course it’s not easy. The festival is, in fact, represented excellently on the streets and the local campus area, but the cultural breach clearly takes some time.

Women Make Movies distribution company's Debra Zimmermann immersed in the Ruhnama

In many respects the festival has been organised exquisitely. The event is centered effectively around one cinema complex, with its festival clubs and offices. Communication functions well, and there are plenty of discussions, seminars and parties. The programme is also well selected. Another positive surprise is the good quality of British documentaries. Other than reportage made to the BBC mould can be also be found in this kingdom.

The festival centre in Sheffield

The festival’s programme director Hussain Currimbhoy does his job with piety, and stands as an exceptionally courageous example. He is personally present at the beginning of each screening, to make sure that everything is in order when it comes to technicalities. For once I don’t have to run between the screening room and the projectionist: Hussain and his assistants have walkie-talkies and a direct line to the projectionist’s room at all times. Therefore our film’s focus and “image speed” problems are taken care of in a trice this time.

Arto Halonen and Hussain Currimbhoy

There’s a party every night, and after last night’s one there is an additional farewell one for the staff. Partying is something that comes naturally here. For once I stay until the end of the festival. The festival workers are celebrating a job well done. They’re proud, and it’s worth it.

The doorman of the Scottish-themed party welcomes the guests

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