Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020 announces spotlights and retrospective

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020 announces spotlights and retrospective

Monangambée by Sarah Maldoror

Ahead of its June 8 full selection announcement, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020 revealed June 2 the theme of its annual retrospective: ‘Reimagining the Land’, curated by Christopher Small. In addition there will be two special focuses, on American artist Lynne Sachs, another on Burkina Faso filmmaker Simplice Ganou and a tribute to the late French West Indies film pioneer Sarah Maldoror.


Tribute to Sarah Maldoror

Following her recent passing from COVID 19 at the age of 90, Doc/Fest pays tribute to the late, great, pioneer filmmaker Sarah Maldoror (19 July 1929 – 13 April 2020). Born of French West Indies descent, she studied at the prestigious Moscow cinema school VGIK, after which she joined the pioneers of the African liberation movements in Guinea, Algeria and Guinea-Bissau alongside her partner Mario de Andrade, an Angolan poet and politician, who was the founder of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).


Sarah Maldoror was always on the front line of the anti-colonial struggles and her reputation as a militant filmmaker and black woman is an example and an inspiration for the current urgent struggles all across the globe. 


Starting out as an assistant on The Battle of Algiers, Maldoror became one of the first women to direct a feature film in Africa. She directed more than forty films, mainly documentaries. The political and poetical dimension is outstanding in her work, among them, a number of portraits of artists. 


“For many African filmmakers, cinema is a tool of revolution, a political education to transform consciences. It was part of the emergence of a Third World cinema seeking to decolonise thought to encourage radical changes in society”, said Maldoror.


Doc/Fest will present her first short Monangambée (1969), which shows the cruelty of the colonizing Portuguese authorities in Angola. The film takes its title from the shout of Angolan resistance, meaning “white death”. The Sarah Maldoror screening will include others titles yet to be confirmed and will be presented in Sheffield in the Autumn as part of Doc/Fest’s Into the World strand.


Focus on Lynne Sachs

Drawing on her vast body of works from the past 30 years, Doc/Fest will present a curated selection of films by Lynne Sachs, focusing on the notion of translation as a practice of encountering others and reshaping and reinterpreting filmic language. This focus will be part of the online Ghosts & Apparitions film strand.


Five Lynne Sachs films ranging from 1994 – 2018 – mostly involving creative collaboration with others – will feature as part of Doc/Fest’s online programme from 10 June. 


Her latest film, Film About a Father Who, offers a complex portrait of Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, shot over a period of 35 years, and will make its International Premiere in Sheffield in October, and following that, online, as part of Into The World Film Strand. 


Together with the focus, Doc/Fest will present Sachs’ video lecture My Body, Your Body, Our Bodies: Somatic Cinema at Home and in the World, a fascinating journey through her themes and work.


Focus on Simplice Ganou

Simplice Herman Ganou’s films, though few in number, exist as a shining piece of beauty, empathy, and absolute trust in cinema as a way of connecting with the world. Living and working and Burkina Faso, having studied in Senegal, Ganou’s cinema is made with a unique sense of time and place, as in a stroll through the spaces and the words that bind people together. Sheffield Doc/Fest invites audiences to discover this exceptional filmmaker through his first two films – Bakoroman and The Koro of Bakoro: The Survivors of Faso – both of which will be available online from June.


As part of the Autumn programme in Sheffield, Doc/Fest will also host the UK Premiere of The Unknown, Ganou’s latest film.  



Retrospective: Reimagining The Land curated by Christopher Small

With Reimagining the Land, Sheffield Doc/Fest will reassert the primacy of the land as a critical way of thinking about the world and about its various crises, by confronting historical images of land, agriculture, rural life, and proletarian struggle. 

The films will be presented in Sheffield, a city with a long history of spontaneous social movements, many of which are led by the young people the city is famous for. 


One of the films to be presented is widely considered the greatest Indian movie of all time – Mother India (1958) centres on the tribulations of a peasant mother forced to organise her own land and labour once her husband commits suicide. 


Another is A Japanese Village (1984), in which the Ogawa Pro collective trained their powers of perception onto the minor rhythms of farm life, producing, in spite of the simple subject matter, what is arguably their greatest and most epic work. 


The full programme announcement for Doc/Fest’s 2020 Official Selection will be published on 8 June. For Digital Industry Passholders, films will be available from 8 June via Doc/Player. For the general public, the online programme will be available from 10 June via Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects platform – home of Doc/Fest’s curated VOD programme of new films from all over the world. A number of films from the official selection will screen in Sheffield once cinemas reopen in the Autumn and will be available online in parallel.