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Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013 Review: Nine New Documentaries To Watch

Don't miss this summer's hottest documentary films - all the ones to watch, including clips and trailers. Discovered at the Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013.

Written by Sonja Todd

Pussy Riot by Linus Nystrom
Pussy Riot in prayer position. Illustration by Linus Nystrom.

Don’t miss this summer’s hottest documentary films. Here’s our pick as seen at Sheffield Doc/Fest, including all the trailers.

Fuck For Forest
Gives direct action a whole new meaning

How far would you go to save the planet? Fuck For Forest is a green non-profit which raises money online through home-made blue movies and photos. The content can only be seen by participation or donation. So far, so hippy porn site. But as you find out why the group do it, and how they’re handling the money, the film becomes eye-opening in unexpected ways. Watch to challenge your ideas of charity, pornography, the body, and how we find our place in the world.
Available for download now, on DVD from 17th June

The Act of Killing
Movies, morals and mass murder

With Werner Herzog involved, you know this film could go anywhere. A group of men at the heart of one of the worst genocides of the 20th century are given the opportunity to recreate their killings on film, in the style of popular movies. Making movies about the murders means addressing their actions, and the result is an award-winning clash of fact and fiction.
In UK cinemas from 28th June

The Man Whose Mind Exploded
The surreal world of a man without memory

Salvador Dali once worked with him, but since the 1980s Drako Zarharzar‘s life has taken a turn for the surreal. A string of accidents, breakdowns and comas have left his memory ‘not recording’. Film-maker Toby Amies documents Drako’s world, including the inside of the flat that functions as his mind. Imagine Memento and 50 First Dates rewritten as a Brighton bromance, and you’re halfway to this unforgettable film.
Next screening on 30th June

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
Extreme courtroom drama

The story of Russian female punk activists Pussy Riot, complete with rehearsal room footage, childhood photos, performances, court appearances, family interviews, and all the media mayhem that followed their performance in Moscow’s biggest cathedral. Three members were arrested and two are still serving time in a penal colony. Nadia, Katia and Masha‘s court statements alone are worth seeing on a big screen to remind yourself why they became feminist superheroes, and why Pussy Riot matters.
In UK cinemas from 5th July

Mommy don’t take me to Seaworld

Blackfish is something of an accidental save-the-animals film. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite started by investigating the death of a whale trainer at Seaworld, and uncovered a long history of ‘accidents’. The horror stories and footage pile up, heaping shame on Seaworld without tipping over into viewer voyeurism. By tracing the story of a whale called Tilikum from capture in 1983, through multiple incidents, up to his sad situation today, the whole bloody mess is laid out as clear as water.
In UK cinemas from 26th July

Project Wild Thing
An unusual nature trail

Self-deprecating dad David Bond is on a mission to save nature. His children’s attention spans will become as tiny as their underused wellies unless he does something serious. David appoints himself Marketing Director for nature and sets out on a rebranding mission, which at first seems like a joke, until he starts pulling in advice and favours from the world of marketing. The result is a hip and funny film you can’t help liking, about the oddness of branding and our often awkward relationship with nature.
Released in late July

Particle Fever
See scientists swearing

If you still don’t understand the Hadron Collider or the Higgs boson – so that’s most of us – then this film will help you get your head around the most stunning human discovery of the century so far. It’s beautifully shot, very funny, brings out the real personalities of scientists, and includes women in key positions who make links between science and art. The physics is explained so well that it sticks with you.
Release date tbc

The Great Hip Hop Hoax
Beastly boys

This isn’t a hip hop film. It’s the story of two boys from Scotland who thought they’d make it in the music industry if they pretended to be from California. So they move to London, change their accents, and pop begins to eats itself. It’s a richly ridiculous tale which takes in record company bosses, James from Busted, and a funny incident with Daniel Bedingfield. Will ultimately make you squeamish about the thirst for fame.
Released in early autumn

The Big Melt
Steel gets Pulped

River of Steel, 1951 – one of the archive films used in The Big Melt

Sheffield Doc/Fest persuaded Jarvis Cocker to soundtrack an amazing mash-up of archive films from the city’s steel industry past. Footage of hot furnaces and smelting, female steel workers, city pub boozing and dancing, and vintage animation, are all skilfully woven together by Martin Wallace, a long-time collaborator with Jarvis. Musicians who took part in a one-time live performance included Pulp, Richard Hawley, Serafina Steer, and the City of Sheffield Brass Band, who pump out a classic 90s house track. The whole thing was recorded for later broadcast. Heavy metal, man.
On BBC4 this autumn


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