Five films to see at Sheffield Doc/Fest

What to watch at this year’s edition of the long-running documentary festival

The 25th Sheffield Doc/Fest takes place from June 7-12. As ever, it features an eclectic programme of more than 100 documentaries, talks and interactive exhibits. If you are keen to discover how varied and energising the documentary scene is right now, here is a small selection of the films worth checking out at the festival…

The Insufferable Groo


Will Jack Black agree to film a human/elf love-drama with Utah writer-director Stephen Groo? After all, Groo has made nearly 200 low-budget movies so he has plenty of experience, albeit without a box-office hit to his name. The Insufferable Groo summons the spirit of cult classic, American Movie, for what looks to be a sincere and funny portrait of DIY filmmaking. June 8, 12 

A Northern Soul

Sean McAllister returns to his hometown of Hull with A Northern Soul, which opens the festival. In his previous film, A Syrian Love Story, the intrepid filmmaker forged a deep connection with his subjects, unearthing familial anguish amid civil war. This reflexive documentary was filmed during Hull’s City of Culture celebration, as its residents and workers navigate Brexit divisions and an austerity economy. June 7, 12

Turtle Rock


Another return to a childhood home, this time for filmmaker Xiao Xiao who captures life in the remote Chinese village where he grew up. Home to fewer than 100 people and named after a turtle-shaped rock formation, this is a quiet, black and white wonder that unfurls slowly as the seasons change and the challenge of living at the mercy of the elements becomes apparent. One for the big screen, for sure. June 9, 11

Too Beautiful: Our Right to Fight


Cuba is steeped in amateur boxing, but it has thus far been a sport strictly for the country’s male fighters. This film, by Maceo Frost, follows Namibia, a 39-year-old female boxer, who trains at the historic El Trejo gym and lives in hope that the government change their rule banning women from competing in the boxing ring, so she can get her shot at Olympic glory. June 8, 12

Black Mother (with live score)

A love letter to Jamaica in the form of an expressionistic film essay by Khalik Allah. Black Mother uses a bundle of film formats, including Super-8, 16mm and digital, combining them with moving photographic portraits, the sound of prayer and shopping, and visions of birth and death. Somehow a coherent and immersive documentary emerges from this mass of material – an experience sure to be enhanced by the live-score by Brixton-based composer Gaika. June 10


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