Doc/Fest 2015: Our picks

One of the annual highlights of the documentary calender, Sheffield Doc/Fest returns today (5-10 June) with another reassuringly full programme that's true testament to the current health of factual filmmaking. Opening this year's festival is the UK premiere of The Look of Silence, director Joshua Oppenheimer's acclaimed companion piece to the Bafta-winning The Act of Killing (2012). Also screening for the first time on opening night is Benedikt Erlingsson's The Greatest Shows on Earth: A Century of Vaudeville, Circuses and Carnivals, a BFI-produced, Sigur Rós-scored archival piece with a title that speaks for itself. In total the festival will include 150 short and feature docs from 35 countries including 31 world, 13 international, 19 European and 41 UK premières.

A number of high profile documentaries making their European and UK bows are graduates of this year's Sundance Film Festival. From director Marc Silver, the impassioned 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets investigates what became known in the US as the "loud music trial", following the shooting of 17-year-old African American Jordan Davis by a middle-aged white male after a dispute over the rap music playing in Davis' car at a petrol station. Releasing in UK cinemas this August, Jerry Rothwell's How to Change the World takes audiences through the eventful early years of Greenpeace, from hiring a fishing boat to sail into nuclear testing waters in 1971, to the establishment of Greenpeace International in 1979.

This year's music strand welcomes Brett Morgen's successful Nirvana documentary Cobain: Montage of Heck as well as the Netflix-backed What Happened, Miss Simone?, a tribute to the troubled soul singer from director Liz Garbus. More enticing still is the European premiere of Jessica Edwards' Mavis!, a bio-doc on the titular gospel icon, which can be taken in by audience's al fresco in the surrounds of Sheffield's classic Victorian Botanical Gardens. As ever, events are one of Doc/Fest's main draws and this year the festival will honour the work of the late cinéma vérité pioneer Albert Maysles (his daughter, Rebekah, will discuss her father's legacy with director of programming and industry engagement Claire Aguilar following a preview of his final feature Iris) plus a John Akomfrah retrospective celebrating the English polymath's vital filmography exploring ideas of identity and race.

Mark Atkin, Acting Sheffield Doc/Fest director said of this year's lineup: "In recent years Doc/Fest has seen more and more documentary fans engaging with the festival and coming through its doors - last year over 26,000 people attended festival events, including 12,000 to the Interactive Exhibition at the Millennium Gallery. Doc/Fest is very lucky that Sheffield has so many incredible spaces within the city centre, which has enabled us again this year to showcase even more cutting-edge documentary across all platforms, including bringing a record 150 docs to the city’s cinema screens, collaborating for the first time with the Site Gallery with the Virtual Reality Arcade and again with the Millennium Gallery for the Interactive Exhibition, plus working with the University of Sheffield to bring Heather Phillipson to the iconic Castle House."

Sheffield Doc/Fest takes place from 5-10 June 2015. For more info about Sheffield Doc/Fest visit sheffdocfest.com.

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