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Sheffield Doc/fest announces festival highlights

Sheffield Doc/Fest is delighted to announce a taster of this year’s film programme, which includes award-winning documentaries from around the world. The 15th festival will screen more than 100 films over the five days.

Last year, Doc/Fest introduced several themed strands, which highlighted the current trends of documentary filmmaking. The success of the Green, Bent, Anti Doc, Sports and Music strands mean they will be heading for Doc/Fest audiences again this year, with the addition of Kinky Docs: a celebration of sex and its representation in documentary. Doc/Fest’s retrospective of Japanese documentary classics will also continue in 2008, specially curated by Mark Cousins.

For the first time this year, Doc/Fest will introduce a leading strand of documentaries about a specific cultural issue. As Doc/Fest 2008 will open just after the announcement of the next US President, this year’s festival will be led by a series of films that investigate Regime Change. As the world begins to explore what the alteration in this highly influential government will mean, Doc/Fest will highlight the best documentaries from around the world that interrogate and celebrate the impact of a ‘shift in power’ on our everyday lives.

Among the films to be premiered in this strand are:

War Love God Madness (dir. Mohamed Al-Daradji)
In 2007 Mohamed, a young and idealistic filmmaker, summons the courage to look back over the last three years of his turbulent life, piecing together the jigsaw of his experiences of filming in a war zone. In 2004 Mohamed had returned to his home, Baghdad. Stumbling upon the once vibrant streets that were then consumed by unemployment, hunger, poverty, political violence and madness, he set forth to make a film. War Love God Madness tells the story of the making of Iraqi feature ‘Ahlaam’ and the horrific toll placed upon its cast and crew.

Bulletproof Salesman (dir.Micheal Tucker, Petra Epperlein) UK Premiere
Bulletproof Salesman tells the story of German salesman Cloer who sells armoured vehicles in the Iraq war zone. This incisive and darkly amusing film follows Cloer through sales pitches and product demonstrations, which include being fired at while at the wheel of an armored vehicle.

Front Runners (dir. Caroline Suh) UK Premiere
Stuyvesant High School in New York City is holding elections for a new Class President. As the home of some of the best and brightest students in the state, competition is fierce. Front Runners follows the candidates as they pick running mates, create platforms and appeal to fellow students. As the student stereotypes fall away, the students learn that politics isn’t about what you say, it’s how you say it.

Full Battle Rattle (dir. Tony Gerber) UK Premiere
In California's Mojave Desert, the US Army has built a "virtual Iraq" - a billion dollar urban warfare simulation - and populated it with hundreds of Iraqi role-players. Full Battle Rattle follows an Army Battalion through the simulation, as they attempt to quell an insurgency and prevent Medina Wasl, a mock Iraqi village, from slipping into civil war.

Shadow of the Holy Book (dir. Arto Hanolen) UK Premiere
Shadow of the Holy Book investigates why some of the world's biggest international companies are translating the Ruhnama, an absurd government propaganda book from Turkmenistan, into their own languages. The film explores the immorality of international companies doing business with the dictatorship of oil-and-gas-rich Turkmenistan.

Also new for 2008, Doc/Fest’s collection of Kinky documentaries will surprise and stimulate as they explore the sexual, the not so sexual, the outrageous and their related politics.

Among others, Doc/Fest 2008 will premiere:

WorldRevolution (dir. Klaus Hundsbichler) UK Premiere
WorldRevolution is the story of Stefan Weber and his cult Viennese rock band Drahdiwarbel, their rise to fame, Austrian politics and Stefan’s pet chicken.

The Japanese strand is a three year project in partnership with Mark Cousins and is part of Japan 150, which celebrates 150 years of cultural exchange between the UK and Japan.

Among others, films to be shown in this strand in 2008 include:

Narita: Heta Village (dir. Shinsuke Ogawa)
In the early 1970s, Narita Village in Japan was at the centre of a huge conflict. Students and peasants protested against plans to destroy the village to make way for an airport. Living among the peasants, Ogawa captures the daily life of the villagers the terrible impact the struggle has.

As the world’s first documentary festival to be totally CO2 free, Doc/Fest is also committed to showcasing the best films investigating environmental issues. As some start to question whether we have left it too late to salvage our planet, the documentaries in the festival’s Green strand explore our approach to living with the world and learning from our past.

Films to be premiered in this strand include:

Blast! (dir. Paul Devlin) UK Premiere
Acclaimed filmmaker Paul Devlin's brother, Mark Devlin, PhD, leads an international team of astrophysicists from the Arctic to the Antarctic to launch a revolutionary telescope on a NASA high-altitude balloon. No less than the origins of the Universe are at stake on this risky scientific adventure that seeks to answer humankind's most basic question ‘how did we get here?’

Flow: For the Love of Water (dir. Irena Salina) UK Premiere
This film highlights the local intimacies of a global water crisis: African plumbers reconnecting shanty town water pipes under cover of darkness to ensure a community’s survival; a Californian scientist forcing awareness of shockingly ignored public water toxicities. Through an unflinching focus on water politics, pollution and human rights, this film explores the precarious relationship between human beings and water.

The documentaries in Doc/Fest’s Bent strand explore the battles fought by the gay community against social and cultural inequity.

Among others, Bent documentaries for 2008 will include:

Suddenly Last Winter (dir. Gustav Hofer, Luca Ragazzi) UK Premiere
This follows gay partners Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi as they explore how legislation giving equal rights to same-sex partners is quashed in the Italian Senate and doomed to redrafting limbo. It explores how religious and far-right organisation stir up hatred against untraditional families.

The Anti Doc strand showcases ‘documentaries with bite’ that challenge the form of traditional documentary filmmaking and deliver messages through unconventional modes.

In 2008, these will include:

Peace with Seals (dir. Miloslav Novak)
The central question, "Why did the seal disappear from the Mediterranean?" is an interesting one, but helmer Miloslav Novak and scribe Ferdinand Pitrosu aren't interested so much in answering it as they are in following around an affable Italian filmmaker named Emanuele Coppola. This indulgent and fanciful film follows the trio as they blunder from Sardinia to Turkey using seal Trojan horses and night vision cameras.

Everything is Relative (dir. Mikala Krogh)
Are our values, dreams and hopes basically the same, merely mirroring our different lifestyles? Everything is Relative is a kaleidoscopic fusion of documentary sequences, archive material and tableaus of human beings, which portrays how our reactions are relative to the conditions that guide our individual lives.

Sports documentaries have seen an unprecedented rise in credibility in recent years. Doc/Fest’s Sport strand showcases the best films in this field.

Among others, films in 2008 will include:

Junior (dir. Isabelle Lavigne and Stephanie Thibault) UK Premiere
Filmed in the direct cinema tradition, Junior takes in one complete season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. The film offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at life in this hyper-competitive environment, where teens as young as 16 are already gambling with their future.

Sheffield bears the soil for some of the best music in the UK and the ideal marriage of music and documentary is focused on in the festival’s music strand.

Highlights for 2008 include:

We are Wizards (dir. Josh Koury) UK Premiere
We are Wizards profiles some of the power players in the underground Harry Potter creative community, including a seven-year old rock star and his teen pop idols.

Little Lost David
Little Lost David is a rare breed. He is gifted with a voice that can soar as effortlessly to ethereal heights, as it plumbs red-raw depths. This film follows the travails of the 26 year old singer/songwriter whose serrated songs of love and loss nail the tone of modern life propel him to the top of the Sheffield music scene.

All films will be available to view both by festival delegates and the general public. Tickets will be on sale from Friday 3 October.


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