The wonderful Sheffield Doc/Fest sees off its second summer and its 19th year with some fantastic titles, events and workshops – particularly the opening night double bill of Doc/Fest co-production From the Sea to the Land Beyond (2012) (with live accompaniment from British Sea Power) and StudioCanal’s hugely moving Searching for Sugar Man (2012). It has also been announced that next year’s festival will herald the introduction of a new award commemorating Restrepo (2010) director Tim Hetherington, killed in Libya in 2011 alongside fellow photojournalist Chris Hondros. The award is presented by UK documentary distributor Dogwoof and judged by a jury including Tim’s mother Judith Hetherington, who will award a yearly cash prize.
“Doc/Fest is where the British and international doc-making community gather every year, so it’s right that we honour one of Britain’s great documentary filmmakers in the programme in this way,” said Head Programmer of the festival, Hussain Currimbhoy. The Inspiration Award was presented to Penny Woolcock’s aforementioned From the Sea to the Land Beyond, a decision that may seem deeply nepotistic considering Doc/Fest’s integral involvement with the film. However, any question as to its deservedness is instantly dispelled upon watching, the filmmaker’s intelligence and cine-literacy being so apparent and British Sea Power’s score so transportive and all consuming that one is struck by the fluidity and potential of factual filmmaking.
Doc/Fest Chairman Alex Graham, enthused that “[Penny Woolcock] starts with a question, circles round the subject like a hawk ready to pounce”, a pleasingly abstract review of a commendably unique and non-patronising film. Matthew Akers’ Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012) scooped the Special Jury Award ahead of the controversial Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012), which caused a stir after Chinese delegates shunned the festival for not removing the film from their line up. Akers’ film follows the self-proclaimed ‘Grandmother of performance art’ as she readies a retrospective of her work at the New York Museum of Modern Art and was described by jury member Carol Morley (director of 2011’s singularly brilliant Dreams of a Life) as a film that “becomes a performance in itself and blurs the boundaries beyond performance, filmmaking and art”.
Below is a list of the Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012 award winners:
Inspiration Award: Penny Woolcock – From the Sea to the Land Beyond
Special Jury Award: Matthew Akers – Marina Abromović: The Artist is Present
Sheffield Youth Jury Award: Ross McElwee – Photographic Memory
Sheffield Innovation Award: Leanne Allison, Jeremy Mendes – Bear 71
Sheffield Green Award: Michael Christoffersen, Hans la Cour – Law of the Jungle
Student Doc Award: Karen Winther – The Betrayal