Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019

It was that time of year again, when the pleasant english industrial city of Sheffield turns into a hub of non-fiction extravaganza. With over 180 documentary films shown this year, Sheffield Doc/Fest certainly stands as an extraordinary UK film festival celebrating all forms of non-fiction films.

This year Sheffield Doc/Fest’s gem-packed screening schedule showcased a broad selection of shorts reflecting the different strands of the festival. After giving our square eyes some days to decompress, here are 3 of the best shorts we had the chance of seeing this year:

UK Docs

Disconnected - Alice Aedy (2018 - UK)

This short explores the implications of loneliness and isolation amongst young people in the UK. With a Minister for Loneliness appointed for office in the UK this past year, the struggles of British citizens have become more apparent. As this documentary points out 1 in 4 young UK citizens admits to feeling lonely and isolated some or all the time.

Disconnected examines this through intimate testimonies provided by voicemails left anonymous callers on an answer machine. We become witness to their personal experiences of loneliness annad isolation. These intimate and raw statements provide the voice over on calmly disquieting shots of urban UK landscapes. Reflecting one subject’s experience of feeling lonely despite being surrounded by so many people, Alice Aedy’s film creates an eerily beautiful atmosphere of urban desolation. Disconnected serves as an honest and empathetic warning on the actual realities of isolation so many of us face in this hyper-connected digital world.

Unconventional Docs

Fordlandia Malaise - Susana de Sousa Dias (2019 - Portugal, Brazil)

Comprised of archive footage and meticulously constructed aerial shots Fordlandia Malaise shines light on a strip of land in the Amazonian Rainforest representing a failed utopia of Anglo-American colonialism. In 1928 Henry Ford appropriated this piece of the rain forest to create his perfect factory. The project failed not long after is was established, however many of the indigenous people who were transported there remained.

Abandoned industrial complexes have become laced with myths and indigenous histories of people who themselves were never given the room to leave their own traces. Examining the present through past memories, Fordlandia Malaise exposes us to a post-colonial dystopia. Sousa Dias’ film raises questions about persisting global inequalities through the study of a disconnected singular place.

International Docs

America - Garrett Bradley (2019 - USA)

A mesmerising ode to the history of black cinema with clear contemporary urgency. America challenges the idea of black cinema as a trend or new movement, instead emphasising the ongoing contribution made by African American filmmakers and artists. As research has shown, over 70% of silent films made between 1912 - 1929 have been lost. Instead of aiming to construct a narrative through the fractions which remain, Bradley has created a modern day continuation of the early silent day era films. America stands with no dialogue - it is carried by a beautifully enigmatic ambient soundscape and masterful black and white cinematography.

Bradley succeeded to create a short which archives the past through the present; preserving the past from erasure whilst posing current questions about current day representation of African Americans. This short stands as a cultural testimony solidifying the history of those whose cultural contributions have been pushed into oblivion.

Garrett Bradley’s America won this year’s Doc/Fest Short Award, to check out all other nominees click here.

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