Doc/Fest 2016 – Jewish History

The past revisited: Jewish history at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016

At Sheffield Doc/Fest we explore entirely new ways of looking at the past via documentary film and Alternative Realities. This year’s festival premieres pioneering approaches to Jewish history, including a World premiere from USC Shoah Foundation in the AR Summit, plus extensive Talks and Sessions exploring archive and subjects of historical sensitivity. The film programme boasts no less than 4 new works dealing with Jewish stories past and present including a World premiere, 2 UK premieres and 2 competing for the coveted Grand Jury Award in 2016.


The 160 strong film programme, curated by Claire Aguilar, includes:

 Brothers directed by Wojciech Staroń

Grand Jury Award / UK premiere / Poland / 2015 / 70 min

After almost 80 years in exile, brothers Mieczysław and Alfons Kułakowski return to their native Poland from Siberia and Kazakhstan. They slowly rebuild a simple co-existence despite their different temperaments. Over a number of years, director Wojciech Staroń pays the nonagenarians regular visits to quietly observe their endurance and, most of all, to celebrate their deep affection for one another.

Destination Unknown directed by Claire Ferguson

World premiere / United Kingdom, United States / 2016 / 80 min

They endured the death camps. They hid in remote farms. They fought as partisans in Polish forests. But when the war ended, the struggles of the Holocaust survivors were only just beginning. Destination Unknown paints a uniquely intimate portrait of survival, revealing pain that has never faded, but which has not crushed the human spirit.

No Home Movie directed by Chantal Akerman

Belgium, France / 2015 / 115 min

Chantal Akerman documents the life of her mother Natalia Akerman, a Polish immigrant and Auschwitz survivor. Focusing on conversations between Akerman and her mother, and using a home movie format to document small family moments, the film ends a few months before her mother’s death and before Akerman took her own life in October 2015.

The Settlers directed by Shimon Dotan

Grand Jury Award / UK premiere / France, Germany, Israel / 2016 / 110 min

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers today live in the middle of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. In an archive rich, thought provoking film Shimon Dotan traces their history, painting a picture of an often-haphazard movement in which a small number of extremists have succeeded in controlling the narrative – helping ensure that peace in the region remains elusive.

Alternate Realities: Interactive Exhibition:
The free-of-charge Alternate Realities exhibitions curated by Mark Atkin feature 26 virtual reality and interactive projects.

 New Dimensions in Testimony

World premiere / Heather Maio / USA / 2016

The USC Shoah Foundation’s New Dimensions in Testimony invites you to have a conversation with the scanned image of a holocaust survivor powered by sophisticated natural language processing software that allows you to ask him questions about his experiences and get a natural response.

Talks and Sessions:

Documentary and Trauma: a Survivor’s Guide

The pressure on documentary filmmakers to deliver stories that demonstrate in-depth access about difficult and traumatic issues is greater than ever before. But are we properly equipped to do the best job? A panel of expert filmmakers and trauma experts discuss the different approaches now being used. How do we cope, how do we protect vulnerable contributors and how do we depict the issues we witness in the best way?

Evidence Based Storytelling with Christian Humborg

Oscar-winner Spotlight showed the power of investigative journalism. is using the same techniques to expose the criminal networks behind refugee smuggling in the Mediterranean, finding out who really downed MH17 in Ukraine, and uncovering the structure of a Neo-Nazi terror cell in Germany. Find out what the ingredients of investigative journalism are, how to make people talk and how to captivate your audience with a story.

Innovation in Archive

Immerse yourself in the opportunities and creative potential of archives and meet curators, commissioners and producers working at the cutting edge of documentary. The panel will explore ways that filmmakers and artists are combining archive and new technologies to engage audiences across TV, cinema, VR, galleries and exhibition spaces, and what the future holds for film heritage. Supported by Creative Skillset.

BAFTA Masterclass: Working with Archive

Archive is an essential tool in the documentarians’ toolbox. In this masterclass we hear from filmmakers from both film and television who have creatively used archive footage to tell their stories. We will discuss how archive can be used in storytelling, how to make archive footage resonate with an audience and explore the relationship between director and archive producer. Supported by BAFTA and Creative Skillset.

Doc/Fest Exchange On Tudor Square Supported By Wellcome Trust:

 Digging Deeper… Doc/Fest Alternate Realities: Interactive

With Emma Cooper and Stephen Smith

Emma Cooper from Rocket talks to Professor Stephen Smith about the making of the ground-breaking New Dimensions in Testimony project from Doc/Fest’s Alternate Realities: Interactive Exhibition.

Part of a series of free-of-charge conversations and creative exchanges inspired by extraordinary talent, groundbreaking films and interactive and virtual reality storytelling.



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