Doc/Fest 2016 – Women

Leveling the playing field at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016

The stories of women feature heavily across the film, Alternate Realities, Talks & Sessions and Doc/Fest Exchange programme at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest; some are ordinary, some extraordinary, often are an inspiration to us all. The festival has a strong history of supporting female filmmakers and this year is no exception – with Festival support also extending for the first time to all delegates with children – details of childcare facilities available during Doc/Fest can be found on our website:


The 160 strong Doc/Fest Film Programme, curated by Claire Aguilar, includes:

 Golden Girl directed by Susanna Edwards

Women in Docs/ International premiere/ Sweden / 2016 / 97 min

Frida Wallberg was the best female boxer alive. WBC World Champion and career undefeated, she was one of the most feared fighters in the world. Yet during her final fight, she suffered a life-changing blow. Rushed to hospital after a dangerous brain haemorrhage, Frida’s world changed in an instant. Her struggle to recover is to be her toughest fight yet.

 Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise directed by Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules

Women in Docs/ EU premiere/ United States / 2015 / 114 min

An icon of American politics and culture, Maya Angelou was an inspiring, didactic writer whose life spanned some of the most pivotal moments in the 20th century. This filmic biography by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack faithfully follows her life’s dizzying trajectory and features personal anecdotes from the Clintons, Lou Gossett Jr. and Oprah Winfrey.

Plaza de la Soledad directed by Maya Goded

UK premiere/ Mexico / 2016 / 84 min

A group of ageing prostitutes chat energetically in a square called ‘solitude’ (soledad). Observing and narrating their relationships over the course of two decades, acclaimed photographer-turned-filmmaker Maya Goded is a trusted confidante to many of these women. The film unpicks the recent lives of five who have been in the game for years, but nonetheless remain resolutely hopeful.

Presenting Princess Shaw directed by Ido Haar

Grand Jury Award/ UK premiere/ Israel/ 2015/ 80 min

Talented but isolated, New Orleans care worker Samantha Montgomery spends her spare time uploading a cappella videos of her original songs to YouTube, to a smattering of viewers. Unknown to her, in a far away kibbutz, Israeli mash up artist Kutiman is composing his next viral sensation – with Samantha as the star. Following them both, director Ido Haar brings us a gratifyingly heart-warming fairy tale from the digital age. The screening on Saturday 11 June will be followed by a performance by Samantha Montgomery, aka Princess Shaw.

Serena directed by Ryan White

United States / 2016 / 90 min

Shot verity-style, Serena focuses on the external pressures and vulnerabilities Williams faces in her quest to achieve four Grand Slams in a row (a “Serena Slam”), and her losses at the 2015 US Open and 2016 Australian Open. The film also looks at Williams’ life off the court with her family and inner circle of coaches, trainers and friends.

Care directed by Deirdre Fishel

Women in Docs/ World premiere/ United States/ 2016/ 65 min

With an intimate and empathetic eye, Care follows three American home care workers and their elderly clients, revealing the beauty and complexity of hands-on care and the profound connections it engenders. The film also exposes the failures of the U.S. eldercare system, which has care workers earning poverty wages and elderly clients struggling to pay for the care they need.

Miss Sharon Jones! directed by Barbara Kopple

Women in Docs/ United States/ 2015/ 94 min

Just as she hits her career-defining peak, “the female James Brown” funk and soul front woman Sharon Jones is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She resolves to get better, taking refuge away from New York and her concerned band mates. Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple documents the singer’s rocky recovery process, touching on how she found success in later life.

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.

Cameraperson directed by Kirsten Johnson

Grand Jury Award/ United States/ 2016/ 102 min

For 25 years American cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has roamed the globe for some of the doc world’s biggest directors, including Michael Moore and Laura Poitras. In this thoroughly engrossing film she refashions some of her footage into a kaleidoscope musing on her profession. Innovative and thought provoking, Cameraperson proves a masterclass in empathetic filmmaking, a must see for anyone forging a career on filming the lives of others.

Tempestad directed by Tatiana Huezo

Mexico / 2016 / 105 min

Miriam, a working mother who never appears on camera, makes her way across Mexico after being released from a cartel-run prison town. Counter posing her harrowing account is that of Adela’s, the spirited matriarch of a circus family whose daughter has been missing for years. Documentarian Tatiana Huezo poetically explores the haunting significance of homecoming for the two women.

Daddy’s Girl directed by Melisa Üneri

Women in Docs/ UK premiere/ Finland/ 2015/ 52 min

Daddy’s Girl is a tragicomic breaking-up story between a Turkish father, living in Finland, and his 26-year-old half-Finnish daughter. Their symbiotic relationship begins to deteriorate when the daughter moves to Turkey to start a life of her own. This is a story about rebellion, growing up and letting go.

National Bird directed by Sonia Kennebeck

UK premiere / United States, Afghanistan / 2016 / 92 min

Lisa Ling regrets the 121,000 lives she spied on electronically in a two-year period for the US Air Force. She’s now trying to make amends by visiting bombing victims in Afghanistan. National Bird follows Ling and two other whistle-blower veterans wracked with guilt about the secret US drone war, and the many civilian casualties that continue to be denied by the powers that be.

Alternate Realities – Virtual Reality Arcade, Site Gallery & The Space:

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

In My Shoes: Dancing with Myself

Jane Gauntlett, Andrew Somerville / United Kingdom / 2015

The true story of Jane, friends, strangers and epilepsy – told in virtual reality. Part of the In My Shoes first-person documentary project, performer Jane Gauntlett fuses film, theatre, technology and empathy in an ever expanding library of interactive experiences to recreate real-life experiences.

United Nations VR Film Launch
The UN has pioneered the use of virtual reality to raise awareness of global issues, including those faced by women. Join our mass viewing of their latest VR film, about gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where factions fight over the country’s mineral resources. After the viewing, director Gabo Arora will be interviewed by Francine Stock of BBC Radio 4’s The Film Programme. In partnership with Brink Institute.

Talks & Sessions:

The Absolutely Adventurous Joanna Lumley in Conversation

PARTICIPANT: Joanna Lumley

Doc/Fest and ITV are thrilled to welcome a true legend to this year’s festival: Joanna Lumley OBE. The celebrated actor, documentarian and campaigner comes to Sheffield to talk about her esteemed and exciting career in TV and film. Her documentary work has included epic journeys to discover diverse cultures and continents and intimate portraits of pop icons from Elvis to Born in Kashmir, Joanna began her professional life as a model, before moving into acting, including unforgettable performances in The Avengers and Absolutely Fabulous. This will be a rare opportunity to hear her discuss her experiences on films such as Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure, the Northern Lights and Nile, as well her future documentary work.

This event will be British Sign Language Interpreted. Supported by ITV.

In Conversation with HBO’s Sheila Nevins

A powerhouse in the documentary world, Sheila Nevins has shepherded scores

of the genre’s best films over many years and, as President of HBO Documentaries, is one of the US’s most powerful documentary executives. Sheila talks with Nick Fraser about some of the many hits in a career that has garnered nearly thirty Emmy awards.

 Female Trailblazers: New Ways of Working in Media

PARTICIPANTS: Rachel WexlerKristen JohnsonSophie Mayer , Lucy Baxter

There is a new vanguard in our media culture. A growing pool of talented and experienced women, tired of waiting for the film and TV industry to reach the 21st century, are driving it forward themselves. The voices of working mothers, and female perspectives in general, are being lost in the current industry climate. The women on this panel are forging ahead with new business models and new ways of working that suit their lives, their choices and their careers.

Honest Truths: The Ethical Challenges of Filmmaking

PARTICIPANTS: Angus MacQueen, Kirsten Johnson, Nanfu Wang

Any filmmaker who sets out to make a documentary faces multiple challenges, not the least of which is a set of ethical issues inherent in the process. To film or not to film? How close to a subject is too close? How far is too far? Sometimes lines are crossed and sometimes boundaries are set beforehand. These documentarians share their experience on recent projects and how they handled a variety of ethical issues that occurred.

Hooligan Sparrow directed by Nanfu Wang and Cameraperson directed by Kirsten Johnson are screening at the festival.

New Genderation: Has Factual Kept Up With the Revolution in Gender and Sexuality?

PARTICIPANTS: Jes Wilkins, Twiggy Pucci Garcon, Fox Fisher, Zoe Davis

Documentaries about the LGBT community have broken into the mainstream recently. Films like My Transsexual Summer, Gay and Under Attack and Girls to Men have told a diverse range of stories. While some of these were celebrated, others were accused of being voyeuristic and exploitative. So what is the attitude of broadcasters, programme-makers and the film industry towards gender identity and sexuality, and is there any diversity behind the camera?

Writing with Light: The Art of Cinematography

PARTICIPANTS: Petra Graf, Maya Goded, Kirsten Johnson, Nick Read

The harmony of photography and story has been the goal of professional cinematographers throughout cinema history. But how is the perfect marriage of image and narrative achieved and what choices do the director and cinematographer make to best visually express the story? A panel of distinguished documentary filmmakers will discuss the creative and practical process and offer valuable insights into the dramatic choices directors and cinematographers make.

Plaza de la Soledad directed by Maya Goded, is screening at the festival. Cameraperson directed by Kristen Johnson, is screening at the festival.

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

Creative Exchange… ideas behind Miss Sharon Jones!

Broadcaster Karen Gabay and Victoria Williamson, a specialist on the psychology of music, exchange ideas around the healing power of music.

Digging Deeper… Doc/Fest Alternate Realities: Virtual Reality

Emma Cooper of Rocket looks into the making of the groundbreaking virtual reality project In My Shoes with creator Jane Gauntlett.

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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