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Sheffield Doc/Fest: The 20th anniversary

By: Anne Booty
Date: 25 Jun 2013

It all began with a delayed journey from sunny St Pancras, a drunken lady collapsing mid-afternoon at our feet, and meeting Melvyn Bragg at Sheffield train station. How could this not end up being the best Sheffield Doc/fest ever?

Documentary Delights

Docfest is a treat platter. When you are handed such irresistible treats, you try and down everything before realising that not everything will fit in your ambitious stomach. Just like previous years there is always so much going on… It always has so much going on, you can’t be everywhere at once. Sadly, we missed the likes of Jarvis Cocker in The Big Melt as well as I Am Divine, the new Divine documentary that I have been desperate to see since crowd-funding began on it in 2011. So I resigned myself to not knowing how Harris Glenn Milstead (aka Divine) ended up doing bad things on a church alter in Multiple Maniacs, but then remembered with glee and serendipity that Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer was also screening at Docfest. I’d get my taboo-breaking, church-baiting fix after all. Hoorah!

Easter Eggs to Wild Things

Following on from a powerful screening of the documentary and live Q&A with Katia from Pussy Riot, we awaited Thursday and Friday with baited breath. Kicking off with “An Autopsy of Easter Eggs Live” (the production company behind this, Windfall Films, used our music on their last interactive nature series Foxes: Live), it was a fascinating insight into the challenges of multiplatform production. Then it was off to Project Wild Thing the new documentary from Green Lions who gave us Erasing David in 2010. Warm, funny, inspirational and full of Audio Network music (we love those guys). Plug alert: Coming to a UK cinema near you soon!

Music for Documentaries

Our panel on all things music, “Music for Documentaries: Creativity, Choices and Clearing Rights” proved a big hit, Glyn Middleton from True North Productions, Composer Philip Sheppard and independent filmmaker Lindsey Dryden were such an asset and could all talk about music from different perspectives.

Our gig later that evening with Cuckoo Records was a blast. The stand out band for me was The Spirit of John. Part Pogues, part Johnny Cash, I’ve never seen a man slap a double bass quite so dramatically. Nashville wept.


Michael Palin, Alan Yentob and David Bowie

Highlights session-wise for me were Michael Palin and Alan Yentob. David Bowie’s Cracked Actor is one of my favourite documentaries of all time, so getting the chance to geek out on how Yentob approached making the film was wonderful. Equally great was seeing Palin in conversation with the brilliant Miranda Sawyer. A fitting pairing I thought.

Whipped into Submission

And so broken, but happy, we arrived at Friday evening. Turning in with a satisfied yawn, midnight rapidly approaching, the strains of Toto’s Africa waft through my hotel window. It contrasts nicely with the late night movie on television; Secretary. And like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s rear to James Spader’s slapping palm, I too felt happily whipped into submission by DocFest. Big love to the city of steel for yet another sterling performance…. Until next year.

For more on our best music for documentaries, read here.

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