Described as ‘Cannes for documentary people’, the annual Sheffield Doc/Fest is the biggest and best of its kind in the United Kingdom and the third largest documentary film festival in the world.
Formed in 1994 with the far less snappy title of ‘The Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival’, the initial vision was to bring together and celebrate the craft of documentary making. In the intervening years – some of which have been a little bumpy, with the event struggling during the mid-noughties – the festival directors have stuck to this mission and simultaneously expanded the breadth and scope of the fest along with shifting its dates from a dreary northern English November to June, with the now-six day event recovering from its slight turn-of-the-century wobble to become major date on the filmmaking calendar.
Such is the festival’s importance now that film industry insiders – both from the UK and internationally – descend on the Doc/Fest in their droves, with 2014 seeing more than 3000 film, TV and digital delegates from 60 countries arrive in Sheffield. That year’s edition saw three Opening Night specials, over 150 films and 80 sessions, dozens of networking events and guest speakers ranging from Brian Eno to Grayson Perry. Amongst over twenty world premieres, Martin Scorsese’s documentary about The New York Review of Books made its debut to much acclaim.
The festival is now almost compulsory for people within the industry and is widely acknowledged as a fantastic launching pad for students seeking to break into the market, boasting MeetMarket for networking and sales, pitching sessions, and annual awards for the best and brightest from the fest. With a huge programme of events, workshops and year-round cultural activities across Sheffield and the UK, it continues to promote and celebrate documentary making in cinema and TV form, as well as offer assistance, training and education to budding artists and creatives. And – possibly best of all – the Doc/Fest continues to offer its annual highlight: the 70s roller disco with a champagne reception.
The 2015 Sheffield Doc/Fest takes place at the city’s Showroom Workstation and other venues across the area from June 5th to 10th.