By Jonny Stringer
Since working on the annual festival since 2007, Doc/Fest programmer, Hussain Currimbhoy says he’s managed to survive the build-up without ‘losing his mind or buying a pack of cigarettes’ – but this year he wants people to ‘come out and pay attention’.
Hussain said: “I’m on the push to get people to come out and pay attention because documentary can help you see the world around you in a whole different way – hopefully, we can get more people to experience that.”
Doc/Fest 2013 will be the Sheffield festival’s 20th outing and Hussain hopes to honour the anniversary by getting people more involved than ever.
With events that incorporate the city itself, the documentary festival is not going to be limited to cinema screens. Hussain believes that in the past, Doc/Fest has failed to ‘utilise the beauty that surrounds the area’, so this year his ambitions have been set on achieving just that.
Doc/Fest will be hosting ‘Screening in a Cave’, a screening of Nick Ryan’s The Summit inside High Peak Cavern, Castleton.
Hussain said: “It’s the largest cave opening in Europe and it’s one of the most beautiful caves I’ve ever seen, so we thought ‘Yeah, we can show a film here…’
“So we’re gonna put in a screen and some seats and really engage with the public more than ever. To see something in that sort of context should be truly unforgettable.”
But not all of Doc/Fest’s more interactive events mean packing your hiking boots. One event Hussain has been particularly impressed with is ‘Coral: Rekindling Venus’, an expanded cinema event held in the Winter Gardens.
Hussain said: “This is not like anything I’d ever seen before – it uses a documentary technique that allows you to walk into a dome, lie down with a pillow and look up at the ceiling to see a beautiful landscape of underwater coral, shot off the coast of Australia.”
Having witnessed the addictive installation numerous times elsewhere, the programmer invited Sheffielders to come along, lie down and appreciate the free event – “It’ll be the best thing you’ll do this summer!”
At the heart of the documentary festival is the line-up and with so many big names involved this year, Hussain thinks Doc/Fest 2013 will have ‘something for everyone’.
He said: “If you aren’t normally a fan but you just invest a couple hours to go see one of the documentaries on show, you will be hooked. You will see the world differently and fall in love with this medium.”
This year, the line-up is packed with films with audience appeal. Hussain picked out Mirage Men, Plot for Peace and Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer as films he feels will gather the most success. The festival programmer said Sheffield’s own Jarvis Cocker will gain great acclaim with his production, The Big Melt, which he thinks will ‘drive audiences crazy’.
Even with the big industry names of Walter Murch, Jonathan Franzen and Ira Glass, Hussain doesn’t doubt the potential of all the other films on show; describing each and every documentary with a proud boast. It was evidently a tough job coming up with the festival shortlist, but Hussain thinks he’s got it right.
Showing an unwavering enthusiasm for the medium, the festival programmer thinks the hardest part of converting documentary-sceptics is getting them into the cinema for the first time.
He said: “Once they get in, they tell friends and let other people know – documentary stays with you in a way that Hollywood films just don’t.
“If you like storytelling, you like film or you’re just curious about the world, this is the medium for you and Doc/Fest is the festival for you.”
As well as a chance to come out and appreciate film, the festival offers students other incentives and opportunities.
Steve Sprung is the course leader for International Documentary Production at Sheffield Hallam University. He says that ‘people at Doc/Fest are always coming to us to ask for volunteers’.
He continued: “Quite a number of people who work for Doc/Fest across the year got into that through voluntary work – so it offers some really great opportunities for students.”
To find out more about spectating or participating in Doc/Fest 2013, go to: http://sheffdocfest.com/