The U.K.’s biggest documentary event, Sheffield Doc/Fest, has announced the opening and closing films for its 2021 edition, which — like 2020 — will mix both online and physical screenings due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Summer of Soul, the celebrated feature debut of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson about the little-known 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, is getting its European premiere to open the festival June 4, and, according to organizers, “inspire the next 10 days of programme through its testimony of a unique moment in history” and the “transformative power” of culture and music.
The Story of Looking, the latest film by Mark Cousins (The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema), and a feature that proposes we “look again into the world’s complexities, contradictions and beauty,” will close the festival June 12.
In a first for Sheffield Doc/Fest, both Summer of Soul and The Story of Looking will premiere simultaneously in select cinemas around the U.K., subject to government COVID-19 restrictions.
“We wanted to open and close with films that spoke to our programme and to what Sheffield Doc/Fest stands for, and to inspire our audiences after a very difficult time,” said festival director Cíntia Gil. “These films have helped us imagine our programme along the winter lockdown months, and will hopefully add to the joy of coming together again to share life and film before the Summer blooms.”
Four films were also announced for the festival’s Into the World strand, including The Return: Life After ISIS, about a group of Western women who spent their teenage years supporting ISIS and now want to return home; the three-part Minamata Mandala from Japanese director Kazuo Hara; Carlos Ghosn The Light Flight about the controversial former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; and Alvorada Palace, documenting the final days of Dilma Rousseff’s rule in Brazil.
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sheffield Doc/Fest was forced to scale back to a mostly online-only event.