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After several months of chaos that saw its CEO leave amid “artistic differences” and a claim by the outgoing organizing team that it was terminated without notification, the Sheffield DocFest is getting some welcome stability.
Clare Stewart, the former head of the BFI London Film Festival, has been appointed interim CEO, while Oscar- and BAFTA-winning doc-maker Asif Kapadia (Amy, Senna, Diego Maradona) joins as guest curator for its 2022 edition.
As well as steering the next edition, Stewart — who led the London Film Festival from 2011 until stepping down in 2018 — will also work with the board and senior team to forge a new, long-term strategy for the U.K.’s biggest documentary festival. Kapadia, meanwhile, will personally select some sections of the screenings program and work with the team on events, talks and other initiatives.
Alongside the new appointments, the festival has also opened the search for new senior programmer to work with Stewart on the overall selection.
“Sheffield DocFest is renowned as a potent, innovative and fun feature festival that brings together works of great urgency and creativity,” said Stewart. “It is a privilege to have the opportunity to build on the legacy of past leadership and to work with the Board of Trustees and the dedicated Sheffield DocFest team at a time when the landscape for festivals, documentary makers and audiences is shifting so radically.”
In mid-August, it was revealed that Cynthia Gil had stepped down as Sheffield DocFest CEO, the second major exit within just over a week after deputy director and long-time staffer Melanie Iredale left to lead the Birds’ Eye View festival.
The official festival statement was that Gil’s departure was “as a result of artistic differences over the present and future direction of the Festival with the Board of Trustees,” but just days later programmers Juliano Gomes, Qila Gill, Carlos Pereira, Christopher Small, Rabz Lansiquot, Soukaina Aboulaoula and Herb Shellenberger – who all worked on the festival’s 2020 and 2021 editions – wrote an open letter claiming they were “silently locked out of our email accounts and all traces of our presence at the festival — names, photos, information about our work — were scrubbed from the website,” adding that they received no note of their termination. The board of trustees later wrote an apology to the programmers for “not communicating better.”
Sheffield DocFest’s 29th edition will run June 23-28, 2022.
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