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Sheffield DocFest 2023 supports new talent during the 30th edition

Jun 1, 2023

Sheffield DocFest announces the filmmakers selected to participate in the Filmmaker Challenge; the four pitches – Channel 4 First Cut Pitch, BBC Storyville Development Pitch, The Whickers Pitch and The Podcast Pitch; along with the jury members for the five competition strands. The 30th edition of the festival invites audiences and industry to ‘Spark Curiosity’ with documentary – and each other – in Sheffield, 14-19 June 2023.

In addition to announcing the chosen up-and-coming filmmakers, the festival reveals some of the attending filmmakers and guests for the films within the main programme. 106 films out of the 122 films will have filmmakers, protagonists and/or special guests attending to participate in insightful and fascinating Q&As. These will include: Brandon Scott, the mayor of Baltimore, for The Body Politic; three boxers from a South London boxing club will be present for a special performance before the screening of The Good Fight Club; Pastor Kim, from Beyond Utopia, who defected from North to South Korea and who facilitates North Korean defections; musician Dalton Harris and filmmaker Kim Longinotto for Dalton’s Dream; artist and filmmaker Melanie Manchot for STEPHEN and genderqueer filmmaker Jordan Bryon who finds himself at a moral crossroads when he is offered access to the Taliban in Transition. In addition, Jordan Stephens from hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks will moderate a conversation with Munya Chawawa, in which he will discuss his unique approach to integrating satire in documentary.

Filmmaker Challenge

Six rising UK filmmakers have been chosen to participate in the challenge, and will receive mentoring from Oscar and BAFTA-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (Touching The Void, The Last King Of Scotland, One Day In September).

The filmmakers will each make a short documentary in and around Sheffield during the festival, undertaking the challenge of making a film on the fly, with a micro budget and equipment support. All filming is to be undertaken in a single day and the final work will be screened for industry and invited guests on the last day of Sheffield DocFest.

The 2023 Filmmaker Challenge is supported by Prime, Canon, The Kurious and Sheffield Hallam University. Harjeet Chhokar, unscripted development executive at Prime Video says: “Prime Video are extremely proud to be working with the Sheffield DocFest and Oscar winner Kevin MacDonald on this year’s Film Maker’s Challenge. We are collaborating with them to support and nurture the next generation of filmmaking talent and cannot wait to see the final films that are created at this year’s festival”.

The participating six UK filmmakers:

Dhivya Kate Chetty
Dhivya is a Scottish filmmaker based in Liverpool. In 2018 she directed feature-documentary Glasgow, Love & Apartheid which was nominated for RTS Scotland and Celtic Media Festival awards. In 2021 Dhivya directed a short doc Bee Whisperer, as part of the Netflix Documentary Talent Fund, her previous film The Barber premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2022, and her most recent film When Tina Turner Came to Britain aired on the BBC this Christmas.

Dorothy Pickard
Dorothy is a filmmaker from South-East London. Dorothy’s films have been awarded Best UK Short at Open City, Special Mention at Oberhausen, Grand Prix at Arts Convergence, Young Director Award, shortlisted for a Grierson, received multiple Vimeo Staff Picks and have screened at major festivals including LFF, Doc NYC, Sheffield Doc Fest and Edinburgh International Film Festival. In 2019 Dorothy received the BFI New Talent Award and was named as one of Broadcast’s Hotshots.

Hannah Skolnick
Hannah is a documentary filmmaker from London, who has recently graduated from National Film & Television School (UK). Over the past few years, they have made documentaries for UK Broadcasters, including the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, and Channel 5 and selected credits include Ellie Simmonds: A World Without Dwarfism?. A primetime BBC1 documentary about British Paralympian Ellie Simmonds, Kathy Burke: Age A two-part documentary for Channel 4, and Miriam’s Dickensian Christmas, a Channel 4 Christmas documentary about Dickensian Christmas hosted by Miriam Margolyes.

Noémi Varga
Noémi is a Hungarian/British filmmaker based in Southeast London who has garnered critical acclaim for her work in the industry. Her films have premiered at festivals such as Rotterdam and Sheffield DocFest and won awards at BAFTA qualifying festivals in the UK. She participated in Short Form Station at Berlinale Talents in 2021 and is currently in post-production on her latest film, Folk, which is supported by DocSociety.

Rosie Baldwin
Rosie is a BAFTA-nominated documentary director, in 2018 she was one of Sheffield DocFest’s ‘Rising Directors’, and in 2021 was one of Edinburgh TV Festival’s ‘Ones to Watch’. She’s directed award-winning films that have screened in cinemas across the UK, as well as at BAFTA, BIFA and Academy Award-qualifying festivals including SXSW, Sheffield DocFest, Aesthetica Film Festival, and LIDF. Rosie is one half of Limpet Films, alongside producer Lucy Draper.

Tom & Theo Tennant
Tom and Theo are filmmaking brothers from Somerset. Their latest documentary, Frontier Town, was made with support from the BFI Doc Society fund and the Mountainfilm Commitment Grant, their short documentary, Maesteg, was screened on BBC Four and featured on Short of the Week, their fictional short film, Control was selected at festivals worldwide and their music video for Cheap Electric Pink Wool’s track 01G was nominated at the UKMVAs and longlisted for the 1.4 Awards in 2022.

2023 Jury Members

The Festival has confirmed the Juries for this years’ International Competition, International First Feature Competition, International Short Film Competition, the Tim Hetherington Award, the International Alternate Realities Competition, alongside its previously announced members of the Youth Jury. Winners will be revealed during the Festival’s Awards Ceremony, supported by Adobe, at Crucible Playhouse on 18 June.

International Competition Jury:

The Jury members for the International Competition are: BAFTA winning British documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto, who is well-known for making films that highlight the plight of female victims of oppression or discrimination (Pink Saris, Sisters in Law, Shooting The Mafia) and whose latest work Dalton’s Dream has its World Premiere at Sheffield DocFest this year; Mexican filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes whose film Sansón And Me won the 2022 Sheffield DocFest International Competition; and Vinay Shukla who is a filmmaker, producer, and a leading figure in the Indian documentary landscape. His new film, While We Watched, will receive its UK premiere at this year’s Sheffield DocFest.

The nine films in Official Competition are up for the Grand Jury Award which honours films that display strong artistic vision and courageous storytelling. This Award is Academy Award® accredited; films are listed below.

International First Feature Competition Jury:

The International First Feature Competition jury members are: Sonja Henrici, a multiple Award- winning producer whose features include Time Trial, Donkeyote, Seven Songs For A Long Life and I Am Breathing, she was also the co-director/exec producer of Scottish Documentary Institute from 2013 until 2020; Anna Higgs, a film producer known for 20,000 Days On Earth, Dark Horse and High-Rise; and Rosa Ruth Boesten, an award-winning director whose debut feature, Master Of Light, premiered at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival where it won the Documentary Feature Grand Jury Award before winning last year’s International First Feature Competition at Sheffield DocFest.

The nine films in the International First Feature Competition, which honours the future of non-fiction film, celebrates promising talent and is supported by Netflix, are listed below.

International Short Film Competition Jury:

The International Short Film Competition jury members are: Aboozar Amini, a Dutch-Afghan filmmaker (Kabul, City In The Wind) whose works are visual landscapes coming from the mixture of conceptual arts and classic cinema; Tracie Holder, a filmmaker (Joe Papp In Five Acts), consultant, producer and film funding specialist; and Rebecca Mark-Lawson, a Sheffield based producer who runs BFI Vision Award supported Tyke Films: a film, TV and VR production company with projects including the Grierson nominated and BIFA award-winning feature Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché.

The ten films in the International Short Film Competition are up for the Grand Jury Award which honours the best creative approach to documentary under 40 minutes. This section is Academy Award®, BAFTA and BIFA accredited. Films are listed below.

Tim Hetherington Award Jury:

Jurors for the Tim Hetherington Award are: Julian Carrington, managing director of the Toronto-based Racial Equity Media Collective and a programmer with the Planet In Focus Environmental Film Festival, after previously serving as senior industry manager at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival; Bruno Jorge, a Brazilian director whose new film The Invention Of The Other receives it’s UK premiere at this year’s Sheffield DocFest; and Katayoon Shahabi, an Iranian film producer (Banu) and CEO of Sheherezad Media International and Noori Pictures.
Five documentaries will be considered for the Tim Hetherington Award which recognises a film and filmmaker that best reflects the legacy of photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington and is presented in association with Dogwoof. Nominated films are listed below.

International Alternate Realities Competition Jury:
Jurors for the Alternate Realities Award which honours the best innovative non-fiction work are: Emma Cooper, an accomplished creative business leader, strategist, consultant and producer who has spent 20 years working with teams to produce innovative interactive media, games, marketing and education; Derek Richards an award-winning producer, consultant, educator, artist and creative technologist, who is currently head of Broadcast & Digital at the Roundhouse; and Andres Jurado a filmmaker whose short film Yarokamena will receive it’s UK premiere at this year’s festival.

Youth Jury:
This award is presented by five of the UK’s most passionate young documentary lovers to celebrate non-fiction cinema. The Youth Jury was previously announced as Alexandra Judkins, Amanda Daud, Annabel Bai Jackson, Jenny Luisa Barruol and Tymofii Donets who have curated a selection of seven films that will be considered for the Youth Jury Award.

See HERE for the previous announcement.

Audience Award:

The Sheffield DocFest audience have the opportunity to cast their vote at cinemas and venues for their favourite films and works – every feature film in the programme is eligible for the Film Audience Award.

Pitch Sessions

As previously announced, winners of four sessions for selected emerging directors to pitch their non-fiction projects to panels of judges will also be announced during the Awards ceremony. The sessions and confirmed filmmakers and jurors are listed below.

Channel 4 First Cut Pitch

Channel 4 will be offering five talented first-time directors the chance to present a three-minute documentary film that responds to a creative brief set by Channel 4 in front of a panel of commissioners, executive producers, established directors, and a live audience. The winner will walk away with a commission for their first 60-minute film, and a paid development with mentorship from an indie to support their idea.

First Cut Pitch Finalists:

Christine Saab
Catherine Harte
Jake Lea-Wilson
Holly Godfrey
Will Shears

Chair: Will Rowson (Channel 4 commissioning editor)

Panel: Janine Thomas (Channel 4 First Cut commissioning editor), Tabitha Jackson (film executive & former director of Sundance Film Festival), James Rogan (director, producer, and founder of Rogan Productions) and Anna Hall (founder, creative director & executive producer of Candour Productions).

BBC Storyville Development Pitch

Storyville is passionate about feature documentaries, telling timely stories from across the world. Selected finalists will pitch in person, sharing new ideas for consideration by the Storyville Commissioners, Emma Hindley and Lucie Kon, alongside other industry professionals who will decide which project(s) will be awarded the prize pot of £3000.

The 5 shortlisted projects:

When The Revolution Came To Town – Ruth Carslaw & Sara Hardy (United Kingdom)
With Women – Mia Harvey & Ayo Akinwolere (United Kingdom)
Prisoners’ Gambit – James Kilpatrick & Jack Morris (United Kingdom)
Kashpirovsky – Lukasz Konopa & Darya Maslona (Poland)
Born To Be Wilder – Ashley Francis Roy (United Kingdom)
Panellists: Emma Hindley (Commissioning Editor, BBC Storyville), Lucie Kon (Commissioning Editor, BBC Storyville), Syeda Irtzaali (Editor of Unscripted, BBC)

The Whickers Pitch

The Whickers Pitch brings together five emerging directors to pitch their non-fiction projects to a panel of industry judges, with one filmmaker chosen to win £100,000.

The 5 shortlisted projects:

9 Month Contract – Ketevan Vashagashvili (Georgia)
How To Kill My Grandfather – Lilyana Torres & Carlos Morales (Mexico)
Let’s Play Soldiers – Mariam Al-Dhubhani (Yemen/US)
The Silence Of Ants – Francisco Montoro (Spain/ Ukraine)
Women Of My Life – Zahraa Ghandour (Iraq)
Judges: Jo Lapping (Head of Factual Acquisition at BBC), Sam Soko (Award-winning director/ producer), Keisha Knight (director of funds & advocacy at IDA), Olivier Tournaud (managing director, Cinephil), Raul Niño Zambrano (creative director, Sheffield DocFest) and Jane Mote (consultant editor, The Whickers).

Hosts: Karolina Lidin (Nordisk Film & TV Fond) & Jane Ray (artistic director, The Whickers)

Podcast Pitch Projects

The podcast pitch brings together six in-development non-fiction audio creators to pitch in front of a selection of industry experts and commissioners. An independent jury will award a first prize (£5000) and second prize (£2000) to the most creative and promising pitches, funded by the Whickers foundation.

The 6 shortlisted projects:

Breathing Lyrical – Taqua Sadiq (United Kingdom)
Looking? – Max Hartill (United Kingdom)
Nevermade – Kingsley Marshall (United Kingdom)
Time, Paper, Bone – Catherine Boulle, Bongani Coa (South Africa)
The Crypto Church – Anonymous (Germany)
Untitled – Lex Boon (The Netherlands)

Panellists: Willard Foxton (creative director and developer at Novel) & Leanne Alie, (podcast commissioner and developer of new podcasts and new talent at BBC Sounds) and Hugh Levinson (commissioning editor at BBC Radio 4)

Supported by The Whickers.

Banijay UK Acceleration Bursary for Up-and-Coming Talent

DocFest also announces support for 35 creatives who have been awarded this year’s BanijayUK Acceleration bursary. These 35 ambitious UK-based creatives will receive a full festival industry pass, granting access to the full programme of films, exhibitions, talks, panels, industry sessions and live pitches, networking events and parties.

This initiative aims to remove barriers to entry, making the festival more affordable and accessible for early-career professionals who may not otherwise be able to get involved. In 2023 DocFest received 71 applications from across the UK with a diverse mixture of specialisms and applicants from both film and TV.

Supported by Banijay.

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