Our Festival Director Cíntia Gil announces her vision and film programme strands for 2020 edition of Doc/Fest:

A letter to Sheffield and to those who will join Doc/Fest in 2020

I joined Doc/Fest in November 2019. I come from Lisbon Portugal and immediately felt this corner of Yorkshire to be a home away from home. Sheffield is a unique city with a strong heritage forged by working people. It is also a city that has embraced culture and creativity with a population that challenges the status quo politically, economically and socially. My view of Sheffield is therefore one of admiration: the dignity of a city and its populace that has retained an air of freedom and rebellion in our present times. The generosity of a city like Sheffield that welcomes so many migrants, students and artists is admirable. I feel thankful and inspired by this and it is these qualities of the city and the Sheffield people that make it the ideal home for Doc/Fest.

As a film programmer my passion is showing films and art to people that provoke encounters, discussions and (hopefully) result in meaningful experiences. I believe cinema can have a transformative experience and have a deep trust in the people as a collective force for change. My experience of the UK is of a country going through a critical moment and of a city with a strong history of resistance and a surprisingly resilient culture. A city that has six cinemas working with 35mm projectors says something about a population: many cities have thrown these to the wasteland in the pursuit of the new. Doc/Fest is a film and arts festival that gathers filmmakers, practitioners, artists, children, and people from diverse backgrounds into a common task: to imagine life and a view of the world through the lens, to critically discuss it and take ownership of it. A film and arts festival is an opportunity for change. It is not about judging one another or producing rules and norms, it is about questioning rules and norms and questioning ourselves. It is about considering filmic art as a critical tool and taking responsibility for developing meaning through it. It is about listening and togetherness. A festival is also a place to celebrate our human capacity to welcome the unknown, create the unexpected - in collaboration.

It is with these values in mind that the Sheffield Doc/Fest’s team will programme the 2020 festival. With a passion to share and discuss films and multi-disciplinary arts with our audiences. We will not programme to show a simplified world, but rather to welcome audiences join us in trying to make sense and understand it. We will not only show masterpieces and strong works of art, but welcome works and makers that highlight fragility, doubts, problems and fears. The bravest works are those which do not hide and defend - just like people. On the contrary, they take fears and fragility as the basis for creation, and generously open up a space for thinking, feeling and acting.  No festival, as an artistic space, is neutral: Doc/Fest will make choices, and will stand for its core values of empathy and inclusiveness through its Film and Arts programme, its Talks and debates and the Talent and Marketplace projects it supports.  Doc/Fest will prioritise free artistic ventures over the transformation of film into entertainment product for profit. We will prioritise education and internationalism over any kind of nationalism. We will prefer films and artworks made politically over political propaganda offering easy conclusions. We will prefer peripheries over centres. We will prefer the plurality of lives over the commodification of identities. We will be open to criticism and prepared to have difficult discussions.

Doc/Fest is now a registered charity, its aim is to be of service both in the interest of filmmakers, artists and the public. We are a festival committed to the values of freedom, social engagement and collective development of the arts, therefore the purpose of our work becomes even clearer with this new status. The Festival will work for the film and arts communities in the UK and internationally to offer access to everyone, against any conflicting interests of the dissenting few. Through these values, we have redrawn the film programme into the announced strands and soon will reshape the arts exhibition programme. The film programme will include not only a view of challenging and affirmative films of the last twelve months; but films that foster an urgent and creative dialogue between past and present. A film festival is partly about how to co-exist, how to share a space and time collectively. It is not about being tied to the present, more about being able to see any historical work as an opportunity to better comprehend and imagine our future. The programme comprises multiple filmic forms and multiple universes that combined, will provide a possible map of our world, our time and how cinema is a powerful way to address them. Doc/Fest is a combination of future imaginations and possibilities for action, made by a group of people who want to be part of an urgent conversation: one about freedom and solidarity, about how to build bonds across the globe through culture, to create generous environments for co-existence. 

Announcing Doc/Fest’s 2020 Film Programme Competitions and Strands


Singular films from all over the world, driven by courageous and creative ways of reflecting life and imagining our times.


Bringing together diverse films with the UK as the main country of production into a contemporary conversation, championing and spotlighting artists and filmmakers with fresh perspectives on the world and on cinema.


Into the World is about all of us—the distant, the close, the intimate, the political—our worlds and their infinite appearances, challenges and dangers. Films by essential directors with essential themes that take varied approaches to exploring our past, present and collective future.


There are as many ways to rebel as there are humans on this planet—and cinema can be one of them. What happens when a human who wants to change the world meets a camera? What happens when a film changes a human being? Reality is here to be invented and it’s up to us to take it into our own hands.


Since the first glimpses of the moving image, ghosts were haunting our imaginations, including those yet to be. A ghost from then meets a ghost from now - histories and collective memory are born. And cinema: the dismantling of frontiers.


Film has a rich tradition of incorporating and interacting with other arts and practices. From music to performing arts, from visual arts to literature, these films offer encounters and inspirations to a different beat.


Each year, Doc/Fest will present a retrospective that brings to Sheffield fundamental histories of cinema. Sometimes a theme, sometimes an idea, sometimes a filmmaker, each retrospective will be a unique moment to revisit the history of non-fiction and documentary, and to put contemporary cinema in perspective.