Sheffield Doc/Fest will announce its programme on Monday, and it will run from 10 June onward. But ahead of that, we want to take a clear stand for some of the main principles that we have and will keep defending in our work and our programme, and acknowledge our shortcomings as an institution
We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. As a team and as individuals, we will always add our voices and actively support this struggle. We demand justice for Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and their families. These horrendous acts present the ongoing trauma in already traumatic times. We also demand justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquest in Canada and all the deaths of Black people prior to these moments.
These latest events are symptoms of the structural racism that is rooted in our societies. Not only the USA and Canada, but every country with a colonizing history, including the UK (remember Sheku Bayoh, Sarah Reed, Edir da Costa). Police brutality against Black communities is not exclusive to America: we have seen it in Europe all too often.
We recognize, in particular for Black colleagues, filmmakers and audiences, for the Black community in Sheffield too, this is a particularly painful moment. The pandemic conflates a crisis in the heart of communities that have already been historically oppressed: we are thinking in particular of those who are already vulnerable to this triple threat. We are all responsible for this and no one can withdraw.
We acknowledge we are part of the problem, starting by the lack of representation within our own team. Within the film community and industry, access and representation is not fair, not all voices have been heard, not all images have been offered visibility. We acknowledge our responsibility as an institution, and we commit ourselves to do better, and to call on our industry to work with us for this change. It is not enough to show films by Black filmmakers, or to have Black people and communities represented on screen: we need to actively change the rules of the game. We need to work collaboratively: to form coalitions, to resist, and eradicate systemic racism within the film industry.
This cannot be done in a short turnaround, but it must be done - and it must start now. We, at Doc/Fest, commit to do our share - continue to aim to offer safe spaces, respect, love and care to Black filmmakers who participate and contribute to the Festival and to our Black colleagues who work with us everyday. This is even more crucial now - under the pandemic - we are carefully crafting ways to self-care whilst caring for others, and to resist perpetuating the cycle.
We want to address inequality in the resourcing, expression and distribution of Black British films. We want to give a platform to those filmmakers who are addressing these issues in their films, and we want to support the Black filmmakers living in the UK. We will start by hosting a (virtual) panel session on this from a filmmakers perspective.
Curated together, by the team, we will share, along the way, resources, films and readings that can help us, our funders and audiences to participate in, and engage. We begin with the list of anti-racism resources linked here including platforms for donation.
Whilst we know this is not enough and there is a long way to go, in our home, in our work, in our hearts, within our communities, we invite everyone to take part in this change.
On a personal note, coming from another country, I do not feel entitled to speak about British society, without addressing the one where I lived and worked all my life, Portugal. I come from a country with a violent, perverse colonial history, that brought destruction and pain to communities in Africa, Asia and America, that traded with slaves, that still allows for Black people to be brutalized by police, to be insulted in the Parliament, and to be treated as slaves of its new clean capitalistic face. This statement is not just about the UK, nor just about the latest events in the US and Canada. It is about all of us.
Like BlackLivesMatter, we affirm the diversity across the intersections of Black life, and encourage everyone to do the same.
Cíntia Gil & Sheffield Doc/Fest Team