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Everything's Coming Up Docs!
Suddenly this summer documentary festivals seem to be mushrooming across England.On the eve of Cannes I attended a crowded croissants and coffees Launch for the Sheffield DocFest, in the smart offices of the The Guardian newspaper in Kings Place, on the fast-developing side of the Kings Cross railway station.It was a very professional presentation by the Festival Board and programmers with many clips of selected entries, and ample footage of previous festivals which seem to have filled the centre of Yorkshire's largest city with impressive professional and public audiences for a genre of film that a decade or so ago would have been considered minority, marginal and often monotone. Endless juries, prizes,pitchings, and fundings from a host of agencies and TV companies seem to have turned Sheffield into a dynamic equivalent of the more established, content-driven (as I believe the vogue phrase is) older international documentary festivals such as Leipzig, or Thessaloniki(which I 'approved' for FIPRESCI a decade or so ago and seems happy to flourish without my attendance ever since- beware of Greeks not bearing gifts anymore).
A livelier contrast was the Media Launch about a month ago of what is only the 2nd Open City documentary film festiva,l which hosted a very congenial party in a stylish subterranean student bar, even closer to my central London home, with a good showreel presentation and even more literate speeches of welcome and information from the admittedly more academic team behind this event, which is housed largely in University College London premises, and aims to open the same to the public during the rest of this week, with some very high-class jurors, Master Class guests from across the Channel, and screenings in some of the usual art-house venues across the capita as welll.In spite of the open bar, where multi-lingual student staff generously dispensed double Zubrowkas, there was a crowded audience for the subsequent screening of two documentaries and a panel discussion in the marvellous Screen@rada-- the main modern auditorium within the legendary Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which happens to be a part of the University of London, and, thanks to recent donations from such alumni as Alan Rickman, now can also function as an excellent cinema.
So the auspices for the 2nd Open City festival this week in London bode well and assuming I find my way into the Festival Hub in the heart of London's Bloomsbury I shall report at greater length in due course.
For full programme details see www.opencitydocsfest.com or find the printed brochures in sundry London venues now.
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