Sheffield documentary festival director Cíntia Gil pens vision for 'free and rebellious' city's event

The new director of Sheffield's documentary festival has described the city as "a home away from home" when outlining her vision for the event in an open letter.

Cíntia Gil, who comes from Portugal, joined the festival team in November last year.

-> Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020's artistic team features names from around the worldAhead of the 27th edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest, which takes place between June 4 and 9, she set out her feelings about the city and her expectations for the festival, which she vows will "prioritise education and internationalism over any kind of nationalism".

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She said: "I come from Lisbon Portugal and immediately felt this corner of Yorkshire to be a home away from home.

Cntia Gil. Picture: Sheffield Doc/Fest.Cntia Gil. Picture: Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Cntia Gil. Picture: Sheffield Doc/Fest.

"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."

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-> How Sheffield International Documentary Festival became a blockbuster event - in numbersMs Gil wrote of how she believes film to be a "transformative experience" and said festivals are an opportunity for change and a "place to celebrate our human capacity to welcome the unknown, create the unexpected - in collaboration".

Sheffield. Picture by Scott Merrylees.Sheffield. Picture by Scott Merrylees.
Sheffield. Picture by Scott Merrylees.

She said: "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."

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Doc/Fest is now a registered charity, and its stated aim is to be of service both in the interest of filmmakers, artists and the public, said Ms Gil.

Ms Gil, who took over from interim director Melanie Iredale, added: "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.

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"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."

As well as its international and UK competitions, the festival has a series of themes: 'Into the World', 'Rebellions', 'Ghosts and Apparitions', 'Rhyme and Rhythm' and 'Retrospective'.