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Five must-see Sheffield DocFest films to watch online for a fiver

Catch Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ and Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ follow-up

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Normally you’d need to head to Sheffield to catch films at its prestigious annual DocFest. Excitingly, this year the festival is a hybrid affair, which means you can catch its buzzy new non-fiction titles from the comfort of your home too. And Sheffield cinemas, of course. 

There’s some corkers to choose from. Sundance has already bestowed prizes on Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson’s ‘Summer of Soul’ and it will be streamable over the weekend, as will the first part of Steve McQueen’s three-part follow-up to his ’Small Axe’ anthology, ‘Uprising’.

Check out our preview below. Films start at £5 to stream and are available for 48 hours. If you’re looking to go deep into the programme, there’s a DocLover package for £55.00 that allows access to ten films – digitally or in the cinema.

1. All Light, Everywhere
Surveillance culture goes under the lens of this Sundance-winning doc from Theo Anthony (‘Rat Film’) – and in particular, the hot button topic of police body cameras. It’s one of several docs at the fest to delve into our rocky relationship with the record image, all set to a score from electronica maven Dan Deacon. 

Photograph: Sheffield DocFestUprising

2. Uprising 
If you loved Steve McQueen’s five-part tableau of Black London life, ‘Small Axe’, you’re going to want to tune into his new BBC series exploring the fallout of the 1981 New Cross fire (above). A London story about how a tragedy led to an upsurge in community activism, it is guaranteed to pack a mighty punch. The first of its three parts debuts at DocFest, with a McQueen Q&A to follow. Don’t miss it. 

3. The Story of Looking
Filmmaker, critic and writer Mark Cousins was stricken by an eyesight-threatening condition during lockdown. Instead of moping about on the sofa like many (ie us) would have done, he turned the experience into this rich cinematic journey into the art of seeing and how it connects us with culture, ourselves and each other.

Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Photograph: Sundance Film Festival

4. (...Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
A smash at Sundance in January, winning both the grand jury and audience prizes at the festival, Questlove’s doc (above) relives the musical majesty that was 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival. With wall-to-wall soul and funk bangers from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone, it’s a Spotify playlist’s worth of concert doc goodness.

5. The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation
This timely doc from Israeli director Avi Mograbi examines Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It’ll make a handy primer for anyone keen to dig behind the headlines, with testimonies from occupying soldiers and an unsparing snapshot of a human rights catastrophe. 

Sheffield DocFest runs June 3-13 and the full line-up is perusable on the official site.

The full Sundance Film Festival London line-up has been announced.

The 20 biggest and best films to watch at the cinema this summer.

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