Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects

With just four days to go to watch all available titles on Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects, here's a round-up of four films about film – each providing an insight into filmmaking and film watching...

Filmmakers give an insight in to their processes, celebrate the pioneers of cinema that went before them, piece together and re-present archive footage, and question both what they leave behind as filmmakers, and the role of the conscious viewer, in this selection.

Lifetime hackers and grandparents of video art, Steina and Woody Vasulka are struggling to archive their body of work when they are re-discovered by the art world they thought had forgotten them, in THE VASULKA EFFECT. An oral history of the legendary New York studio, as told through the voices of the artists, critics and curators who formed it is the subject of THE BUSINESS OF THOUGHT: A RECORDED HISTORY OF ARTISTS SPACE. In 2018, Barbara Hammer (whose work was showcased as part of Doc/Nights in February) gave the footage from an unrealised project to filmmaker Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material – the result is A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES. Set up as an experiment, a supporter of the state of Israel watches and comments on videos by Palestinian activists filming life in the territories, reflecting on the role of the viewer, in THE VIEWING BOOTH.

Read on for more detail on these four incredible films... A further 66 titles from around the world – are available to watch on Sheffield Doc/Fest’s VOD platform Selects until 23:45 BST on 10 July. Find out more here.

The Vasulka Effect , Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdottir, Iceland / Czech Republic / Denmark / Sweden, 2019, 85’ - UK Premiere

Artists Steina and Woody Vasulka met in Prague in the early sixties, before moving to New York where they discovered video and later founded the legendary gallery, Kitchen. In the film, the couple are now reaching retirement age, living in Santa Fe. Their entire life has been dedicated to art, as pioneers in music, waves, collage, and landscapes. As lifetime hackers and known as the “grandparents of video art”, their experiments can now be seen as having had a huge impact on a generation of digital artists. With Woody having sadly passed away in December 2019, now more than ever their work deserves to be rediscovered.

The Business of Thought: A Recorded History of Artists Space, Sierra Pettengill, USA, 2020, 11’ - World Premiere

An oral history of Artists Space, the legendary New York artists organization. Told through the voices of the artists, critics and curators who formed it, the film is narrated by voiceover culled from 30 hours of archival cassette tape interviews over a 45 year period. Artists such as Laurie Anderson, Mike Kelley, Hito Steyerl and David Wojnarowicz walk us through the decades. A formally-experimental and raucously-told chronology composed of rare archival documentation, The Business of Thought: A Recorded History of Artists Space is a reminder of the radical potential of the arts and the importance of collective, cultural spaces.

A Month of Single Frames, Lynne Sachs, made with and for Barbara Hammer, USA, 2019, 14’ - UK Premiere

In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had a one-month artist residency in the C Scape Duneshak which is run by the Provincetown Community Compact in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. While there, she shot 16mm film with her Beaulieu camera, recorded sounds with her cassette recorder and kept a journal.
In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her Duneshack images, sounds and writing to filmmaker Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material.

A Q&A with the director is also available to watch on Selects.

The Viewing Booth, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Israël, US, 2019, 70’ - UK Premiere

In a laboratory-like set up, The Viewing Booth, the filmmaker chooses an American student—enthusiastic supporter of Israel—Maia, and invites her to watch and comment on the videos made by a Palestinian activist collective who are filming the daily life of inhabitants of the occupied territories and the behaviour of the Israeli army. The film explores the relationship between viewer, documentary footage, and filmmaker; the way one builds one’s own fiction and analyses sounds and images through pre-established opinions. Building a unique relationship between viewer and filmmaker, the film is a deep and essential reflection on how we look at images.

A Q&A with the director is also available to watch on Selects.

Watch the trailer for The Viewing Booth here.


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