Historian, broadcaster and filmmaker David Olusoga and BAFTA-nominated director George Amponsah are among a wealth of talent curating a celebration of Black British cinema, the subject of the 2021 Sheffield Doc/Fest retrospective.
The program – titled “Films belong to those who need them – fragments from the history of Black British Cinema” – aims to spotlight the history of Black British screen culture. It seeks to find connections between past and present, and to spark a conversation about how this filmography resonates with contemporary filmmakers and artists.
To achieve this, the festival has invited guest curators who bring a breadth of perspective to select the program.
Olusoga’s work includes BBC series “Black and British: A Forgotten History” and “The World’s War.” He electrified the Edinburgh TV Festival last year as he candidly called out racism in the media industry while delivering the MacTaggart Lecture.
Fellow curator Amponsah was BAFTA-nominated for his 2015 documentary “The Hard Stop,” and he recently directed BBC documentary “Black Power: A British Story of Resistance,” executive produced by Steve McQueen.
The curators also include Anthony Andrews and Teanne Andrews of We Are Parable, a film exhibition company focusing on providing audiences around the U.K. with opportunities to respond to and experience Black Cinema in culturally relevant ways. We Are Parable’s program “Remember/Re-evaluate/Review” will take titles from the 1970s which “explore and identify how implicit racism has continued to fester in the British Media, some 40 years after these projects were first broadcast.”
Writer/filmmaker Campbell X (“Stud Life,” “Different for Girls”) curates “Destroy | Disturb | Disrupt – Decolonizing Queer Desire,” where “Black queer filmmakers craft an intervention into desire for the Black queer body on film – a space denied to Black queer people as agents of our own longing and storytelling. These films show Black queer filmmakers creating our own language to disrupt our colonized historical framing by the white straight cisgender lens.”
Another filmmaker Judah Attille’s (“Dreaming Rivers”) program, “Sonic Register: British Black womxn and onscreen performativity,” is “a curated discussion of films animated by a three-way conversation between British womxn working in the arts. This conversation considers ‘performativity’ as an expanded function or ‘doing’ within and beyond the frame. The conversation takes a critical non-fiction approach to form a contemporary lens to look at canonical, heritage British films.”
In cultural historian Mark Sealy’s program, “SE24 – HD4 – SW3. Posting Codes,” the underlying principle of what constitutes home links films by Clovis Salmon, Topher Campbell and Sandi Hudson-Frances together. They discuss ideas of place, space, migration, community, location and dislocation, and, as a body of films, they remind the audience of “how important it is to post the codes of their own stories.”
Also curating is a group of film students from Sheffield Hallam University as part of a partnership project led by Chi-Yun Shin, principal lecturer in film studies.
The full program will be announced May 11. This year’s festival, a hybrid edition, takes place June 4-13.