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Cintia Gil • Artistic director, Sheffield Doc/Fest

“One of the reasons why film festivals exist is to bring people together”


- Cintia Gil, artistic director of Sheffield Doc/Fest, details how the festival will implement online components and year-long programming

Cintia Gil  • Artistic director, Sheffield Doc/Fest

Sheffield Doc/Fest will go ahead with its pitching forums – the MeetMarket and the Alternate Realities Talent Market – on their original June dates this year, but in virtual form. Other components of the festival will be split up into a series of weekends throughout the autumn, which will contain film screenings, talks, panels, artists' events and community engagement activities. Cintia Gil, artistic director of the gathering, explains the thinking behind these changes.

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Cineuropa: What made you decide to do a digital edition?
Cintia Gil: It's not a digital edition; we will not deliver the whole festival online. We did not want to deliver a purely online edition, because we feel that one of the reasons why film festivals exist is to bring people together. Although we cannot do that right now – and we don't know when we will be able to – we will make every effort to at least have some moments of physical screenings this year. We decided to analyse the different activities and components of the festival to try to find a model that somehow respects and reflects the nature of them. So a big chunk of the marketplace activities will be taken online because it's possible to do it that way. And then we will deliver film programmes, physically too, not following the normal model of the festival, over six intense days, but rather as weekenders during the autumn. Of course, the programme will be much smaller, and we will work to have partnerships with different platforms. We will have physical screenings, talks and panels in Sheffield – participatory activities that will also have an online aspect.

How will the online programme differ from the physical edition you were planning?
We will not hold competitions, for example, because we believe that an online experience of the films is different to a physical one. Therefore, our work as film programmers is to reflect on that difference, curating movies properly for each platform. It's very different curating films for an online platform compared to doing so for a cinema screen. From June onwards, we will also have online activities with films, but we cannot announce them right now, because we are still working on them.

How will it compare to the online edition of CPH:DOX?
I think it's not possible to compare it with CPH:DOX, because the government cancelled that event, so they were caught in a situation where they did not have enough time to prepare a contingency plan in advance. I think each festival is doing the best it can to cope with this.

Do you think some of these online components will carry on in the future?
Absolutely. For example, one of the things that we were starting already, and we want to continue, was this year-long programme of screenings and partnerships with online platforms, and having a year-long conversation with artists, filmmakers and the communities. The way we will amplify our activities through online devices is also one method of experimenting and bringing new models of collaboration.

How do you think filmmakers need to respond to these changes?
I think each filmmaker should respond by taking into consideration the best interest of their film. We will not have any premiere requirements for this year, because we feel that the online experience is entirely different. It's an experience that requires another approach to curation and programming. We want to give filmmakers the opportunity to show their movies in the best way possible, and to have feedback and a conversation around them. We will, of course, completely support those filmmakers who prefer to hold onto their premieres for next year.

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