Films at Sheffield

Probably the scariest film I saw at Sheffield was Videocracy (director/producer Erik Gandini), a study of Silvio Berlusconi's Italy. It is not the first to compare the Italian president to Mussolini but it is the most convincing. Perhaps the most frightening idea it conveyed is that Berlusconi is not just a Mussolini, essentially an Italian phenomena, but a template for future media baron/ porn dealer/ controversial business tycoon/ political top dog. This film should be seen by everyone who values their personal freedom.

Petition (director Zhao Liang/ producer Sylvie Blum), is a powerful if uneven film. It is certainly not very well constructed but the picture it reveals of life under a brutal and uncaring state, looks more like Chinese fascism than any kind of communism.

Thank heavens for Best Worst Movie (director Michael Paul Stephenson/ producer Lindsay Stephenson), a marvellous, joyful work, this tells the story of the people who made the worst ever film (Troll 2). A thoroughly wonderful documentary.

P-Star Rising (director Gabriel Noble/ producer Marjan Tehrani), the story of a child rap star, made me wonder a lot about some of the ethical issues involved in shooting such a subject. But it has to be admitted that this is a very well made documentary about an absorbing subject.

American: The Bill Hicks Story (directors/producers Matt Harlock & Paul Thomas) is another example of the cartoon, or animated documentary (Waltz With Bashir, Persepolis), though it actually largely uses still photos. Technically, I think it is a better job (it has more dimensionality) but it is really a piece for Bill Hicks fans. I think it might have been a better film if it had been shorter.

Companion of Kings (directors/producers Tara Manandhar & David O'Neil) is about greyhound racing. It's the sort of film I should have made instead of Dogs Gone, though I still feel Dogs Gone has value.

American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein (directors/producers David Ridgen & Nicolas Rossier) is a great film. It shows that documentary really can handle complex arguments. All those who think that tv is all about Big Brother and East Enders should be forced to watch this just so they can glimpse an entirely different world.

Also worthy of note were Bastardy (director Amiel Courtin-Wilson, producer Philippa Campey), Junior (driector Jenna Rosher, producer Randy Rogers) and Horses (director Liz Mermin, producer Aisling Ahmed). Moving To Mars (director Mat Whitecross, producer Karen Katz) promised much but whilst it was beautifully shot (at least in parts) it didn't really deliver. BFI Present Coal & Steel Images of Industry showed some quite remarkable film, particularly an Edwardian documentary about coal mining and coal pickers.