Susan Morris | Reviews

Sheffield DocFest 2023: Arts

Sheffield DocFest also boasted films about the arts, particularly photography and music. Tish Murtha photographed the working class motivated by her hometown of South Shields on the North Sea coast. Her aim was to record the negative impact of Thatcher era de-industrialization in black and white photos.  

Filmmaker Leo Regan had been photographing and filming his good friend, photographer Lanre Fehintola, first in the 1998 film Don’t Get High on Your Own Supply, then in 2001 with Cold Turkey which chronicled Lanre’s addiction to heroin (he started when he was photographing a group of drug addicts for a book and wanted to get at the “truth”), and now in My Friend Lanre two decades later. Fehintola has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, so this becomes a medication on dying, drawing on 25 years of footage. Lanre says that documentary photography taught him humanity and patience.

Drummer and composer Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes is the subject of an insightful documentary by Samuel Pollard and Ben Shapiro. Roach worked with Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, Abby LIncoln, Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine, Stan Getz and Miles Davis and formed his own quintet with Clifford Brown, who sadly died in a car crash in the 1950s.

Dalton Harris is a gay, Black singer from Jamaica who went on to win the TV competition X-Factor UK in 2018 in Dalton’s Dream.  Despite his “voice of velvet,” he runs into prejudice both at home and his adopted country because of his sexuality.  His ups and downs in the music business are tracked, but his inability to secure the career he wants is clear. He performs in “regional theater” in the UK and has become an advocate for LGBTQ rights.  

Song of Souls is the melancholy story of Shan culture in Myanmar, a country steeped in civil war and military rule (home to Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest). The folk singers Nan Mya Han sings metaphorical verses that express the pain of her people. There are shots of an upside-down temple with lots of minarets. This odd film is a rare glimpse into the hard to access culture of Myanmar.  

The R&B girl group TLC, formed in 1990 is the subject of TLC Forever. The film follows their 2023 tour, with their new iteration, having lost Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in 2002 at age 30. They worked with LaFace Records in Atlanta, considered the Motown of the South run by Baby Face and L.A. Reid.  

WHAM!, the duo comprised of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley is told by the latter, the surviving member.  Best friends in high school, their unlikely success was overshadowed by Michael’s singing and songwriting talent. The questions is asked: “How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”

Read about conflict and outcasts at the Sheffield DocFest

Films Mentioned
Tish, Director Paul Sng
My Friend Lanre, Director Leo Regan
Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes, Directors Sam Pollard & Ben Shapiro
Dalton’s Dream, Director Kim Longinoto
Song of Souls, Director Sai Naw Kham
TLC Forever, Director Matt Kay
WHAM!, Director Chris Smith

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Media

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