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Asif Kapadia, Sheffield DocFest Guest Curator, Unveils Program

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Asif Kapadia, the Oscar-winning guest curator for 2022’s Sheffield DocFest, has unveiled his program A Documentary Journey with Asif Kapadia.

Kapadia, who is best known for his documentaries ‘Amy,’ about Amy Winehouse, and ‘Senna’ about Brazilian motor-racing champion Ayrton Senna, opened the last in-person iteration of Sheffield DocFest in 2019 with his feature about legendary Argentine footballer Diego Maradona.

The festival, now in its 29th year, was digital only in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

Featuring “films that have had significant impact for him, inspiring his own style and creative choices as a filmmaker,” Kapadia has selected eight documentaries for the series, including “When We Were Kings” about Muhammad Ali (pictured above).

“Without this film, there would be no ‘Amy.’ There would be no ‘Senna.’ There would be no ‘Diego Maradona,’” said Kapadia of the Ali feature.

“This selection is personal to me, as someone who grew up in Hackney in the 1970s and 1980s,” said Kapadia. “I didn’t come from an art or film background. It was quite profound to know that it was possible for someone to make films like these.”

The director will also take part in an in-person discussion with his frequent editor Chris King, to discuss the choices they made regarding which scenes to include and which to leave out in his best-known docs.

Check out Kapadia’s selections for ‘A Documentary Journey with Asif Kapadia’ – as well as his comments on each film – below:

“C’était un rendez-vous” (Claude Lelouch; France, 1976)

“When I first saw it, I wondered if it was real or whether it was a fake. But it is real. And dangerous. And thrilling. Is it a movie? Is it a doc? A short film? Part of a longer film? I love the fact you cannot neatly place it in a box.”

“Dark Days” (Mark Singer; US, 2000)

“This made me cry. It’s a film that many people don’t know. The filmmaker was so invested in the characters and the subject, the homeless people became the crew and the filmmaker became homeless. The story and the passion that filmmaker invested in it really moved me.”

“Fourteen Days in May” (Paul Hamann; UK, 1987)

“I was in my teens when I saw this and Clive Stafford Smith became a hero to me – the story of a UK lawyer who fights for death row inmates in the US. I eventually collaborated with him on a film about the force feeding of Muslim inmates at Guantanamo.”

“A Great Day in Harlem” (Jean Bach; US, 1994)

“From one photo of all these jazz legends, this filmmaker created a record of their lives through the interviews she conducted with them. This film also taught me about the importance of editors in the process of making a documentary. They’re so essential in the process of creation. You can make a movie out of anything. If you have will.”

“Italianamerican” (Martin Scorsese; US, 1974)

“As a filmmaker, Martin Scorsese is my hero. This has always been a favourite because the relationship he has with his parents is so funny and there’s no embarrassment. I’ve lost my parents and I wish I had a record like this of them. Scorsese also gave me the inspiration to make features and documentaries.”

“London” (Patrick Keiller; UK, 1994)

“I saw this at a time when I went off to the cinema to see all different kinds of films on my own. I watched at the Everyman cinema in Hampstead on a Sunday night and was blown away by it. Shots went on forever, there was a voiceover that sounded more like poetry. It was a film made about a place that I recognised – my city – but revealed it in a completely new way to me.”

“When We Were Kings” (Leon Gast; US, 1996)

“I saw this on a huge screen at the Empire Leicester Square. A documentary on the big screen. Muhammad Ali was one of my father’s heroes and he told me I had to see this. He became one of my heroes. I loved Ali and I knew no drama or actor or screenplay could ever do justice to him or his incredible story. Without this film, there would be no ‘Amy.’ There would be no ‘Senna.’ There would be no ‘Diego Maradona.’”

“La Jetée” (Chris Marker; France, 1962)

“I could have included Chris Marker’s ‘Sans Soleil.’ But ‘La Jetée’ was more of an inspiration for me. It’s not strictly a documentary, but it is documenting a life – albeit a fictional one – through still images. It’s like so many documentaries, like so many films, which exist beyond easy definition and draw on so many different styles.”

Sheffield DocFest runs from June 23-28.

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