There have already been a number of film festivals this year which have moved online, and while I saw a few films from We Are One and from the London Indian Film Festival, as two examples, I made much more of an effort with the online edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest, a festival I’d meant to visit in person for years and was hoping to this year. The 15 films I ended up seeing were just a small selection of what was available online (and I still have a few to catch up with, as some of the films have been extended beyond its 10 July end date), but there were still some excellent examples and I intend to devote this week to the films I saw at the Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects 2020 and, I hope, a little round-up of my overall impressions on Friday.
This is a very solid band documentary that doesn’t break any moulds, but instead is elevated by the inherent interest (to me) of its subjects. The film gets interviews with all the band, including the early members (who variously called it quits or were ousted), its former manager and the record label boss, as well as look-ins from members of The Specials and Madness. However, it essentially just covers their peak years up to the (first) break-up in 1985, with a brief addendum about solo careers, and a final plea for their inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That said, there’s plenty enough to be getting on with, including a few dramas, some relationships and a lot of drugs. Oh and of course their excellent music, which is featured both in the new wavey pop videos they made back at the start of MTV, as well as in live performances. I didn’t necessarily go away with any new understanding of fame or success, but it was good to spend time in their company and listen to their music with the contextualising commentary from the women themselves.
Director Alison Ellwood; Cinematographer Samuel Painter; Length 97 minutes.
Seen at home (Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects streaming), London, Friday 3 July 2020.