Welcome to day one of our coverage of this years Sheffield DocFest. Today being the opening day we have the opening night shindig to look forward to, and in the meantime there’s a whole bunch of things to keep us busy. This post will be updated throughout the day. You can follow our special “DocFest Press and Assorted Journalist-types” Twitter feed too, at this LINK.

* First up today is Lucy Walker’s The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, an American documentary charting Japan in the wake of last years Tsunami. Before that though, I need to go and pick up my accreditation material.

* Interesting fact – Hope Lies HQ is quite literally next door to the main festival base. If there were an award for “Most Convenient Film Festival”, then DocFest would face no competition.

* The Tsunami & The Cherry Blossom made for a somber beginning to the festival. I’m just writing a full review of the film for TAKE ONE: Cambridge Arts Picturehouse Review. Click here to be taken to that. 

* Made it to Call Me Kuchu, with minutes to spare.

* Apologies for the late update on Call Me Kuchu. I’m shattered. Just picked up my ticket for tonight’s opening night gala, which is a screening of Penny Woolcock’s From the Sea to the Land Beyond with live accompanying score from British Sea Power. Should be fun.

* So, Call Me Kuchu. The film itself was a bit of a mixed bag. While unquestionably a fascinating subject, the pacing left a lot to be desired. It was a little loose around the edges, although a devastating third act revelation really brought it back down to Earth.

The film charts the plight of a group of Ugandan homosexuals on the eve of potentially damaging legislation being brought in, that would essentially make their lifestyles illegal. The screening today was the British premiere of the film. Much of Call Me Kuchu revolves around a man named David Kato, Uganda’s first openly gay man, and an activist for the cause. A make shift media obsessed with homosexuals seeks to outlaw Kato and co. encouraged by the likes of Lou Engle and his band of American evangelical nut-jobs. There are scenes of great power in the film, with one woman’s explanation of a forced abortion at five months pregnant hugely affecting, while elsewhere we might have DocFest 2012’s first hero in the shape of Bishop Senyonjo, a man of the cross who is actively going against the wishes of his seniors in an attempt to treat the LGBT fraternity fairly.
* Next up is the aforementioned From The Sea To Land Beyond.

* From The Sea To Land Beyond was pretty special. The film, a found footage ode to the British coast, was a little ropey, but pretty miraculous when one considers that the whole thing was put together in less than five months. The score however was downright perfect. British Sea Power created a score that riffed on their third album, Do You Like Rock Music? and beyond, creating an apocalyptically majestic work of brilliance. The choral refrain of Close Our Eyes is still bouncing around my head. Outstanding.

* Now waiting for the final film of the day, Indie Game – The Movie, a documentary concerning the booming independent video games market. I have high expectations following great early word from this year’s SXSW.

* I fully enjoyed Indie Game – The Movie. Essentially boiling down to a tale of two independent video games, and their creation and creators, Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky’s film explores the levels of commitment and obsession employed behind such fare. Holding no particular affinity for video games myself I half expected to struggle with the subject matter, alas I had no such woe: the subjects are actually rather universally relatable to, with the subjects plight for acceptance and approval from their audience and the masses a tale common to pretty much everyone. 

One of the programmers at the heart of Indie Game – The Movie, and self-styled rock ‘n’ roll programmer Phil Fish is a curious figure. The brains behind Fez, a long in development game with which his obsession borders on the dangerous, Fish, a sort of Rivers Cuomo via Wolverine declares that he will kill a former associate should the person in question cause Fez further delay, and even threatens to kill himself should the game turn out poorly. While a tad over-dramatic at times, one cannot deny that Pajot and Swirsky’s film capably portrays the stress and devotion at the centre of the lives of the films protagonists. It’s a fun film too, and a total crowd pleaser. 

* Well, that’s day one of this years DocFest over with. Join us tomorrow for day two of our continued coverage.