Kevin Macdonald, Klitschko, Roger Ross Williams in Sheffield DocFest

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The Sheffield DocFest will open its 2024 edition with the world premiere of Kevin Macdonald’s Klitschko: More Than a Fight on June 12 at Sheffield City Hall. The annual documentary festival in England also unveiled Roger Ross Williams, the first African American director to win an Academy Award for his 2010 doc short Music by Prudence, as the guest of honor.

The Sky original Klitschko: More Than a Fight promises to offer audiences “unprecedented access to former heavyweight boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir, who together
dominated the sport for more than a decade,” according to a description of the doc. “Now the longest-serving mayor of Kyiv, this feature-length documentary charts Vitali’s journey from the ring to political office, leading the defense of the capital when it was attacked by Russian forces in February 2022 to the present day. While Wladimir uses his celebrity status and popularity to help raise funds and military support for the defense of Ukraine, the heart of the story is the remarkable transformation of Vitali from
sporting hero to political figurehead.”

Scottish Oscar winner Macdonald (One Day in September, Whitney, High & Low – John Galliano, Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland) directed the project, “delving into exclusive personal archives, combining the retrospective story of the Klitschko brothers’ Soviet childhood and their incredible sporting career, with present-day footage shot by director of photography and co-director Edgar Dubrovskiy (The Tinder Swindler) in Ukraine, the U.S. and Germany.”

The film, produced by Docsville Studios and Sky Studios, will air on Sky Documentaries and Now in the U.K. and other Sky territories, including Germany, later this year.

“Like many people around the world I was shocked and outraged by the aggression, murder and wanton destruction of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said Macdonald. “I wanted to help in some small way – and making a documentary is the only way I have at my disposal.”

Last year, Macdonald attended Sheffield DocFest as a mentor for its “Filmmaker Challenge,” inspiring participants to combine creative and compassionate approaches to work. “With Klitschko: More than a Fight we see his commitment to artistry and authenticity in equal measure,” said Annabel Grundy, Sheffield DocFest’s managing director. “We’re honored to welcome him back to present this incredible portrait of hope, charisma, and determination to make a difference.”

Touting Roger Ross Williams‘ role as guest of honor, the fest emphasized that his “impactful and diverse range of documentary films span topics such as the black American experience, living with disabilities and the cultural ramifications of Western religion in Africa.”

Williams will also part in an “In Conversation” session, discussing and reflecting on his career in Sheffield. He will also present a specially curated program of five social impact documentaries and moderate a panel discussion with the filmmakers. The films selected present stories that shed light on “oppressive histories in order to disassemble their effect in both the present and future,” organizers said. “The films not only tackle important subjects, they are poetic and creative.”

Said Williams: “I chose these films because they highlight the complex social dilemmas of our times. Each is an example of an effective collaboration between filmmakers from different backgrounds who each bring their unique life experiences to the table. In a time when dog-whistle politics aim to separate us and erect social walls between us, these filmmaking teams have used their distinct perspectives to chart a course toward community and healing.”

Sheffield DocFest will unveil its 2024 theme later this week, with the full public program to be announced on May 8. The event, running June 12-17, celebrates its 31st edition this year.

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