Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 2)

Rhyme & Rhythm

Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 2). Esme Betamax | @betamaxer

Rhyme & Rhythm

Cinema meets sculpture, painting, dancing and drumming in this selection of short films from the Rhyme & Rhythm strand. From Croatia, Cuba, the UK and the USA, we immerse ourselves in the artistic expression of individuals and the joy of creative collaboration. The Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts programme serves to help us (re)discover artists from around the world, reminding us of the radical potential of the arts and the importance of collective cultural experiences and spaces.

Esme Betamax | @betamaxer

The Rhyme & Rhythm Shorts Programme includes 5 films, the first two of which are reviewed in Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 1). The rest are reviewed here:


Rhyme & Rhythm Uproar

Diunis is the band leader of Rumba Morena, a nine-strong all women group. It’s an anomaly in Havana’s rigidly male Rumba tradition. Stemming from the Abakua religion, the men claim that the spirit of the drum (Ana) loses her power if women play it or even go near it.  Diunis counters that it is simply down to “machismo”: The men don’t like the women to play.

It was not easy for Moe Najati to film Uproar in such an openly hostile atmosphere. Often their performances would be cancelled at short notice, or disrupted by people upset to see the group receiving any attention.

Rhyme & Rhythm Uproar

Najati gives a major proponent of the opposite view fair time to air his views on the matter, who wastes no time in backing up Diunis’s explanation that Rumba is traditionally highly misogynistic and homophobic. His reasons include his distaste for women wearing trousers, and that rumba is “profane”. He practically spits out the name Buena Vista Social Club, being offended as he is about their inclusivity.

Ultimately it’s heartening to hear from Diunis’s elderly father, who champions equality and encouraged her to follow her passion. His pride is palpable: “Cuban women are brave and capable people.”

The Business of Thought

Artists Space is an independent arts collective and gallery founded in 1972.

The Business of Thought demonstrates the passion and intensity required to create and maintain this type of environment. So often DIY arts collectives succumb to internal conflict or external forces (property developers). It is highly unusual for it to have survived, and thrived, for almost five decades. 

Rhyme & Rhythm The Business of Thought

The soundtrack is outstanding. It includes Arto Lindsay Trio, The Contortions, DNA, and Sonic Youth, all of whom performed at Artists Space over the years. It maps a line from No Wave, through Punk and Grunge and highlights the relationship that these genres are known to have with DIY art spaces. It has the potential to lead you down a musical rabbit hole, along with the likes of Brian Eno and Mars.

Director Sarah Pettengill chooses not to linger on any one aspect of Artists Space, which has seen several generations of artists call it home. Anti-establishment and not without controversy, a thorough history of Artists Space would require a change of pace. The Business of Thought is quickfire and multi-layered. It is impossible to take it all in in a single viewing. In using the raw materials she has—voiceover culled from 30 hours of archival cassette tape interviews over a 45 year period—this 11 minute film evokes the key to Artists Space: its spirit. 

Material Bodies

What is a prosthetic limb? Is it a body part? A piece of clothing? An accessory? Director Dorothy Allen-Pickard puts this to a small group of people, all of whom have prosthetic limbs. Material Bodies is a short meditation on prostheses, the unique perspective of each person who has one, and the reception they have noticed from wider society: from fetishisation to pity.

Rhyme & Rhythm Material Bodies

Material Bodies is filmed in such a way as to emphasise abstract shapes. It offers a limited view of the subjects, with music, colour, and texture adding to this abstract visual.

The UK has a poor record when it comes to ableism, only seeing worth if Paralympic medals can be won. But Allen-Pickard’s 4 minute short does not speak in terms of value, simply a group of people saying “I exist”.

More Rhyme & Rhythm at Sheffield Doc Fest here.

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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.


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