German Joys Mini-Review: ‘Fucking Sheffield’

I don’t care who knows it: I love arte, the French/German television channel. It’s the most unpredictable, adventurous, uncensored television Drainguy1blogchannel any human will ever see.

Switch it on, and you might see anything from a 2-hour performance by a Taiwanese dance company to a documentary about salt caravans to a docu-soap about French girls auditioning for a job at a cabaret to a performance of Pierrot Lunaire to an interview with Emanuel Levinas to a debate on the French headscarf ban to a feature on Slinkachu, an artist who attaches tiny figurines like Drain Guy to the streets of London.

What do I see last night? Fucking Sheffield. That’s name of the film: Fucking Sheffield, a documentary by Kim Flitcroft about the crumbling South Yorkshire town of Sheffield and its least upwardly-mobile inhabitants:

Cassi is a Lap Dancer at the Blue Minx Gentlemans Club, but her dancing days are numbered. Cassi wants to be a singer. Mick is a junkie who has lost everything to his heroin habit, everything except his beloved Vespa scooter. Stevlor is a photographer on a mission to prove that Sheffield is filled with beautiful girls. Glen returns home to Sheffield after ten years in life’s darkest places. There isn’t a bridge that Glen hasn’t burnt. With humour and tenderness the film follows these four characters as they face their crises and chase their dreams.

The only thing more brilliant than this documentary was the fact that it had German subtitles. I could barely understand a fookin’ syllable any of these people said, and I’m a native speaker. Where they found a German who could understand South Yorkshirese — often being slurred by drunks or junkies — is beyond me. Maybe the subtitler just guessed half the time; I certainly wouldn’t know how to double-check a translation of "Fim ye minge doon at the nairgle poontray fer me vespa, since ye’s got layens on the tiebee, ye fuck."

In Fucking Sheffield (perhaps the name comes from the fact that "fuck" or a permutation thereof is said at least fucking twice in every fucking sentence every fucker in Sheffield fucking says), Flitcroft films these friendly, funny, fuck-ups being themselves, with seemingly total access. No dopey commentary or voice-over.

All of the characters were interesting, though you wouldn’t necessarily want them living next fucking door:

Cassi was actually kind of sweet, a talented stripper and not a half-bad singer, even though she drank a bit too much for a woman who was 2 months pregnant at the time of filming.

Stevlor the photographer lured fresh-faced Sheffield Roses to his council flat and took quasi-artsy nude pics of them. My favorite prop was slices of bread with holes cut out of the center to accommodate one model’s perky, pierced nipples. At the end of the photo session, Stevlor asked her whether she’d like to take the bread home; "No, me boyfriend’s allairjick te yaste." Stevlor had books of his photos printed privately and smuggled them into bookstores, where they all sold despite having no bar-code or price on them.

Glen the ex-junkie tried to get a job in a porno video shop, but apparently lacked persuasive dildo-marketing capabilities. He ends up doing very hard landscaping work, and very hard drinking afterward. He has two children, but isn’t allowed to see them anymore. Still carries pictures of them in his wallet, though.

Mick the not-so-ex-junkie was constantly roving around Sheffield on the hustle; he reminded me of Johnny Boy in Mean Streets, except less psychotic. You feel a sense of relief when he finally gets accepted to the methadone clinic. It’s too late for his teeth, though — because junkies can’t feel pain, they don’t know when they have a toothache and their teeth go all rotten. Mick gets three of them yanked out of his mouth in the dentists’ office.

Just one of the many parts of Fucking Sheffield that you want to avert your eyes from but somehow can’t. An intense, human, intermittently howlingly funny film, and yet another splendid choice by arte.

16 thoughts on “German Joys Mini-Review: ‘Fucking Sheffield’

  1. “…and I’m a native speaker” Thats hilarious – coming from a Texan. Quite a few natives (or is it “a local” in your case?) of the former British colonies think that they speak a proper English, while they just sport their local pidgin…

    scnr 😉

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  2. Sorry but since last week’s philosophy student incident, nothing has changed, I’m still working on my tax filings, grinding my teeth, and the German and French governments are still providing arte with an annual budget of something like 500 million Euros that’s more out of proportion to its viewership that probably anything on planet Earth.I guess I’m risking to be banned from this blog sometime soon for constantly waking the author from his dreamscapes induced by government handouts, but I’d rather be honest than polite.Not that I recommend it by the way, but since there was a complaint about falling readship here sometime ago, according to this guy, deleting comments attracts readers. Maybe not the kind you want but hey, they’re page impressions, right. 🙂

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  3. Fook You, xxx. Texas is a helluva lot better off (anfd intelligible) than large parts of the olde country. It’s probably all the furriners who moved into those parts – avoids inbreeding.

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  4. Oh, I’m used to the cracks about Texas, especially from Britons. Any delusions of British cultural superiority can be countered with stiff doses of reactionary Theodore Dalrymple’s ample body of work on Britains foulest residents. The sight of the vomit-slick, alcohol-corpse strewn inner cities of England after a nice Saturday of feverish binge-drinking will also do nicely. Note that I’m not trying to make a point about which nation’s ‘culture’ is ‘superior’. I’m making the point, as always, that the very idea of such global, fundamental comparisons is the vomit-splattered nadir of idiocy.

    As for you, Hendrik, I’d never ban anybody with such a nice Nordic name! In fact, I don’t believe in banning people, nor do I have the time for it. I’ve only deleted one comment, which contained potentially libelous material and which was the subject of a specific complaint. Other than that, people can post whatever they want.

    Obviously, we disagree about the desirability of government policy to create a substantial space for non-commercial cultural expression and exchange. Different nations follow different policies in this area. The policies are dictated by cultural priorities, and no approach can claim to be valid across all borders. Using the freedom of travel we’re fortunate enough to enjoy these days, I made my choice for a country that follows policies more to my liking, and I pay taxes to support them. Every day, I find confirmation of the choice I made.

    In the U.S., you’d have to travel halfway across the country to see a documentary like ‘Fucking Sheffield,’ (if it’s shown at all) and you’d have to prove you were over 18 to see it, because it shows breasts and has decidedly un-Christian language. In Germany, I can see it in my living room, without advertisements. Because the director didn’t have to worry about maintaining Nielsen ratings or offending jumpy commercial sponsors, he could make the documentary exactly the way he wanted — without censoring it, dumbing it down with a plodding commentary, or adding moralizing messages.

    If that sort of thing isn’t important to you, so be it, no skin off my nose. But if you’re so deeply irritated by the government using your taxes to create a dense network of cultural institutions, I’d suggest moving to a place like Houston, Texas, where you’ll find that almost everybody else thinks like you!

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  5. Sorry but since last week’s philosophy student incident, nothing has changed, I’m still working on my tax filings, grinding my teeth, and the German and French governments are still providing arte with an annual budget of something like 500 million Euros that’s more out of proportion to its viewership that probably anything on planet Earth.

    Hendrik, it would be silly enough that your only argument against public funding (“government handouts”) of cultural institutions would appear to be “I’m working hard and I don’t want it.” But even sillier is that you bring it up for no apparent reason at all. Ok, this is not quite as ridiculous as the last time, when Andrew’s sin was that he mentioned in passing that a university might (le gasp!) have a philosophy department. Still, when it’s not possible to praise Arte’s programme without you bringing up your pet issue, you risk looking like the guy who got bitten by a dog once and now manages to bend every harmless conversation topic to the danger of wild animals and what must be done about them.

    Aside from that, Arte’s budget is only around 362 million euros, of these around 344 million from television licence fees (2005), and of these Germany pays about half. This amounts roughly to 2 percent of the budget of ARD and ZDF, which is around 7,000 million (“7 billion”) euros. If it grates you very much to pay this, I suggest you deregister your TV and save 17 euros each month. Unless you already did that – in that case you have no right to complain anyway.

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  6. The best documentary I ever have ever seen was also on Arte: Two students filmed 24 hours at a gas station in some tiny (and poor) town in East Germany. It was very fascinating because everybody seemed to want to tell the stories of their live to the camera. There was one ex-junkie who found to Allah, one guy who wanted to emigrate to the US and just a lot of strange people that interacted with each other or the camera. Oh and of course some people were sitting there just drinking beer, because their was no other place to go to. I’m trying to find a link to that but it’s about 5 years since I saw it and so far I didn’t find anything.

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  7. On the German subtitles: I would doubt that they could have been written by a German, unless it was a German that had lived in the UK for a long time. It would seem more likely that they were done by a person hailing from the Sheffield area who has learned German. The same would apply to the opposite case, e.g. writing English subtitles for a movie in Saxonian: you would probably need a Saxon that has learned English. But that’s just my impression, would be glad if I was proven wrong there.

    On Arte: interestingly, Arte has a 4% market share in France, but attracts only 0.4% of the German viewers (2004 figures). This has lead the program directors to believe that they must place more emphasis on the “science” part of the program. Not sure whether that was a fruitful idea. It certainly is the channel to switch to if you’re looking for bizarre and unexpected stories or people. What is very positive – as Andrew has mentioned – is that the programs usually don’t contain any moralising judgements, and they tend to tell the stories as they are and leave it for the viewer to make their conclusions.

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  8. But even sillier is that you bring it up for no apparent reason at all.That’s maybe true. The reason, to make it apparent, is not directly the money, which, coincidentally, I don’t even pay in the case of arte since I don’t have a TV.The problem are the philosophy department’s and arte’s employees, the movie makers that arte pays to film their stuff, and anyone similar getting money that’s in one way or other forced out of people without contributing something so essential to society that it would justify such enforcements.This results in them exuding a boundless smugness whenever you encounter them in real life. Not much unlike those spoiled brats that you encounter in the ‘better’ neighborhoods of whatever city you happen to be living in. I haven’t bumped into any of arte’s employees yet and the local university’s philosophy department is in a different part of town, but you know as well as I do that the government funds all sorts of such things, and while the spoiled brats grow up eventually and realize that at least in this society money doesn’t come with so much prestige, the superficial credibility that being government-paid seems to endow those people with a lifetime right to constantly rub it into your face.Caveat lector: By extension, the same thing applies, to a lesser extent, to the indirect recipients of those handouts, the few that coincidentally benefit from the token services provided in return for the handouts by the direct recipients. Such as arte’s viewers.

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  9. “Oh, I’m used to the cracks about Texas, especially from Britons.”

    Not limited to Texans, here in Jollie Olde. They love to hate Texans but Texamn is a mataphore for any American except for a favored few from New York and San Francisco who *might* be civilised if not up to British levels. faugh.

    “Any delusions of British cultural superiority can be countered with stiff doses of reactionary Theodore Dalrymple’s ample body of work on Britains foulest residents.”

    Or even a wander down the pubs end of the high street of *any* Nritish town between 7 and 11 any Saturday night – girls in spandex who would be well-advised *not* to make that saretorial choice, and their male escorts drunk off their butts. A tasteful scene.

    I think I prefer Leroy and his Silverado to that….

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  10. ” ‘…and I’m a native speaker’ Thats hilarious – coming from a Texan.”

    The last time I said it, I fell in love with a texan. Be careful, Mr./Ms. xxx!

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  11. I visited Cologne over the weekend and stumbled upon this on arte, and after watching it mostly with my jaw on the floor (in between bouts of laughter), I knew I had to google it and find out more about it. And that’s how I found your blog and your review. I couldn’t have written a better one myself. Thanks for it!

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  12. well, english is so widely spoken that the differences can really disturb the understanding among native speakers.

    Oh! by the way, I love/miss arte too: the nearest thing I can get here on the tropics are National Geographic Channel, The History Channel and People & Arts, which have their broadcating interrupted each 5 min with advertising. And I can´t stand the WWII-Atomic-Bomb-Conspiracy-theories against-the-US-routine from The History Channel anymore!

    That´s why people like hendrik should think twice before bitching around about taxes and culture sponsoring.

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  13. The problem are the philosophy department’s and arte’s employees, the movie makers that arte pays to film their stuff, and anyone similar getting money that’s in one way or other forced out of people without contributing something so essential to society that it would justify such enforcements.

    It’s in the national interest to have universities with the full offering of the classical subjects. That’s why the state funds philosophy departments. There’s really no rule that only “essential” things should be funded, or that essentials have to be provided by the state, and I don’t think there should be such a rule.

    This results in them exuding a boundless smugness whenever you encounter them in real life. Not much unlike those spoiled brats that you encounter in the ‘better’ neighborhoods of whatever city you happen to be living in.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    I haven’t bumped into any of arte’s employees yet and the local university’s philosophy department is in a different part of town, but you know as well as I do that the government funds all sorts of such things, and while the spoiled brats grow up eventually and realize that at least in this society money doesn’t come with so much prestige, the superficial credibility that being government-paid seems to endow those people with a lifetime right to constantly rub it into your face.

    No, I’ve actually met a philosophy professor from the University of Hamburg once, and she was quite a nice person. It would appear that you are simply talking out of your behind.

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  14. Check out the number of stations which funded the making of “Fucking Sheffield”: JBA Production / Picture Palace North / Arte France / Channel Five / Yle / RTBF / TV Ontario / The Documentary Channel / LRT / Danmarks Radio. Looks like there are “spoiled brats” living in the UK, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, France, Germany and Belgium.

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  15. There’s really no rule that only “essential” things should be funded … and I don’t think there should be such a rule.You can really find it in your heart to force money out of people for non-essential things? Why don’t you go and beat your wife, that seems similarly humane.I have no idea what you’re talking about.It’s hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.

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