From the quiet heat of an Estonian smoke sauna to a gripping, urgent eyewitness account of North Korean defectors, our October programme is packed with brilliant documentaries from across the globe. Read on to find out what's coming up and book in for our thought-provoking docs and discussions.

Opening this Friday 6th, 20 Days in Mariupol is Pulitzer prize-winning Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov’s unflinching, wrenching account of his 20 days inside the besieged city. This film has been chosen as Ukraine’s entry for the Oscars and though it is devastating to watch, it bears witness to the nightmare inside Mariupol, when Chernov and his team were the only journalists still filming.

Also playing from Friday, a quite extraordinary insight into an unexpected, almost surreal world: an abandoned tourist resort in Georgia where, for three decades, refugees from the Abkhaz-Georgian war have made their home amidst the crumbling grandeur. It’s rare to see a film from this region, and Hotel Metalurg is suffused with such a strong sense of place, and of displacement, it really is absorbing viewing.

A one-off treat on Wednesday 11th, we’re excited to screen the restored version of 1991 classic One Hand Don’t Clap, which celebrates Caribbean culture and its legendary musicians, including Lord Kitchener and Calypso Rose, in the run up to the coronation of Trinidad’s 1986 Calypso Monarch.

Another pick from our Black History Month programme, which spans countries and decades, journeying through different aspects of the Black experience, Cassius X: Becoming Ali charts the spiritual journey of rookie boxer Cassius Clay as he discovers the Nation of Islam and evolves into World Heavyweight Champion and civil rights hero Muhammad Ali. Playing daily from Friday 13th.

Enter into the dense haze of an Estonian smoke sauna from Saturday 14th, with Anna Hints’ striking feature debut Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. Hints captures a group of women, up close, as they share their secrets and life experiences in a film that feels intimate both bodily and emotionally.

On Sunday 15th, settle in for an epic of Chinese politics with Jill Li’s Lost Course. Li embeds herself in a small town where local politics is about to get big. Over the course of her 3-hour film, she follows the emergence and downfall of a fledgling democracy, making the film (which won Best Documentary at the Golden Horse Film Festival) a compelling microcosm for any society where democracy buts up against authoritarianism and corruption.

Two greats come together in our next release, as documentary titan Errol Morris focuses on acclaimed spy-novelist John le Carré. Le Carré makes for an exceptional interviewee – giving huge amounts about his fascinating life as a former spy, but always holding enough up his sleeve to keep the viewer – and Errol Morris – intrigued. The Pigeon Tunnel opens on Friday 20th.

Our Black History Month journey continues on Sunday 22nd with a screening of Jon-Sesrie Goff‘s beautiful, lyrical and layered exploration of his roots in coastal South Carolina. After Sherman is the epitome of poetic, personal filmmaking as Goff focuses on inheritance, trauma and generational wisdom tied to the land and landscape of his home.

In 2015, Director Evgeny Afineevsky portrayed Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests in his Oscar-nominated Winter on Fire. After the 2021 Russian invasion, Afineevsky and his crew return to Ukraine for a sweeping look at the humanitarian crisis, amplifying the voices of the Ukrainians they meet across the country. Our screening of Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom on Wednesday 25th will be followed by an in person Q&A with Evgeny Afineevsky, moderated by Channel 4 International Editor Lindsey Hilsum.

The International Chopin Competition, which takes places every five years in Warsaw, makes or breaks the careers of the world’s best, virtuoso pianists. So the stakes are high for the competitors we follow through its gruelling stages in the thoroughly entertaining Pianoforte. With great, compelling characters and all the flair of a Chopin performance, Pianoforte is a treat for classical music lovers and newcomers alike. The UK premiere screening on Friday 27th will be followed by a Q&A with director Jakub Piatek, and the film plays daily after that.

Also opening on Friday 27th, Beyond Utopia pulls back the curtain on North Korea, one of the most oppressive places on Earth. Following a family as they attempt to flee through neighbouring countries to safety, this is one of the most gripping and tense docs we’ve seen this year, and shocking in its revelations about the country.

Our final event of the month on Tuesday 31st will be the next instalment in our Sheffield DocFest Spotlights series, this time bringing the 2023 edition’s Opening Night film to the Bertha DocHouse screen. Tish is a portrait of social documentary photographer Tish Murtha, a powerful film celebrating her striking images of people on the margins of society in Thatcher’s Britain. Our partnership screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Paul Sng.