An interview can be a very unusual thing – you have a limited window to get to know a complete stranger, chatting to them about the intimate details of their life, their work and their ambitions, asking personal, sometimes probing, questions in a bid to get a better understanding of who they are. A brief conversation gets distilled into a concentrated character study, a fragment used to represent the wider whole. It’s a process that’s necessarily incomplete – you miss small but important details, you push past personal anecdotes to ask about the project at hand, you trim their words until you’ve fit them into a handful of paragraphs, hoping that you’ve managed to hold on to something meaningful. All that is to say, I wasn’t sure how to write Cameron Boyce’s final interview.

In the summer of 2017 director Alison Klayman – the film-maker behind the Emmy nominated Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and Netflix’s remarkable Take Your Pills – received a call from producer Marie Therese Guirgis, asking if she wanted to shoot a vérité documentary of Steve Bannon. With a newly energised Republican party controlling all three branches of government in the US, Brexit having engulfed parliament in the UK, and far-right politics on the ascendancy across Europe, Klayman couldn’t pass up the chance to capture history in the making, no matter how antithetical the subject might be to her personal politics.

One of the largest and most significant celebrations of non-fiction filmmaking in Europe, the 26th edition of acclaimed documentary film festival Sheffield Doc/Fest returns to South Yorkshire from 6th to 11th June this year. Featuring a powerful, thought-provoking and eclectic mix of features, shorts, discussions, talks, workshops and live performances this year’s festival explores ‘ways of seeing,’ providing a platform for emerging filmmakers to share new perspectives on themes as varied as politics, power, climate change, gender and sexuality.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, filmmaker Ryan White learnt some of his earliest lessons about sex from a tiny, Jewish psychologist in her mid-50s with a thick German accent and a titillating disregard for anatomical prudishness. The darling of radio call-ins and television talk shows, Dr Ruth Westheimer was a powerhouse of sexual literacy, renowned throughout the country as much for her liberal use of the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ as she was for her diminutive 4’7” frame.

Celebrated as a springboard for emerging cinematic talent, the Sundance Film Festival returns to London this May/June at the Picturehouse Central with an eclectic and informative mix of features, documentaries, shorts, discussions and talks. We’ve picked five favourites you won’t want to miss.

XY Chelsea follows Manning full circle, from her release in the spring of 2017 to her recent re-incarceration for refusing to testify before a grand jury against Julian Assange earlier this March. As much a testament to her resilience as it is a record of her activism, XY Chelsea offers an intimate portrait of a woman struggling to survive under the weight of unparalleled public scrutiny.

“I was extremely relieved to sit down to lunch with him and have him say, ‘Ask me anything you want’” says Dexter Fletcher when I ask him what it was like when he first met with Elton John, the subject of his latest film, Rocketman. The biopic, which catalogues Elton’s meteoric rise to fame from the 60s to the early 90s, is a fantastical parade of colour, costumes and camp, punctuated with elaborate musical reveries that let the story drift into moments of dream-like wonder.

A funny, touching portrait of Frank Sidebottom, Manchester’s maverick comedian, and Chris Sievey, the eccentric and obscure artist who created him; Being Frank tells a twisted tale of split personalities. With insights from Chris’ family, friends, and colleagues, including Jon Ronson, John Cooper Clarke and Ross Noble amongst others, Being Frank reveals the unknown story of a wayward genius.

Transmilitary, a documentary more than six years in the making, captures the highs and lows of a dedicated group of activists as they lobby for the recognition they deserve. It’s a rousing and necessary feature that’s fundamentally grounded in the honesty, openness and courage of its four lead characters – Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace and First Lieutenant El Cook. Hopeful and heartbreaking in equal measure, Transmilitary reminds us of the power of personal stories to affect political change.

An international porn icon, Jonathan Agassi, has had a meteoric rise to fame, but at what personal cost? Tomer’s film sensitively explores the tension between professional success and personal loss in a way that’s never once prurient or judgemental. It’s a moving examination of loneliness, addiction and trauma that deserves to be seen.

Whilst aural storytelling is a tradition as old as time, podcasting has breathed new life into spoken word. Here we shortlist our favourites for spring, from memoirs about mental health, to documentary anthologies, cultural critiques to fictional feminist dramas about art and attraction.

One of the largest and most significant celebrations of queer cinema in Europe, the 33rd edition of acclaimed LGBTQ film festival BFI Flare, returns to the Southbank from 21st March to 31st March this year. Featuring a powerful, thought-provoking and eclectic mix of features, shorts, discussions, talks, workshops and club nights, this year’s festival reflects on themes of sex, identity, politics and community.

In 2009, aged 18, student filmmaker Lukas Dhont happened across the story of Nora Monsecour whilst leafing through a Belgian newspaper. Nora, a young trans girl, wanted to become a ballerina but her school had refused to allow her to switch classes. That story and the courage Nora displayed in asserting her identity, captivated him, “I was immediately very drawn to her as a person, I thought, wow how extraordinary that a 15 year old is able to be so true to herself.”

Featuring a powerful, thought-provoking and eclectic mix of features, shorts, discussions, talks, workshops and club nights, this year’s BFI Flare reflects on themes of sex, identity, politics and community. We spoke to festival programmer Zorian Clayton, to help shortlist a selection of essential docs from this year’s programme.

2018 was a remarkable year for documentary cinema. We enjoyed insightful and unsettling features about the impact of anonymous lobbying groups on America’s political system in Dark Money; mind-bending psychological puzzles and thrilling family dramas in Three Identical Strangers; necessary and informed explorations of what life is like growing up in an Islamic caliphate in Of Father & Sons and poetic, intimate portraits of race and class in the deep south in Hale County This Morning, This Evening.

2018 was a remarkable year for queer cinema. We’ve enjoyed Oscar-winning trans narratives that inspire and energise with A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica); powerfully intimate documentaries about queerness past and present with McQueen, Studio 54, Susanne Bartsch: On Top and Shakedown; breakout indie hits with The Miseducation Of Cameron Post and Rafiki; and even blockbuster teen rom-coms with Love, Simon. How will 2019 fare?

Once dominated by bros shouting over one another about sports, or straight, white comics making jokes about ‘the missus;’ the last few years have seen podcasting breath new life into spoken word stories. From much-needed investigations into ISIS, to fictional feminist stories about art and attraction, we shortlist our favourites from 2018.