Junior, the debut from US director Jenna Rosher, has won this year’s audience award at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival. The film looks at the relationship between a 75 year old Italian American and his 98 year old mother.

The four day documentary festival, now in its 16th edition, closed on Sunday night ( November 8) with ticket sales up by over 30 per cent on last year, according to festival organisers.

The festival’s fourth annual networking event – MeetMarket – saw 250 film-makers and buyers coming together to discuss documentary projects in over a thousand scheduled meetings. MeetMarket organiser Charlie Phillips predicted that more than $16.6m (£10m) worth of deals have been done at the two-day pitching event. Projects to have come out of previous editions include Beadie Finzi’s Only When I Dance, set in the favelas of Rio De Janiero, which was picked up in 2008 and screened at this year’s festival.

Festival director Heather Croall, who set up the networking event in 2006, explained the market’s format; “I asked the commissioners what they wanted to see from a marketplace and they told me they were really sick of public pitching and that they much preferred a more informal approach.

“We have a sophisticated online matchmaking service beforehand. Every single one of the meetings that takes place has been requested by the buyer. So we never put the film-makers in the position where they are pitching cold.”

The festival also played host to 50 sessions including a Question Time-style panel in which documentary makers and financiers came up with a wish list to be presented to members of all the main political parties. It included a call for regional screen agencies and the UK Film Council to ring-fence funding for documentaries; and a call for MPs to consider allowing film-makers that make public service documentaries to access tax relief by borrowing charitable status from an umbrella organisation

Looking forward to next year, Croall told ScreenDaily that she wanted to attract more cross-platform buyers to the event. “This year we had around 350 delegates who ticked the box that said they worked in digital media. If I can get 500 next year that would be great, because we see this as our future growth.”