On September 9, at the Atlantic Cinema in Warsaw, the 18th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival awards ceremony took place. But it did not mark the end of the 18th edition of the biggest celebration of documentary cinema in Poland – we still have a weekend filled with exciting films and events to look forward to in Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdynia, Katowice, Poznan, Bydgoszcz and Lublin. Online edition (films available on mdag.pl): 16 September - 3 October.
The Grand Prix – Bank Millennium Award goes to “Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen!
14 films entered the Main Competition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival to vie for the Grand Prix and its accompanying EUR 8000 prize. The best film was selected by a jury consisting of: director Agnieszka Holland, director and producer Christian Frei and director Tomasz Wolski.
The jury appreciated the high level of this year's competition: First off, we have to say that the quality and diversity of this year’s selection is extremely high. While making our choice—which is unfortunately the duty of the jury—we would like to thank the festival for this selection, even if it made the decision a challenge. Watching all competition films was a truly rich experience.
The jury awarded the Grand Prix – Bank Millennium Award and its accompanying EUR 8000 to “Flee”. The jury justified their selection thusly: Our unanimous winner is „Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. This film speaks about a real, extremely important subject in an artistically powerful, compelling, and complex way. The original form, the sincerity of the main character, the lack of sentimentality and its strong emotional content make it not only an attractive movie for the wider audience, but also an important statement about the real situation of today’s refugees, helping us to understand their destiny and choices and evoking deep empathy. Far beyond the usual limits of documentary storytelling, this powerful film speaks about the importance of being allowed to live in truth.
Special Mentions go to: “A Thousand Cuts” by Ramona S. Diaz and “The Balcony Movie" by Paweł Łoziński
The jury justified their selections thusly:
“A Thousand Cuts”: for its relevancy and importance of its message, its chilling and complex analysis of a society gripped with populism, hate, and lies, and the courage of one woman who risked everything in the fight for democracy and freedom of the media.
“The Balcony Movie”: for its original, minimalist idea and the compelling artistic execution, for its humanity and tenderness, for proving that you can see the world in a single drop of water if you know how to look.
The Best Polish Film Award goes to “Bucolic“ by Karol Pałka!
14 films entered the Polish Competition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival to vie for the Best Polish Film Award and its accompanying EUR 3000 prize. The best film was selected by a jury consisting of: Pamela Biénzobas from the Locarno Film Festival, Joana Sousa from the Doclisboa Film Festival and Michał Walkiewicz - film critic, editor-in-chief of Filmweb.
The jury awarded the Best Polish Film Award to “Bucolic”. The jury justified their selection thusly: for celebrating the myth without destroying the fabric of reality, sophisticated concept and visual flair in a unflinching service of world and its characters and dignifying gaze that made everything smaller than nature and larger than life.
The Studio Cinemas Association Award in the Polish Competition goes to “Escape to the Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda
The first-ever Studio Cinemas Association Award in the Polish Competition and 8000 PLN for the promotion of the winning film goes to “Escape to the Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda. The best film was selected by a jury consisting of: Sara Broniszewska (Atlantic Cinema), Marlena Gabryszewska (Elektronik Cinema, CEO of The Studio Cinemas Association) and Piotr Olak (Luna Cinema).
The jury justified their selection thusly: Regardless of the times, culture should be apolitical and artists should have the liberty to create and express themselves. For his extremely technically mature, universal and cognitively interesting tale about an ambitious, underrated creator working in a time when the regime quashed culture and the individual had no importance, Kuba Mikurda receives The Studio Cinemas Association Award for “Escape to the Silver Globe”.
Special Mention goes to “The Balcony Movie” by Paweł Łoziński
The jury justified their selection thusly: In these incredibly unstable times rife with uncertainty about the future and a drive to make it in time, „The Balcony Movie” lets us pause and take in the moment. It shows the things that matter, that are really important: people and their emotions. Beautiful, fragile, normal people—our neighbors. For his bittersweet tale about the life all around us, the honorable mention goes to Paweł Łoziński.
The Smakjam Award for the Best Production in the Polish Competition goes to producer Daria Maślona for “Escape to the Silver Globe” directed by Kuba Mikurda
14 films entered the Polish Competition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival to vie for the Smakjam Award and its accompanying EUR 3000 prize. The winning film was selected by a jury consisting of: Pamela Biénzobas from the Locarno Film Festival, Joana Sousa from the Doclisboa Film Festival and Michał Walkiewicz - film critic, editor-in-chief of Filmweb.
The jury awarded the Smakjam Award to “Escape to the Silver Globe”, directed by Kuba Mikurda and produced by Daria Maślona. The jury justified their selection thusly: for steadfastness and devotion that turned factual work into a work of art itself and made the synergy of popcultural legend and historical reality possible.
The Amnesty International Poland Award goes to the directors of the film “Songs Of Repression”: Estephan Wagner and Marianne Hougen-Moragi
Estephan Wagner and Marianne Hougen-Moragi – co-directors of “Songs Of Repression” have won this year’s competition for the best film on human rights. The jury consisting of Jakub Majmurek – columnist, film critic, Draginja Nadaždin – director of Amnesty International Poland and Jacek Petrycki – documentary film director, has awarded the winners a prize of EUR 3000.
The jury justified their selection thusly: for its important lesson about the complexities of social mechanisms governing the world, the darkness in the depths of human nature, and the vagaries of our psyche, imparted through the tale of a small community. The directors employed simple formal means to capture universal truths about mechanisms of control, dependence, evil, manipulation, and the consequences of violent upbringing (as well as upbringing for violence) in their story of a seemingly Utopian, isolated German community in Chile. The ease with which evil takes over individuals and entangles societies is as terrifying as the permanence of its influence. This film doesn’t limit itself to portraying the community—it goes further, delving into the consequences of living alongside evil and depicting the complexity of the reality we live in. The tale of the German community in Chile becomes a mirror of human history—one that’s worth looking into ourselves.
Special Mention goes to “Courage” by Aliaksey Paluyan
The jury justified their selection thusly: “Courage” is a moving, unsentimental portrayal of the incredible courage of daily choices which become major life decisions in the context of living in an authoritarian country. The director used history of theater to successfully show how long Belarusian citizens have been fighting tirelessly for human rights and how deeply this fight has grown into the cultural body of the country.
The Award for Best Cinematography goes to the cinematographer of the film “Stray” - Elizabeth Lo
12 visually compelling titles entered the competition. The jury consisting of Weronika Bilska – cinematographer, Maciej Cuske – director and cinematographer and Zuza Krajewska– photographer has given the Award for Best Cinematography and its accompanying EUR 2000 prize to Elizabeth Lo, the cinematographer and director of “Stray”.
The jury justified their selection thusly: for the idea to show the world from a dog’s-eye view. For the patience and ability to bring the camera close to unpredictable canine protagonists. For tenderness in examining dog and human lives.
The Green Warsaw Award goes to the director of “Who We Were” - Marc Bauder
During this year’s Millennium Docs Against Gravity festival, the Green Warsaw Award and its accompanying PLN 15 000 cash prize funded by the City of Warsaw was once again given to the best film on ecology.
The jury consisting of Leszek Drogosz, director of the Bureau of Infrastructure of the City of Warsaw, Paulina Górska – climate activist, influencer & expert and Karolina Kukielska from WWF Poland gave the Green Warsaw Award to Marc Bauder, the director of the film “Who We Were”, justifying their selection thusly:
An extraordinary film which reminds us of what matters the most. It uses multiple points of view, one of them in space (!), to show how the convictions that drove our lives together with the cult of success, profitability, and optimization led humankind to a critical juncture: the climate catastrophe. It’s a profound, philosophical film about ecology, its original meaning, and how we have forgotten our ties to nature and where we come from; a film about human domination over the planet and over one another. This movie poses the question about whether the system built on European values is still worth preserving or whether we should seek—and maybe return to—the key values of cultures living closer to nature. Many people in this film have stated their willingness to die for a place, forest, river or idea that matters to them, but maybe it would be enough to understand that we’re connected to everything and everyone, to accept the idea of communion and the meaning of the word “we,” and—as the narrator says at the end—to look around instead of ahead. Who We Were certainly encourages reflection.
Special Mention goes to “The Last Generation” by Mikołaj Borowy
The jury justified their selection thusly: Changemakers, activists, climate fighters — “The Last Generation” is like a lens examining from the inside all the worries, challenges, and reality of young Polish activists—the youngest and most active generation fighting for climate in Poland and abroad. They are the ones protesting in the streets, initiating civil disobedience and direct action, working online, educating, debating and… carrying the future of the planet on their shoulders. This documentary focuses on Janina Świerżewska as well as the whole Youth Climate Strike. It’s incredibly honest, inspiring, and motivating.
The Chopin’s Nose Award for the director of “Escape to The Silver Globe” - Kuba Mikurda
During this year’s edition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival, we have once again given out the Chopin’s Nose award and its accompanying EUR 2000 prize to the best film about music and art. The jury consisting of journalist Bartek Chaciński, writer, journalist and editor-in-chief of GW Foksal Anna Dziewit-Meller and Hanna Wróblewska - art historian, curator and director of Zachęta Narodowa Galerii Sztuki has given the award to Kuba Mikurda, the director of the film “Escape to The Silver Globe”.
The jury justified their verdict thusly: We decided to honor a film which resonates with contemporary events and issues close to our hearts while remaining universal. It tells the story of a problematic protagonist pictured in the most dramatic moments of his life while depicting him in context. It shows events which couldn't have happened today while discussing the involvement of art and politics which indeed could. Finally, it brings a compilation of archival footage assembled into a distinct narrative which attractively recounts this unique story.
TVP Dokument Award for "Courage”, dir. Aliaksei Paluyan
We honor Aliaksei Paluyan's "Courage" for its perfect portrayal of the emotions and atmosphere surrounding the historic moment when Belarusian society - currently facing further repressions from the Lukashenka regime - expressed its desire for real freedom and real democracy.
The winning director will receive PLN 5000.
The “Zwierciadło” Award for the Best Film on Psychology goes to the director of "Flee" by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
This year, we have once again handed out the “Zwierciadło” Award and its accompanying EUR 1000 for the best film on psychology. The winner is Jonas Poher Rasmussen, the director of ”Flee”.
The editorial staff justified their selection thusly: There are many reasons why „Flee” deserves an award. Now this dramatic story resound sin a particularly shocking context, with the Taliban regaining full power in Afghanistan. We decided to select this film mainly because of its excellent portrayal of the birth of shame: being ashamed of who you are. The protagonist begins this story as a regular kid running around the yards of Kabul with his Walkman--and then suddenly the old Kabul is gone and he begins running away, goes into hiding, pretends to be someone else. Shame is not an innate emotion--it's acquired, born of how others treat us. Flee forces us to consider whether we could be these "others" too.
The “Focus” Magazine Award for the Biggest Personality of the Festival goes to Greta Thunberg, the protagonist of the film “I Am Greta”, dir. Nathan Grossman
This year, once again we have handed out the “Focus” Magazine Award for the Biggest Personality of the Festival – during the festival opening gala. The award went to climate activist Greta Thunberg.
The editorial staff justified their selection thusly“The “Focus” Award for the Biggest Personality of the Festival will traditionally be granted this year. The recipient is Greta Thunberg, the protagonist of Nathan Grossman’s I AM GRETA. Starting with her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament, Greta – a shy schoolgirl with Asperger’s – became a voice of the generation and started school strikes around the world.
The First Appearance Award goes to the film “Black Jesus”, dir. Luca Lucchesi
The intergenerational jury of the Documentary Academy consisting of: Iga Ćwiklińska, Lucyna Gosk, Iza Krystosiak, Józef Lorski, Ewa Murawska, having watched 12 films, decided to give the First Appearance Award to the film “Black Jesus”.
The jury justified their selection thusly: The award recognizes the richness of diverse topics and an excellent portrayal of a small contemporary community faced with the refugee crisis. The jury particularly appreciated the emphasis on the role of seeking shared values in building interpersonal understanding.
The Audience Award - ”The Balcony Movie”, dir. Paweł Łoziński
The audience in Warsaw selected their favorite film of the festival. All films shown during the Festival were eligible to win.
“Co Jest Grane 24” Big Screen Doc Award - “Flee”, dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
The audience in Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia and Poznań selected their favorite film from among 13 titles dealing with various pop cultural phenomena and more serious topics. The winner will receive a trophy and EUR 1000.
The awards in other festival cities:
The City of Poznań Freedom Award - „Sabaya", dir. Hogir Horiri
Justification: Fourteen films. Fourteen elements which form a surprisingly consistent image of decentralised reality, a world which is irreversibly thrown off its pivot.
Tales in which those who ruled until now, white man in their prime, have disappeared or stepped aside, to the position of bashful and helpless observers, while women, children and old people assumed the roles of narrators. A world without fathers.
In the crumbling reality filled with desert dust and remorseless upheavals, with rivers overflowing their banks, forest burning, animals dying out and human life deprived of its value, the characters take up unequal struggle with chaos, try to fight for a better tomorrow like Greta Thunberg, give a fair assessment of today, like the invincible journalist Maria Rossa or take revenge for the last time, like the anonymous Yazidi woman, who goes to an ISIS camp to get her sisters out of the clutches of male oppressors.
The ultimate sources of the eternal order’s collapse remain a mystery. When asked about them, Mikhail Gorbachev does not want to or cannot give any answer. He smiles like a Sphynx and when nailed down, he replies with a Ukrainian song or Yesenin’s poem. Nobody remembers these melodies anymore, they mean nothing to us.
The time when men left and the world remained in the hands of children and old people is known from the history as wartime. A great war has already started but its tools and forms have changed. Empires have abdicated, leaving behind grotesque remains of former glory: American fighting vehicles falling apart repaired in makeshift shops in Syria’s remote areas, faded tents with barely noticeable UN symbols which shelter Daesh murderers, Red Cross convoys getting stuck amidst the bizarre war in Donbas, small towns of American Midwest plunged into lawlessness and hopelessness, post-colonial wigs on the heads of corrupt Zimbabwean judges, burned lands of the Amazon jungle. “Our” people have retreated in panic, abandoning their equipment, allies and commitments. They left behind ruins, entanglements and feral animals. The situation when there is war of everyone against everyone and on its fringes a lonely hunter tries to catch a wild duck.
The embarrassment of the filmed subject and the distortion caused by the presence of the observer which used to be the biggest obstacles for documentary filmmakers are gone. Who would pay attention to the eye of a camera, when the world is falling apart? Everything is out in the open anyway: criminals declare their murderous intentions openly, courts lie, preachers corrupt the poor with a glass of clean water, police officers grab their truncheons when they have run out of arguments and when love becomes unbearable, people reach for a needle and a syringe. The time of maintaining appearances is over.
What can be saved in this ocean of ruin? The maxim “if you save one life, you save the whole world” is always applicable. It is an act of courage to record an old song on a cassette and keep the heritage of an entire people in a plastic bag, under a pallet. Discovering love in an old people’s home is a detective’s success. It is a proof of the biggest motherly sacrifice to cut off from your loving daughter so that she does not get dragged into the whirl of drugs and violence. Stealing a dog becomes an attempt to defend one’s own dignity. Getting on a commercial flight from New York to Manila or on a boat from Europe to America becomes an act of heroism and faith in superior humanitarian values. A declaration of war on global establishment which is somewhere in the spectrum between jaded conformism, decadence, greediness, hypocrisy and blood-thirsty psychopathy.
The conclusion is unsettling. There is no return to the previous order but life goes on. It is reborn and pushing forward at a ferocious speed, with no map of an unknown territory. All we can do is abandon our safe oases and follow the uncertain flow, in hope that our good instincts will prevail.
How to choose one of fourteen outstanding stories which make up such a complementary, consistent whole? We must trust our intuitions and look for films which bear the essence of our tragic time and bring us hope, though not the naive, easy or sentimental one.
In a war-torn and poverty-ridden no-man’s-land in the Syrian and Turkish borderland there are people who are not only able to fight for their own and their families’ survival but also to risk everything for saving the lives of others: women held captive by the murderers from the fallen Islamic State. ISIS suffered a military defeat but it ceased to exist as a network of mafia connections in which the enslaved Yazidi women, whom the oppressors refer to as “Sabaya” (female slave), have become a precious commodity. The fates of thousands of them remains unknown. They are kept in secret refugee camps as well as towns and villages in borderlands of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Kurdistan.
A group of desperadoes tries to set them free by sending female volunteers to the ISIS camps. They use the cover of niquabs to penetrate the sex trafficking networks and indicate the places where they are kept. One after another, the women and girls are freed from captivity and returned to their families. We take part in the bloodcurdling rescue missions and then the processes of trauma healing as well as attempts to return to normal lives. “You’re safe now,” one of the women freed during a night campaign is told. But when there is a fire in the field next to the temporary shelter for the runaways or when gunshots come from a van chasing them, the safety turns out to be illusory. The makers of “Sabaya” managed to come close to Evil and look it right in the eye, without looking away. However, they managed to distil the image of pure love, devotion, humanity and freedom from this human hell.
Such a perspective which creates a full and honest image deserves the highest distinction. Therefore, we took a unanimous decision that the Freedom Award at the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival in Poznań goes to “Sabaya” by Hogir Horiri.
The Lower Silesia Grand Prix - the Award of the Marshall of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship - “Flee", dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Justification: The film which receives the Lower Silesia Grand Prix is also a reflection of the most topical matters and the message which we noticed in many of the competition masterpieces. We are awarding the documentary we have chosen for high sensitivity and evocative nature of the narrative, oscillating on a broad emotional scale, its psychological aspect, taking up a tough subject in a remarkable way and last but not least – for not allowing us to lose hope.
It is also a film which shows the great broadness of documentary. At the same time, it is a universal tale about human memory and trauma. This masterpiece builds bridges and provides a way for a wider audience to understand the issues which polarize every day. The film is “Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen.
Special mention: “A Thousand Cuts”, dir. Ramona S. Diaz
Justification: for a moving depiction of the agony of democracy and free media as well as the chance to get to know the protagonist who is an inspiration and makes it impossible to just give up. Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary wins the viewers, unsettles them and does not allow them to look away.
The Audience Award of the Silesian Voivodeship - "The Balcony Movie", dir. Paweł Łoziński
The Audience Award of the Silesian Voivodeship and 4000 PLN funded by i2 Analytical Ltd goes to Paweł Łoziński, director of "The Balcony Movie"!
The Mayor of Gdynia Award - „Sabaya", dir. Hogir Hirori
Justification: The film “Sabaya” about one of today’s world’s most terrifying conflicts also brings hope. It shows that even in the most difficult situation courage and determination of a handful of people may bring extraordinary effects, save a lot of people and give one’s own life a meaning.
Bydgoszcz Art/Doc Award - “Nothing but the Sun”, dir. Arami Ullón
Justification: The awareness of his own identity and the need to maintain the memory of the tradition which in a moment is going to disappear right in front of our eyes form the image of the protagonist of “Nothing but the Sun”. The film tells an intimate story of an Ayoero Indian. Together with his tribemates, he lives on the peripheries of civilization, in conditions which are an affront to dignity. Though he lives in abject poverty, he is full of dignity. He is aware of his situation and he fully accepts it too.
Seemingly cheerful, he misses forest – the tribe’s natural environment. In spite of this longing, he is able to maintain high spirits. Maybe because in his clash with civilisation, he has not lost the awareness of who he is. The consciousness determines his existence and makes you remember tribe traditions, which he records with a primitive tape recorder. The filmmakers do not create the protagonist. They merely accompany him with the camera. They give him a voice, as he comes from a dying civilisation, whose only trace will be the film. Filmed in a simple way, he does not try to appropriate the story through the visual. He does not try to seduce us by aestheticizing the image of the tragedy. This may be what makes the film so crucial and so different from the other ones presented at the festival which, in many cases, show events we all know from the news.
The honorary mention of the District Bar Association in Bydgoszcz for the best production on human rights goes to Jonas Poher Rasmussen for the film “FLEE”.
Justification: The main character – an Afghani teenager Amin – and his family make all the refugees, including the ones who are being persecuted at the Polish border, human and reminds that their rights are our responsibility.
THE AWARDED FILMS:
The Grand Prix – the Bank Millennium Award
Winner: “Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Special mentions: “A Thousand Cuts” by Ramona S. Diaz and “The Balcony Movie" by Paweł Łoziński
The City of Poznań Freedom Award
Winner: „Sabaya", dir. Hogir Horiri
Special mention: “A Thousand Cuts”, dir. Ramona S. Diaz
The Lower Silesia Grand Prix - the Award of the Marshall of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship
Winner: “Flee", dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
The Audience Award of the Silesian Voivodeship
Winner: "The Balcony Movie", dir. Paweł Łoziński
The Mayor of Gdynia Award
„Sabaya", dir. Hogir Hirori
Bydgoszcz Art/Doc Award
“Nothing but the Sun”, dir. Arami Ullón
Special mention: “Flee”, dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
The Audience Award
Winner: ”The Balcony Movie” by Paweł Łoziński
“Co Jest Grane 24” Big Screen Doc Award
Winner: “Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Best Polish Film Award
Winner: “Bucolic“ by Karol Pałka
The Studio Cinemas Association Award in the Polish Competition
Winner: “Escape to the Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda
Special mention: “The Balcony Movie” by Paweł Łoziński
The Smakjam Polish Competition Prize for the Best Production
Winner: Daria Maślona, producer of “Escape to the Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda
The Amnesty International Polska Award
Winner: “Songs Of Repression” by Estephan Wagner, Marianne Hougen-Moragi
Special mention: “Courage” by Aliaksey Paluyan
The Award for Best Cinematography
Winner: “Stray”, cinematographer: Elizabeth Lo
The Green Warsaw Award
Winner: “Who We Were” by Marc Bauder
Special mention: “The Last Generation” by Mikołaj Borowy
The Chopin’s Nose Award
Winner: “Escape to The Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda
The “Zwierciadło” Award for the Best Film on Psychology
Winner: “Flee” by Jonas Power Rasmussen
The “Focus” Award for the Biggest Personality of the Festival
Winner: Greta Thunberg, protagonist of the film „I Am Greta” by Nathan Grossman