Different faces of faith during the 17th Millennium Docs Against Gravity

This year, for the first time, the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival will host a special section called The Laws of Metaphysics, which includes movies that talk about, among other things, Polish religiosity, an Italian sect, Buddhism, and creationism.

The Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival will take on a hybrid formula this year. The movie theatre edition will take place from September 4th to the 18th in seven cities: Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia, Katowice, Poznań, Lublin, and Bydgoszcz. The online part of the festival will take place from September 19th to October 4th

Sacrifice in the name of faith

Two of the movies on the topic of faith during this year’s festival will talk about the lengths we go to for our beliefs. The first one is a small-scale black-and-white movie, “Faith”, directed by Valentina Pedicini. A group of bald people dances in a trance in a small gym hall. This is the scene that opens Valentina Pedicini’s intimate journey into the world of a small Italian sect. Religious groups closely guard their privacy, but not in this case – the members of this group openly reveal the details of their day-to-day activities and fanatical faith, which requires them to be God’s true warriors. Standing up to fight for their beliefs are also the people of modern Brazil in “Faith and Fury” by Marcos Pimentel. What they preach is a traditional Afro-American religion with Catholic influences called candomblé. As the neo-charismatic movement gains ground in Brazil, two worldviews clash. One believes in solidarity with others and wants to live free with their own faith, the second becomes more and more aggressive. All that on the backdrop of Brazil plunged into a conservative revolution under Jair Bolsonaro’s rule.


Three other films talk about the clash between two very different viewpoints, trying to take us into the incomprehensible world of other people’s beliefs. We Believe in Dinosaurs, directed by Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross, takes a look at the creationist movement in the United States. The dinosaurs existed alongside people, the world was created in one moment and the biblical flood is a fact. Sounds absurd? Millions of Americans every year visit the institutions of the influential creationist movement – the Creation Museum and a large arc reminiscent of the one that Noah built in the Bible. The movie asks questions about the relationship between a secular country and the church, the limits of freedom of speech, and the future of science losing the fight with religious fanaticism. These are global issues, as anyone who has visited Licheń in Poland can testify, which is exactly what the Czech filmmakers, Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda, are doing in Once Upon A Time In Poland. The Czechs are a nation of atheists, while the Poles are immersed in Catholic doctrine from the cradle. The Czechs look in disbelief at Polish piety, while the Poles often look down at the Czechs and their godless lives. The Czech documentarians go on a pilgrimage through Poland to see true instances of Polish religiosity. How will they cope with meeting an exorcist or the listeners of Radio Maryja? The cognitive shock might be similar to what the Bhutanese people from a Buddhist kingdom deep in the Himalayas experience as they encounter modern technology. Sing Me a Song by Thomas Balmès talks about the influence of contemporary inventions on the life of people who have been isolated from the world for hundreds of years. The movie tells the story of a young monk living in a remote monastery, who starts talking online with a young girl working in a big city night club. The movie avoids falling into clichés about the clash of post-modernity with traditional values. It is a universal, intimate look at love, temptations of the virtual world, and the disappointments that come with youth.

Final matters

The section ends with Meanwhile on Earth by Carl Olsson, which touches on the topic of burial practices. In the funeral industry, the sacred mixes with the profane, existentialism meets the mundane and spirituality intertwines with capitalism. Looking at Sweden, the movie shows the true face of the funeral business. Carl Olsson takes a sober and reserved look at the subject, showing final farewell rites with respect and grace. His work brings to mind films by Ulrich Seidl or Roy Andersson.