On May 19, at the Theater Studio in Warsaw, the 19th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival awards ceremony took place. The Grand Prix- award of the Millenium Bank- was granted to the film The Pawnshop directed by Łukasz Kowalski. But it did not mark the end of the 19th 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, Łódź, Bydgoszcz and Lublin. Online edition (films available on mdag.pl): 24 May – 5 June.
The Grand Prix – Bank Millennium Award goes to The Pawnshop by Łukasz Kowalski!
12 films entered the Main Competition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival to vie for the Grand Prix and its accompanying EUR 8,000 prize. The best film was selected by a jury consisting of: Milenia Fiedler – rector of the Film School in Łódź, film editor; David France – film director nominated for an Oscar for film How to Survive a Plauge; Tamara Kotevska – film director nomitead for an Oscar for film Honeyland which she directed in cooperation with Ljubomir Stefanov.
Justification: It seemed to be easier to make documentaries about extraordinary topics and characters as everyone sees the shocking in them. But what is to be admired are documentary craftsmen" who can make an extraordinary story out of the most ordinary topics and people, the ones we would usually ignore in the reality around us. This film follows a couple of seemingly unimportant lives in a seemingly everyday story, through an extremely natural observational style. But what we actually see are incredible heroes who are trying to save others from "drowning" while they are on a "sinking ship" themselves. It seems it becomes more and more difficult to find humor in this World we are living in today, and yet these characters find the most universally human ways to make us laugh. Trapped in their own sorrows and misery, they are unaware of their own greatness, but that's why the author of this film made such an amazing job to carefully observe the multiple lawyers each one of them has. This film is a beautiful example of why we need to cherish life in it's most "meaningless" simplicity. This film is an example of why us as authors must have our eyes open on every "corner" of our world in order to spot a great story. .... The Pawnshop.
Special Mention goes to We Met In Virtual Reality by Joe Hunting!
Justification: At their best, documentary films immerse us in magical new worlds, or help us to see ordinary worlds in magical new ways. They leave us smarter about life and about ourselves. For accomplishing all of that in a groundbreaking reimaging of the form, a special jury mention goes to We Met In Virtual Reality.
The Best Polish Film Award goes to Silent Love by Marek Kozakiewicz!
8 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 3,000 prize. The best film was selected by a jury consisting of: Laura van Halsema – programmer of the IDFA festival in Amsterdam, Michał Oleszczyk – film critic, translator, screenwriter and script consultant; Thom Powers –TIFF programmer (Toronto International Film Festival) and director of the special DOC NYC projects.
Special Mention goes to Angels of Sinjar by Hanna Polak!
Justification: For maturity, courage and insight in a documentary giving voice to those whom the world should never forget.
The Studio Cinemas Association Award in the Polish Competition goes to “Fledglings” by Lidia Duda!
The Studio Cinemas Association Award in the Polish Competition and 8,000 PLN for the promotion of the winning film goes to “Fledglings” by Lidia Duda. The best film was selected by a jury consisting of: Klaudia Małota (DCF Wrocław), Sebastian Dziębowski (Kino Roma) oraz Jan Lubaczewski (Kino Amondo Warszawa).
Justification: For its tender and unpretentious story of closeness and unity, and for its moving portrait of a world where every gesture matters, the winner of the Studio Cinema Association Award in the Polish Competition is Fledglings, directed by Lidia Duda.
Special Mention goes to: The Pawnshop by Łukasz Kowalski
Justification: For an extremely funny and moving portrait of passion and love and one of the best opening scenes in a Polish documentary, we award a distinction to the film The Pawnshop, directed by Łukasz Kowalski.
The Smakjam Award for the Best Production in the Polish Competition goes to producers Łukasz Kowalski and Anna Mazerant (4:30 Pictures) – the producers of the film The Pawnshop by Łukasz Kowalski
12 films entered the Polish Competition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival to vie for the Smakjam Award and its accompanying EUR 3,000 prize. The winning film was selected by the post-production Smakjam Studio staff.
Justification: The makers of The Pawnshop have made a visually well thought-out film, aware of its form, which does not overshadow the story itself. It is a movie close to the characters, up-to-date and sensitive to the social context. Thanks to the work of Łukasz Kowalski and his team, we can discover a colorful micro-world, in which the post-transformation problems of not only Bytom are concentrated like a lens.
Best Short Film Award goes to Freedom Swimmer, dir. Olivia Martin-McGuire
Justification: Using a variety of techniques that correspond to layers of storytelling, the short film award goes to Freedom Swimmer which frames the contemporary issue of Hong Kong being reclaimed by China in a personal story of a man and his daughter swimming to Hong Kong in 1970s as well as in the wider context of global authoritarian expansion. Beginning with a live action recreation of a grandfather’s story to his granddaughter, and then moving into archival footage, the filmmakers lay the foundation for an seamlessly woven animated story, containing elements of personal history, historical witness, and a call to wider recognition of an ongoing issue. Freedom Swimmer gives a voice to all people who face the choice between living in fear, and fleeing their homes in search of freedom.
The First Appearance Award goes to the film “Silent love” by Marek Kozakiewicz!
Prize sponsor: Visa
The intergenerational jury of the Documentary Academy consisting of the teenengers 15+ and people at age 55+ Iga Ćwiklińska, Lucyna Gosk, Iza Krystosiak, Józef Lorski and Ewa Murawska after watching 11 films decided to give The First Appearance Award to the film Silent Love.
Justification: In a world where it is difficult to live in complete harmony with one's identity, getting to know such intimate, individual fates of the characters is extremely valuable. We believe that the authors of the awarded film presented the story of Agnieszka, Majka and Miłosz in a very warm, subtle and humorous way. The Jury also appreciates the selection of significant scenes from the footage, creating a coherent, absorbing story. The award goes to the film Silent Love directed by Marek Kozakiewicz.
TVP Dokument Award goes to Fledglings by Lidia Duda!
The Green Warsaw Award goes Cow by Andrea Arnold
Prize sponsor: the City of Warsaw
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, Katarzyna Karpa-Świderek –press spokeswoman of the WWF Poland and Jonathan Ramsey – director gave the Green Warsaw Award to to Andrea Arnold's film Cow.
Justification: A man is a wolf to a cow
Probably the majority of today’s children in the northern hemisphere, including those in rural areas, know more about elephants or polar bears than ... cows. Yet, to a large extent, it is to cows that Western civilization owes its prosperity. Every year, millions of them are born with our participation, in order to give us milk or meat. What do we give them in return? A short life of suffering, of constant stress, never ending in a natural death. We have decided that this is the price animals have to pay in order for us to be ... human beings.
Thanks to Andrea Arnold's film Cow we get to be the dairy cow Luma for an hour and a half... And? The film Cow knocks you into the cinema seat! Not because it is exceptionally violent. Actually, having seen other films about industrial animal husbandry, the cow Luma, the main character, is not too bad. However, the perspective from which the filmmaker observes her surroundings makes us even more aware of the immensity of animal suffering that we have written into the costs of our civilization. This is also a film about people. Those we see in the film are merely executors of the system. Despite their efforts, they cannot make it animal-friendly. This is impossible when the animal is only a means of production. The hidden heroes are all of us. Participants in the global market.
Today, 4% of mammals in the world are wild animals, 36% are human, and as many as 60% are farmed animals, including cows. We have become accustomed to the idea that only we humans have the right to be happy, or at least not to suffer. The right to respect only goes to wild animals, especially charismatic ones such as lions or leopards, and the right to love to domestic pets...
If you want to reach the mind, you must reach the heart, is one of the rules of persuasion. This film says more about the need to redefine our thinking about animals than the best scientific treatise. That is why it gets the Green Warsaw Award.
Special Mention goes to Invisible Demons, by Rahul Jain
Justification: The jury of the Green Warsaw Award decided to recognize Rahul Jain's film Invisible Demons for its simple but very thoughtful message describing the complex problems of the modern world using the life of one of the world's largest metropolises as an example. An additional asset of the film is its excellent cinematography.
Sven Nykvist: "My quest for simplicity grew out of a search for light: logical, natural, true light...".
- for being close to the character,
- for sensitivity,
- for the ability to tell a story,
- for having the courage to look and to observe,
- for an image that evokes emotion,
- for images that cannot be forgotten
The Best Cinematography award goes to Magdalena Kowalczyk for Cow.
Special mentions go to Alfredo de Juan for the film Hide And Seek and Cecilie Debell, Jens Jákup Hansen, Maria Tórgarð, Rógvi Rasmussen, Troels Rasmus Jensen for the film Skàl.
Justification: We decided to award two distinctions for a new look, and for a camera that tells stories with great precision. An honorable mention for the films Hide And Seek - cinematography by Alfredo de Juan and Skál - for the camera team.
The Chopin’s Nose Award for the director of Nothing Compares by Kathryn Ferguson
Honorary patronage: Marshal of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship
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 2,000 prize to the best film about music and art. The jury consisting of Magda Lipska – curator of the National Modern Art Musem in Warsaw, art theorist; Teonika Rożynek – composer and Monika Strzępka – theater director, new director of the Drama Theater in Warsaw.
Special mention goes to Flight by Anna Zakrzewska and Łukasz Roduda
The Amnesty International Poland Award goes to Rami Farah and Signe Byrge Sørensen the directors of the film Our Memory Belongs to Us
Justification: The film Our Memory Belongs to Us received the award for its multi-layered, unique in form and moving story about memory. The film departs from a purely observational documentary and through its interesting form skillfully shows the process of remembering, forgetting - and the desire not to remember. It contrasts individual memory and the memory of archives, assembling images preserved on tapes and the protagonists' reactions. It is the story of a lost generation of young Syrians who, full of hope for a velvet revolution, finally grab their weapons in desperation, and a question about the reasons for the lack of intervention and aid, about the international human rights system and its effectiveness. This is a unique, multi-layered, moving portrayal of the human experience and a universal story about us.
The Zwierciadło Award for the Best Film on Psychology goes to the director of Young Plato, Neasa Ni Chianain!
This year, we have once again handed out the Zwierciadło Award and its accompanying EUR 1,000 for the best film on psychology.
Justification: Can a nasty reality be changed by sitting and talking? After watching Young Plato, it's not hard to believe that you can. Philosophical discussions, learning to think critically on one's own, and consequently learning that conflicts are resolved with arguments, that everyone should be listened to, and that the opinions of your interlocutors should be respected. These are the methods used by Kevin McArevey, "Mr Philosophy" - headmaster of a primary school in Belfast. A city over which the ghosts of civil war still linger. We are awarding Young Plato because we badly need such stories and examples, especially now, with the war in Ukraine and the influx of war-affected neighbours. How to curb violence and despair, how to break the trauma before it affects the lives of generations to come? Every child deserves Kevin McArevey's methods.
The awards presented in other festival cities:
The Lower Silesia Grand Prix - the Award of the Marshall of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship: Young Plato, dir. Neasy Ni Chianain, Declan McGrath
Special mentions goes to Angels of Sinjar, dir. Hanna Polak
Special mentions goes to We Met In Virtual Reality, dir. Joe Hunting
The Gdynia Mayor Award: The Pawnshop, dir. Łukasz Kowalski
The Jury of the 19th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival comprised: Maciej Cuske , Honorata Martin, Maciej Salamon. At the meeting which took place in Gdynia on 17th May 2022, awarded the prize for the Gdynia Mayor Award in the amount of 15 000 PLN for the best film: The Pawnshop directed by Łukasz Kowalski.
Justification: We award the prize for exceptional sensitivity and attentiveness in the portrayal of the employees of the eponymous Pawnshop. The authors made us feel like part of the family, witnessing their dramas and triumphs, sharing with them the joys and sorrows of everyday life. We cheer them on in their uneven fight against everyday life. By the way, we encourage you to shop at the Allegro auctions of Helikopter II pawnshop or visit it in person at 1A Wytrwałych Street in Bytom.
Special mentions goes to Fledglings, dir. Lidia Duda
Justification: For showing an extraordinary child trio who teach us the importance of emotions, feelings, empathy, tenderness and touch.
The ETNOMATOGRAPH Award goes to Singing In the Wilderness, dir. Dongan Chen
For the second time at the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival, the Department of Ethnography of the National Museum in Gdansk awards the ETNOMATOGRAPH prize for the best film on ethnographic and anthropological themes. The jury's intention was to distinguish the winner for the most sensitive way of showing the authentic face of a human being.
Again, the jury was faced with an extremely difficult task. The films selected for the competition share a sensitive view of various aspects of modernity, authenticity, as well as unique means of artistic expression. Indigenous people fighting with media for the virgin territory of the Amazon jungle; the meditative reality of Buddhist nuns on the Tibetan plateau; the difficult fate of African migrants dreaming of Europe; the story of the Chinese Miao people; and finally the crazy Wakaliwood film studio in Uganda - the range of themes and forms was really wide.
The jury debated fiercely and the decision was unanimous. For extraordinary sensitivity to the characters and the fact that it focuses as if in a lens the multidimensionality of the complicated relations between politics, religion and the fate of ordinary people, for showing an example of how to preserve the authentic heritage and culture of the ancestors in the media and propaganda - the Ethnomatograph Prize goes to director Dongan Chen for the film Singing In the Wilderness. The maturity of the debut, the synthetic nature of the narration and the recording of phenomena that imperceptibly change the reality around deserve the highest distinction.
The Freedom Prize founded by the city of Poznań goes to Babi Yar. Context by Sergey Loznitsa
The jury unanimously awarded the film Babi Yar. Context by Sergey Loznitsa for its creative courage and masterly precision of construction.
Paweł Łoziński: The archival materials were used to create a poignantly topical story about the unchangeable mechanisms of war between politics and propaganda in constantly changing contexts.
Max Skorwider: The film causes discomfort, it gives no peace, but also hope.
Sylwia Chutnik: The coldness and precision of the imagery and the manner in which the murder of over 33,000 Ukrainian Jews is recreated pierces particularly strongly in the contemporary war context.
Special mention goes to Cow, dir. Andrea Arnold
We award a special distinction to Andrea Arnold's film Cow for its departure from an anthropocentric view of the world and a moving story told with wonderful images.
Silesian Audience Award 2022 goes to The Pawnshop, dir. Łukasz Kowalski
BYDGOSZCZ ART.DOC AWARD goes to Fledglings, dir. Lidia Duda
Justification: In the darkness of uncertainty, it is most important to find a trusted guide. Then everything becomes clear, takes on real shapes. Bravely led through the corridors of the school in Laski by Zosia, Kinga and Oskar, we once again realise how important mutual care, tenderness and courage are. Thanks to discrete presence of Lidia and Wojtek we confidently go through the world of sounds, gestures and seemingly unimportant situations. We cross the borders of our own schemes. We look for hope and sense. And what is important, we find them.
Fledglings see more...
Honorable Distinction of the District Bar Council to Simon Lereng Wilmont, author of A House Made of Splinters
Justification: What emerges from the films presented is a picture of a modern world torn by conflict. The only hope for survival is human solidarity, empathy and mutual respect.
A House Made of Splinters by Simone Lereng Wilmont, which receives an honorary distinction from the District Bar Council in Bydgoszcz, gives us a picture of a micro-world where solidarity, empathy and respect are not just empty concepts.
Just as the primary mission of a lawyer is to help, the mission of the caregivers at the temporary children's home in eastern Ukraine is fulfilled by creating an asylum that offers a feeling of security and acceptance for the children there. The caregivers have created an environment in which the children, deprived of their dignity, stigmatised and traumatised, are not alone.
From this evocative portrait of a place, emotions remain in us long after the screening, like splinters under the skin.