All the festival fans have been waiting for this moment! The full programme of this year’s Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival appeared on the mdag.pl website today. It involves nearly 150 documentary films which represent a great diversity when it comes to the places where they were made as well as forms - among them, there are feature length ones, short film, animations and documentary series. The festival will take place from 3rd to 12th September in seven cities (Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia, Poznań, Katowice, Lublin and Bydgoszcz) and then from 16th September do 3rd October online at mdag.pl.
Don’t forget – last days of passes’ sales!
Don’t forget that you can only buy a pass for the Warsaw edition of the festival until the 15th August while gift passes must be purchased by 12th August (and registered for the gift recipient until 15th August). You can find more information and buy passes at the festival website: https://mdag.pl/18/pl/warszawa/Karnety-Mdag
The world is waking up into equality!
The motto of this year’s Millennium Docs Against Gravity is: The world is waking up and it comes form Greta Thunberg’s speech. It emphasizes the organisers’ belief that the festival will bring people hope. Many films in the programme concern activism and call for acting for a better, equal and green world.
“ We’re glad that this year there is a gender parity both among the filmmakers and the jury members. In the main competition, there are 7 female and 7 male directors. 45% of all the films were directed by women and 55% by men, which is unique, compared to other leading cultural events in the world. In the juries, which have 24 members altogether, there are 13 women and 11 men” – says Karol Piekarczyk, the Artistic Director of the Festival.
Main Competition and this year’s sections
Fourteen films which represent the top quality of cinematic art will be presented in this year’s main competition. Among them, there are productions which tell stories from the Middle East, Russia, Poland, the Philippines or Zimbabwe as well as a moving animation “Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen – a sensation at the Sundance Festival. What is more, a documentary series – “Seeds of Deceit” directed by Miriam Guttman – will be presented for the first time. It shows the shocking practices of Dr. Kaarbat, a Dutch infertility treatment specialist who died in 2017. The doctor injected 65 patients with his own sperm.
Among the sections which will be presented at the18th edition of Millennium Docs Against Gravity there are ones which the audience is already familiar with, like We Can Be Heroes, Intimate Stories, Places, Man in Film, Muse and Inspiration, Fetish and Culture or The Fourth Eye as well as new ones: The Different Faces of Latin America, which is an insight into the diversity of this region; Crime Mysteries @MDAG - documentaries with a touch of horror; Life in the Time of a Pandemic – a collection of Polish films which document the reality during lockdown; DIY Protest or the portraits of people from all over the world who fight for what they believe in and, last but not least, this year’s avant-garde film section – A Queer Perspective.
14 unique films in the Polish Competition
Just as every year, great Polish films will have their world and European premières at Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival. This time, 14 films will compete for the Best Polish Film Award and the Smakjam Best Production in the Polish Competition Prize as well as the (new!) Studio Cinemas Association Award. Some of them are presented below.
In the programme, there are as many as four Polish films which show various faces of quarantine. Interestingly, only two of the stories take place in Poland – the remaining ones are set in Russia and Iceland. The first film which is the tale about the time of great isolation is “Polish Self-Portrait” directed by Maciej Białoruski, Jakub Drobczyński and Jakub Rados. The characters share the record of their personal experience during lockdown and they show us how they deal with different virus than COVID-19 – loneliness. The home-made materials are complemented by directors’ perspective on how Poland, as a country, and Poles as a society, dealt with the restrictions and challenges connected with the pandemic. The renaming three are short films and they will be presented in a single block. Jakub, the protagonist of “Seal Story” directed by Bartłomiej Błaszczyński has been through an extreme version of isolation – on his own in hotel room. The hotel was adjacent to the Ghost, Elves and Northern Lights Museum in a small Icelandic town on the Atlantic Ocean. He spent several months there, all on his own, surrounded by a deserted volcanic landscape, feeling like the only person on the planet. Another film, in which we listen in on phone calls of people who are isolated from the rest of the society, is “Bless You” by Tatiana Chistova – a project which received the prestigious Doc Alliance Award this year. The story is set in St Petersburg, right after the government introduces mandatory isolation for all the senior citizens. A helpline was established. Its consultants’ job was to reassure desperate people with no access to medication or even food. The version of the motto “Stay at home” shown here is completely empty... The appalling life conditions of many Russian senior citizens show what the actual everyday life is like for many inhabitants of Putin’s empire. The director and protagonist of the film “Hello Grandma” Kamila Chojnacka also talks to an elderly lady on the phone. When recording the people who surrounded her – her husband and her 1.5 year old son during the lockdown, she devotes a lot of attention to her grandmother whom she only contacts remotely. At some point, it turns out that the grandmother does not isolate herself completely.
The outstanding Polish documentary maker Paweł Łoziński also films his surroundings from the perspective of his own... balcony. In “The Balcony Movie”, he takes a look at passers by in Walecznych Street in Warsaw’s Saska Kępa district. Some of them are sad, some are deep in thought, some have their eyes fixed on their phones – both young and old ones... Łoziński accosts them, asks them questions and talks to them about how they deal with their lives. As he stood there with his camera for two years, he created a place for dialogue – a kind of a lay confessional where anyone can stop and tell his or her story to others. Ultimately, we – the cinema audience – are the others. In this year’s films, you can also find literary themes. The eminent author with some dark chapters in his biography is the protagonist of Rafael Lewandowski’s latest film – “Herbert. Barbarian in the Garden”. The director discovers that behind the crystal clear beauty of the poetry which Herbert left behind there is the barely known personal life of the poet and humanist – a man full of sense of humour and subtlety who struggled with uncertainty, anger, physical pain and mental illness. On the other hand, a cult phenomenon is presented by Kuba Mikurda’s “Escape to the Silver Globe”. Perhaps it reveals the biggest secret and unfulfilled dream of Polish film. It shows the extremely complicated inside story behind making the most ambitious film in the history of Polish cinema – Andrzej Żuławski’s science-fiction epic “On the Silver Globe”.
In the Polish films, we will also get to know touching characters coming from today’s young generation observed through the tender eye of a movie camera. The teenage protagonists of Mikołaj Lizut’s “Never Coming Back” are in the care of a youth fostering centre in Goniądz near Białystok. They are troublemakers and have committed crimes. However, the girls are victims of domestic violence as well. Alumni of such facilities often get pregnant at a very young age. In their world filled with dreadful experience, their own child becomes a dream of unconditional love and a happy family. The protagonist of Krzysztof Kasior’s “Fury” – 25-year old MMA champion Aleksandra Rola – also comes from a dysfunctional family. After trying to commit suicide several times, she decided to quit psychotherapy and replace it with MMA training sessions. This way, she managed to get rid of the anger and frustration which had accumulated in her. During one year, she beat all her opponents, though she had not been training the discipline for a long time. However, there are obstacles on her way to international success. Will she be able to overcome them?
Full film programme of the festival is available at mdag.pl. The Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival will have a hybrid form this year. After the cinema part in seven Polish cities (Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia, Poznań, Katowice, Lublin, Bydgoszcz) from 3rd to 12th October, there will be the online part at mdag.pl which will present a part of the cinema programme – from 16th September to 3rd October. This year, the festival will last for a full month – from 3rd September to 3rd October!
You can watch the trailers of all the 18th Millennium Docs Against Gravity edition’s films at this link: