POLISH DOCUMENTARY FILMS AT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVALS – 2020 IN REVIEW
We won't forget the past year for a long time. Due to the pandemic, nearly all festivals had to change their formula or at least postpone the events themselves. Luckily, not everything has been put on hold and our documentaries have had the opportunity to appear at numerous international hybrid or online festivals. It's worth remembering that screenings were accompanied by various industry meetings, markets, and reviews. You can find all the most important events of the last year in our summary. Enjoy!
The pandemic thwarted festival organisers' plans quite badly. Many events were cancelled outright, as evidenced by the number of screenings of our films. Polish documentaries were screened approximately 250 times at 150 international festivals. Films from Poland were invited to competitions about 230 times which translated to almost 50 awards and special mentions.
Marcin Polar's “The Tough” was this year's favourite of festival selectors. This short documentary from 2019 has been very popular and was shown more than 20 times at last year's international film events. Polar's film is followed closely by Michał Hytroś's “The Sisters” and “The Wind. A Documentary Thriller” by Michał Bielawski. Both documentaries received 20 invitations. Short productions such as “The Vibrant Village” by Weronika Jurkiewicz and “We Have One Heart” by Katarzyna Warzecha did quite well too.
The most awarded documentaries include Michał Bielawski's “The Wind. A Documentary Thriller”, Maciej Cuske's “The Whale from Lorino”, and Marcin Polar's “The Tough”. “Horse Riders” by Anna Gawlita, “An Ordinary Country” by Tomasz Wolski, “We Have One Heart” by Katarzyna Warzecha, and “The Case of Johanna Langefeld” by Władysław Jurkow and Geburg Rohde-Dahl brought back three statuettes each from international festivals.
Despite the pandemic, which caused quite a stir in the film world, our documentaries have reached the audience of the most important festivals. They were present at FIPADOC, Slamdance, Trieste Film Festival, MiradasDoc, Visions Du Reel, DocsMX, Hot Docs Ji.Hlava, or IDFA, and these are just some of the film events where Polish documentaries were featured.
The beginning of the year did not herald the upcoming changes and restrictions, which also had a significant impact on the entire film and festival industry. In January, Polish documentaries were included in the programs of multiple international festivals, which resulted in awards for Karol Lindholm's “In a Lion” at the Vilnius International Short Film Festival and Natalia Koniarz's “Dam” honoured at the FIPADOC festival.
One of the most important events at the turn of January and February was the festival in Clermont-Ferrand – where Focus on Poland was held. Its program featured several short documentaries (you can read more about it here).At that time, we also learned the names of persons who qualified for the Berlinale Talents program. Among them was a Polish producer of documentary films – Małgorzata Wabińska. In turn, at the Slamdance festival – where Michał Bielawski's “The Wind. A Documentary Thriller” and Karol Lindholm's “In a Lion” were screened among other films – Magda Jaroszewicz's film “Shooting Stars” triumphed in the experimental section.
February turned out to be quite a successful month for our documentary filmmakers. Awards went to Emilia Śniegoska, whose film “19:91” won the Short Competition of Young Filmmakers at BIDF – Budapest International Documentary Festival, and to Paweł Chorzępa for “Sonny”. His film received the award for the best first feature at the Spanish festival MiradasDoc.
The beginning of March was quite calm. Marcin Polar's documentary received an award for best sound editing at the British Short Sounds Festival, while Paweł Dyllus's “Weirdy” won an award for best cinematography from the Polish Society of Cinematographers. Unfortunately, the new pandemic reality curbed the plans of nearly all festival organisers. Luckily, some of films were still presented to audiences and jurors. At the beginning of April, two awards went to “Horse Riders”.Anna Gawlita's short documentary was noticed at the Bucharest ShortCut Cinefest and Festival International du Film d’Aubagne – Music & Cinema. Another statuette was awarded to Michał Hytroś. His “The Sisters” was voted best documentary at Story? – International Student Documentary Festival.
Another important event was the invitation of two Polish documentaries to the international competition of the Visions du Réel festival. The attendees of the Swiss event had the opportunity to see “An Ordinary Country” by Tomasz Wolski and the animated documentary “We Have One Heart” by Katarzyna Warzecha. The former came back from the virtual festival with a Jury Prize Clinique de Genolier. The documentary by Władysław Jurkow and Gerburg Rohde-Dahl has also had a very good festival run. In May, “The Case Johanna Langefeld” received the Grand Jury Prize and the Special Achievement Award for directing at the Red Rock Film Festival in the US. In addition to classic documentaries, those made in VR are also doing quite well – as evidenced by Jacek Nagłowski and Patryk Jordanowicz's project “Whispers”. The production received the Open Frame Award at the goEast Film Festival.
The first weeks of summer holidays can be described as a test for the industry. Events were held either online or in a hybrid form. In June, we learned the winners of the 60th Krakow Film Festival – Poland's first film event to be held entirely online. It was from Krakow that Maciej Cuske's latest film brought the most statuettes. “The Whale from Lorino” received three awards – The Silver Horn for the director of a film with high artistic value, the Award of the President of the Polish Filmmakers Association for editing for Katarzyna Orzechowska, and the the best producer of Polish short and documentary films award funded by the Polish Producers Alliance for Mikołaj Pokromski and Aldona Pokromska.
In July, the situation slowly began to stabilise. Most festivals decided the form in which their event would take place. Some choose cinema screenings in front of live audiences. Festivals held during the summer holidays included, among others, the Salem Film Fest, where an award for editing went to Michał Bielawski's documentary, Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival in New Zealand, with an award for Paweł Wysoczański's “Long Day Tomorrow”, Moscow International Documentary Film Festival DOKer with awards for the directors of “Lessons of Love”, or the Apulia Film Fest, which recognised “The Sisters” by Michał Hytroś.
In August, we learned the list of producers invited to the next edition of the prestigious Emerging Producers program. Polish producer Agnieszka Skalska was also among the 17 names.
At the beginning of September, the KFF Sales & Promotion agency became a partner of one of the sections in the extremely rich program of the Kinopolska Festival. The short film program included, among others, “The Tough” by Marcin Polar. Michał Bielawski's winning streak continued. This month, “The Wind. A Documentary Thriller” won the hearts of the American audience at the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival and of the jurors of the Trento Film Festival. “The Case of Johanna Langefeld” received more awards. The historical documentary by Władysław Jurkow and Geburg Rohde-Dahl won the first prize at the Romanian Rasnov Histories and Film Festival, and was later appreciated by the audience at the History Film Festival in Croatia. During September's One Shot International Short Film Festival, “Horse Riders” by Anna Gawlita was honoured with a special mention, while Łukasz Czajka's “Of Animals and Men” was recognised at Bellaria Film Festival.
Despite the pandemic, October remained the most intense month for documentary filmmakers. It is then that the most important festivals took place where one could see multiple Polish documents, which translated into a number of awards and distinctions. That month was absolutely special for Katarzyna Warzecha. Her animated documentary “We Have One Heart” captivated the jurors of the US-based Chicago International Film Festival and won the Fragmentos Internacionale competition at DocsMX. The film was also won over the audience at the CinEast festival in Luxembourg. October also saw several events devoted to the subject of mountains. “The Wall of Shadows” by Eliza Kubarska delighted the jurors of the Norwegian Bergen International Film Festival. It won in the Documentaire Extraordinaire competition section. Stanisław Berbeka's “Dreamland” was recognised at the latest edition of the Slovak International Festival of Mountain Films. In turn, “The Tough” by Marcin Polar proved to be the best short documentary at the Estonian Pärnu Film Festival.
The producers of Mohammed Almughanni's new film received the Silver Eye Award at the festival in Jihlava. “Son of the Streets” is produced by the Film School in Łódź. Right around that time Grzegorz Paprzycki's “My Country So Beautiful” won the international competition of the Brazilian É Tudo Verdade / It's All True, while Julia Pełka's “Fat Kathy” came back with a prize from the Annual Imagine Science Film Festival, and Tomasz Wolski's “An Ordinary Country” was appreciated by the jury of the FIDBA festival in Argentina. Also in October, Maciej Cuske was awarded with the D20 Filmmaker of the Year prize at this year's West Lake International Documentary Festival in China. During the Aegean Docs International Documentary Film Festival, the title of the best European short documentary went to Julia Groszek's “Arabic Secret”. A similar award was given to Teresa Czepiec's “Super Unit” at the Cuzco Underground Cinema Festival. The documentary by Hanna Polak and Aleksandra Skowron starring “Underage Engineers” was considered the best documentary at the American Delco Film Festival.
The arrival of November did not stop our documentaries from winning more awards. Michał Bielawski's film was recognised as the best documentary at The Victoria TX Independent Film Festival in the US. “The Tough” by Marcin Polar won the Spiegel Best Newcomer award at the Dutch Mountain Film Festival. “The Wall of Shadows” by Eliza Kubarska came back from the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival with the Best Climbing Film award while Maciej Cuske's “The Whale from Lorino” received the CD Digital Award for the best European film at the Italian Festival dei Popoli. The latter was also lauded for its cinematography at last year's Cameraimage festival. Paweł Chorzępa's “Sonny” was considered the best debut at the Hungarian Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival. “An Ordinary Country” by Tomasz Wolski won the Special Jury Award at the Minsk International Film Festival 'Listapad'.In turn, one of the awards at Alcine – the oldest Spanish festival – went to the creators of “Family2”.
There was still a lot going on in December. Marcin Polar was deemed the best director at Bilbao Mendi Film, while Eliza Kubarska's “To Be A Woman In The Himalayas” – the best mountain film. The director's other film – “The Wall of Shadows” – was also awarded at the Nordic Adventure Film Festival. “Weirdy” by Paweł Dyllus was recognised as the best student production at the International Festival of Film Schools Kinoproba. This isn't the only Russian festival where our films have been given a warm reception. Polish productions and co-productions were extremely popular during last year's edition of the Flahertiana festival. The film “Bitter Love” by Jerzy Śladkowski returned with the main prize, while Małgorzata Goliszewska and Kasia Mateja's “Lessons of Love” won a silver statuette. The jury was also captivated by Andrei Kutsila's “Strip and War”.
Canceled and postponed to finally take place in December. The fate of the Slovak Febiofest is similar to that of numerous other festivals. Its organisers won't be remembering this edition fondly. However, it's an entirely different story for Grzegorz Paprzycki and his documentary, which won the International Jury Award there.
Despite the extremely difficult situation in 2020, aside from completed films, various documentary projects succeeded at international industry events: pitch sessions, forums and co-production meetings. Due to the pandemic, since mid-March most events have been held online with the formula turning out to be a decent replacement for live presentations and meetings. Producer Łukasz Długołęcki (NUR) represented Poland in the Emerging Producers program, and Małgorzata Wabińska, producer and owner of Entertain Pictures, took part in the latest edition of the Talent Campus during the Berlinale. The project she produced – “Love Land” directed by Victoria Marinov – took part in the Bulgarian Sofia Meetings. The Documentary Campus Masterschool was attended by Krzysztof Dzięciołowski, who is working on the project “The Ultimate Joker” (produced by Vision House); Eri Mizutani and Anna Fam (Polished Productions) are developing “The Daughter of Fuji” as part of the Eurodoc program; in Ex Oriente – “I Want It All” directed by Katarzyna Wiśniowska (prod. Haka Films), and Łukasz Kowalski's “The Pawnshop” (prod. 4.30 Studio) was invited to DOK Incubator. “The Hamlet Syndrome ” – a project by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski – was presented at the prestigious CPH:Forum in Copenhagen, while Rafał Skalski's “The Current” (prod. Koi Studio) was shown off at the Hot Docs Forum. A large delegation of Polish producers attended the East Doc Platform – a series of co-production meetings and pitch sessions of documentary projects organised by the Institute of Documentary Film in Prague. Four Polish projects were presented: “Black Spot Karabash” directed by Olga Delane (Polish-German co-production) and Daniel Stopa's “Women in Kiosk” (prod. Staron-Film) at the East Doc Forum while “Candidates of Death”, dir. Maciej Cuske, (prod. Bydgoszcz Film Chronicle Foundation) and “The Pawnshop” by Łukasz Kowalski (prod. 4.30 Studio) at the East Doc Market.
“Gypsy Gadji” – a project by Dáša Raimanová (prod. Story Vehicle) met with experts as part of Docs Barcelona Industry, Agnieszka Zwiefka participated in the New Horizons Goes to Cannes section with her “Wika!” (prod. My Way Studio), and “The Pawnshop” and Daniel Stopa's “Until the Wedding” (prod. Staron Film) – in the Docs in Progress Karlovy Vary Eastern Promises. Three Polish projects were pitched at the Baltic Sea Docs in Riga: “When Harmattan Blows” directed by Edyta Wróblewska and “Nina Gets Married” by Andrzej Szypulski (both produced by Pinot Films) as well as Konrad Szołajski's “Waitersgate” (prod. ZK Studio), while Joanna Ratajczak's project “Trust Me” (prod. Silver Frame) was shown at Doku Talents From the East in Sarajevo. “Gypsy Gadji” and “I Want It All” took part in the DOK Copro Market production meetings in Leipzig, while “The Pawnshop” was shown at DOK Preview. Sylwia Rosak's project “Lili” was put forward at the prestigious IDFA Forum.
Several events were held in 2020 as part of the Krakow Film Foundation's project POLISH DOCS PRO whose aim is to promote the Polish documentary industry at international film events. One of them was the Polish booth at last year's online edition of the international documentary marketplace Sunny Side Of The Doc in France, where various projects and films were presented and promoted by film producers and distributors – representatives of:Silver Frame, Vision House, Furia Film, Story Vehicle, My Way Studio , Kijora Film, Mediolia, Telemark, KFF Sales&Promotion, Pinot Films, Haka Films, Filmicon, Staron Film, The Raban Foundation, AMP Polska, Lava Films, Eureka Studio, ZK Studio, Unisolo Studio, Polished Productions, Strikt Film, Kalejdoskop Film. Additionally, Tomasz Wolski's project “The Big Chief” (prod. Anna Gawlita – Kijora Film) qualified for the Rough Cut section. As part of Polish Docs Pro – in cooperation with Doc Lab Poland and KFF Industry – Polish delegations of producers and presentations of Polish projects were organised at the East Doc Platform in Prague, during Ji.hlava Industry, DOK Industry in Leipzig, and IDFA Industry in Amsterdam. The following projects were presented at DOK Industry: “@miriamfrompoland” dir. Piotr Szczepański (prod. Anagram Film), “Debut” dir. Aleksandra Maciejczyk (prod. Lava Films), “A Few Good Days” dir. Tadeusz Chudy, Bartosz Łuniewski (prod. Story Vehicle), “The Big Chief” dir. Tomasz Wolski (prod. Kijora Film), and “Nina Gets Married” dir. Andrzej Szypulski (prod. Pinot Films). Ji.hlava Industry featured: “Siskin” dir. Zofia Kowalewska (prod. Silver Frame), “Being Benovsky” dir. Katarzyna Trzaska, Marek Kucharski (prod. Vision House), “My Place Ozerna” dir. Karina Będkowska (prod. Braidmade Films), “House of Sand” dir. Paweł Wyszomirski (prod. Pinot Films), “The Chums” dir. Emilia Śniegoska (prod. Vision House), “Escape to the Silver Globe”, dir. Kuba Mikurda, prod. Daria Maślona (Silver Frame). As part of the showcase at IDFA Industry one could see the presentations of: “Escape to the Silver Globe” dir. Kuba Mikurda, “The Daughter of Fuji” dir. Eri Mizutani (prod. Polished Productions), “I Am One of Them” dir. Nadim Suleiman, prod. (Palmyra Films), and “Until the Wedding”, dir. Daniel Stopa (prod. Staron Film).
Traditionally, KFF prepared Polish Docs film programs at the Doc Shop documentary market, Hot Docs festival in Canada, Docs for Sale during the IDFA in the Netherlands, Doc Market during the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in Greece, Doc Outlook during Visions du Reel in Switzerland, East Silver in the Czech Republic , MediMed in Spain, or DOK Market at DOK Leipzig in Germany.
Events organised or co-organised by KFF took place thanks to the support of the Polish Film Institute as well as foreign partners – IDFA, Hot Docs, DOK Leipzig, Clermont-Ferrand ISFF, Sundance Institute, Institute of Documentary Films, Thessaloniki IDFF, Visions du Reel, CPH:DOX, and Sunny Side of the Doc.
LIST OF AWARDS FOR POLISH DOCUMENTARY FILMS IN 2020*
19.91, dir. Emilia Śniegoska
Budapest International Documentary Festival, Hungary – Winner of Short Competition of Young Filmmakers
Arabic Secret, dir. Julia Groszek
8th AegeanDocs International Film Festival, Greece – Best European Film Award
To Be A Woman In The Himalayas, dir. Eliza Kubarska
13th BBK MENDI FILM Bilbao-Bizkaia Festival, Spain – Best Mountain Film
Dreamland, dir. Stanisław Berberka
International Festival of the Mountain Films, Slovakia – Best Mountaineering Film
Weirdy, dir. Paweł Dyllus
XVII International Festival-Workshop of Film Schools Kinoproba, Russia – Best Student Documentary
Family2, dir. Yifan Sun
Alcine, Festival de Cine de Alcalá de Henares, Spain – Special Mention
Documentary Movie, dir. Katarzyna Warzecha, Piotr Pawlus
Carpathian Mountain International Film Festival, Ukraine – Special Mention
Fat Kathy, dir. Julia Pełka
Imagine Science FF, USA – In Vivo Award
The Tough, dir. Marcin Polar
Short Sounds Film Festival, United Kingdom – Best Sound Editing
Parnu FF, Estonia – Best Short Documentary
9th Dutch Mountain Film Festival, The Netherlands – Spiegel Best Newcomer
13th BBK MENDI FILM Bilbao-Bizkaia Festival, Spain – Best Director Award
Long Day Tomorrow, dir. Paweł Wysoczański
Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival, New Zealand – Special Mention
The End of The Season, dir. Stanisław Cuske
Moscow International Documentary Film Festival DOKer, Russia – Special Mention
Horse Riders, dir. Anna Gawlita
Bucharest Shortcut Cinefest, Romania – Special Mention
Festival International du Film d’Aubagne - Music & Cinema, France – Short Film Corner Award
"One Shot" International Short Film Festival, Armenia – Special Mention
Lessons of Love, dir. Małgorzata Goliszewska, Kasia Mateja
Moscow International Documentary Film Festival DOKer, Russia – Best Director
My Country So Beautiful, dir. Grzegorz Paprzycki
It's All True IFF, Brazil – Best Documentary in the Intrnational Competition Short Films
IFF Febiofest Bratislava 2020, Slovakia – International Jury Award
Underage Engineers, dir. Hanna Polak, Aleksandra Skowron
Delco Film Festival, USA – Best Documentary Film
Of Animals and Men, dir. Łukasz Czajka
Bellaria Film Festival, Italy – Bei Doc Award
The Case of Johanna Langefeld, dir. Władysław Jurkow, Geburg Rohde-Dahl
Saratov Sufferings International Film Festival of Documentary Drama, 2020, Russia –Main Award Saratov Open City
The Rasnov Histories and Film Festival, Romania – Special Mention
History Film Festival, Rijeka, Croatia – Audience Award
The Sisters, dir. Michał Hytroś
Story? - International Student Documentary Film Festival, Cork, Ireland – Best Documentary of the Festival
Apulia Film Fest, Italy – Best Documentary
Shooting Stars, dir. Magda Jaroszewicz
Slamdance Film Festival, USA – Experimental Shorts Grand Jury Prize
Strip and War, dir. Andrei Kutsila
Flahertiana, Russia – Jury Award
Super Unit, dir. Teresa Czepiec
Cuzco Underground Cinema Festival, Peru – Best Short Documentary
Sonny, dir. Paweł Chorzępa
MiradasDoc, Tenerife, Spain – Best First Feature
17th Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Hungary – Student/Debut Film Award
The Wall of Shadows, dir. Eliza Kubarska
Bergen International Film Festival, Norway – Grand Prix
Nordic Adventure Film Festival – Best Film
Dam, dir. Natalia Koniarz
FIPA DOC International Documentary Festival, France – The TËNK Award
We Have One Heart, dir. Katarzyna Warzecha
13th Central and Eastern European Film Festival CinEast, Luxembourg – Audience Award for the Best Short Documentary Film
15th DocsMX International Documentary Film Festival of Mexico City, Mexico – Best Short Documentary in Fragmentos Internacionale
56th Chicago International Film Festival, USA – Gold Hugo Prize
The Wind. A Documentary Thriller, dir. Michał Bielawski
Salem Film Fest 2020, USA – The Best Editing Award
XXIII Cervino Cinemountain, Italy – Best Foreign Feature Film
68th Trento Film Festival, Italy – The Italian Alpine Club Prize – Golden Gentian
Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, USA – Audience Award
Victoria TX Indie Film Fest, USA – Best Documentary
Flahertiana, Russia – Silver Nanook
The Whale from Lorino, dir. Maciej Cuske
14th Batumi International Art-House Film Festival – The Best Doc Film Award
4th West Lake International Documentary Festival, China – D20 Filmmaker of the Year
Krakow Film Festival, Poland – Silver Horn
EnergaCAMERIMAGE International Film Festival, Poland – Golden Frog for best documentary feature
61st Festival Dei Popoli - International Festival of Documentary Film, Italy – CG Digital Distribution on Demand Award
In a Lion, dir. Karol Lindholm
Vilnius International Short Film Festival, Lithuania – Best Documentary
An Ordinary Country, dir. Tomasz Wolski
Visions du Réel International Film Festival, Switzerland – Jury Prize Clinique de Genolier
FIDBA Buenos Aires International Documentary Film Festival, Argentina – Special Mention
27th Minsk International Film Festival 'Listapad', Belarus – Special Jury Award
*data collected on the basis of information sent by producers, filmmakers, and festival organisers to Polish Docs. If you’re aware of any international awards handed out to Polish documentary films not included on this list, please contact our editorial office at: redakcja@@polishdocs.pl