The pandemic continues, as does festival life. In a changed form, more often as hybrid or online editions, but still with Polish documentaries included in the programs of the most significant international film events. It was another good year. We didn't just show new productions, but also were present at various industry meetings and fairs. You can find all major events of last year in our summary. We hope you enjoy reading it!


Although festival organisers did their best, working under a sanitary regime and following expert recommendations, not every event could take place as planned. Some moved online, others changed their dates, but some did not take place at all, which can also be seen in our statistics. Polish films were shown approximately 250 times at over 190 of the most important international festivals, while before the pandemic the number of film events usually exceeded 200. Fortunately – and despite the situation – Polish documentaries were still invited to competitions very often – a total of 150 times, letting the films win over 50 awards and distinctions.

The documentary by Katarzyna Warzecha was the one most often shown at major international festivals. We Have One Heart was invited 33 times. Rafał Małecki's Rust followed Warzecha's animated documentary with more than 30 screenings, just like the environmentally-themed production Stolen Fish by Gosia Juszczak. A Little Bit of Paradise by Andrzej Cichocki, 1970 by Tomasz Wolski and the director's earlier film An Ordinary Country were also frequent guests on the big screens of large festivals.  

We also checked which of the Polish documentaries were the most popular among the jurors and the international audiences that awarded Polish films. As usual, the most frequently honoured films were those with the largest number of screenings. This year, the most trophies went to Stolen Fish. by Gosia Juszczak. Rust by Rafał Małecki and The Wall of Shadows by Eliza Kubarska both came second with the same number of awards. Katarzyna Warzecha's We Have One Heart and A Little Bit of Paradise by Andrzej Cichocki each received four awards and honourable mentions.

Fewer festivals, but what festivals they were! Polish documentaries could be found in the programs of all the most important film events of the past twelve months. They were present at FIDBA, the Bogota Short Film Festival, IDFA, FIPA DOC, Visions Du Reel, Hot Docs, ZAGREBDOX, Ji.Hlava, Encounters, MecalPro, DocuDays UA, Makedox, or in Locarno, and these are not all the festivals where our productions could be seen.

The beginning of the year, as usual, was a bit quieter, with less going on. Nevertheless, a quite large number of Polish documentaries went to the FIPA DOC festival in January, where Polish documentaries were shown both in competition and as part of the Focus on Visegrad program presenting the cinema of the V4 countries. Andrzej Cichocki's A Little Bit of Paradise, Katarzyna Warzecha's We Have One Heart, and Tomasz Wolski's An Ordinary Country were all competing for awards at the French event. The non-competition section featured screenings of Festival by Tomasz Wolski and Anna Gawlita and The Whale from Lorino by Maciej Cuske. At the turn of February and March, even more Polish films could be seen at the International Documentary Film Festival MiradasDoc. The programme of the event included a total of four Polish documentaries – An Ordinary Country by Tomasz Wolski, Tell Me More by Martyna Peszko, Stolen Fish by Gosia Juszczak, and Papa by Maryia Yakimovich. It is also worth recalling that the excellent Polish documentary filmmaker Elwira Niewiera was among the six winners of the US Chicken&Egg awards in February.

We welcomed the end of winter in March with awards for Eliza Kubarska's The Wall of Shadows. This mountain-themed documentary was recognised for its cinematography at the Salem Film Festival. The trophy went to the film's cinematographer, Piotr Rosołowski, who a short while later also received the PSC Award from his Polish colleagues. Last year, the Polish Society of Cinematographers decided to honour the outstanding Polish documentary filmmaker Jacek Petrycki with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In April, spring came to Polish documentary filmmaking for good. Just in this month, the animated film by Katarzyna Warzecha took the US Aspen Shortfest by storm. The film received the Jury Award and the Ellen Award, which commemorates the founder of the festival. Tomasz Wolski's new film, screened for the first time at Visions du Reél, also received a Special Jury Award there. And during Mecal Pro in Spain, the audience was enchanted by the short documentary The Vibrant Village by Weronika Jurkiewicz. It turns out that – even years later – Teresa Czepiec's Super Unit can still draw attention and win awards like the Special Mention at the Italian festival Visioni Urbane.

At the turn of April and May, the very prestigious Hot Docs festival began in Canada. There were three Polish documentaries in the programme - Tell Me More by Marta Peszko competed for the award for the best short film, the World Showcase section featured Dorota Proba's documentary Between Us, while the Artscapes program – displaying films about creativity in designing visual arts – presented the Polish-Israeli co-production High Maintenance – The Life and Work of Dani Karava by Barak Heymann. In May, another trophy went to Eliza Kubarska. This time The Wall of Shadows received the Mario Bello award at the Trento Film Festival. In turn, Gosia Juszczak's documentary received the Jury Award at the US-based Livable Planet Film Festival.

The holiday season also had a very promising start. The 61st Krakow Film Festival concluded at the beginning of June. The winners included: Walk With Angels by Tomasz Wysokiński, A Little Bit of Paradise by Andrzej Cichocki, and 1970 by Tomasz Wolski. The Krakow audience decided to award Anna Kokoszka-Romer and Mateusz Kudła's documentary Polański, Horowitz. Hometown. The films that won at the oldest Polish festival last year are doing very well abroad. In June Maciej Cuske's The Whale from Lorino received the Eagle award, while The Wind. A Documentary Thriller by Michał Bielawski was recognised as the best documentary at the Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival in the UK. Meanwhile, Raisa by Dorota Migas-Mazur received a Special Mention at the Moscow International Documentary Film Festival DOKer.

The short documentaries A Little Bit of Paradise by Andrzej Cichocki, Tell Me More by Martyna Peszko, and Comet by Adam Buka received awards during the 35th edition of the Pärnu International Film Festival in July. It wasn't the only award for Peszko's documentary that month. Tell Me More also received a special mention at the Ravno Selo Film Festival in Serbia. In turn, Eliza Kubarska's latest documentary won the 15th edition of the Mountain Film Festival in Domazele, Slovenia. In Italy, Rafał Małecki's Rust received a special mention during the River Film Festival.

It was an exceptional edition of the Locarno Film Festival. During the Critics' Week, as many as three Polish documentaries were presented. Wajda Studio's latest production – Karol Pałka's Bucolic – and The Balcony Movie by Paweł Łoziński, had their local premieres, while Tomasz Wysokiński's Walk With Angels, awarded in Krakow, debuted internationally. Łoziński's intimate film came back from the Swiss event with the Grand Prix. At the same time, Małgorzata Juszczak's short film was recognised as the best documentary at the One Country One Film summer festival. In turn, Eliza Kubarska's documentary about Sherpas climbed to new heights in August. This time, the film appealed to the jury of the Cervino CineMountain festival and won the Grand Prix – commonly referred to as the “mountain film Oscar”. Another award also went to Andrzej Cichocki. His short documentary received a special mention at Makedox.

Although it is commonly believed that summer holidays are the best time for festivals, autumn is definitely dominated by events devoted to documentary cinema, which also translated into awards for Polish productions. The Polish-Lebanese production Son of the Streets, directed by Mohammed Almughanni, was considered the best short documentary at the Portuguese festival FIKE – Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragens de Évora.An honourable mention was also given to Gosia Juszczak's documentary Stolen Fish. This isn't the only award for this film in September; the production was also noticed at the Split Film Festival in Croatia. Two more awards went to Eliza Kubarska. The Wall of Shadows was appreciated by the juries of two festivals. It received the Grand Prix at the Alpin Film Festival in Romania and another one at the ECHO Mountain Film Festival in Macedonia. Agony by Tomasz Knittel won the Czech Crystal for the best music, dance and theatre documentary at the 58th Golden Prague International Television Festival. Marcin Polar's short documentary has been stealing the hearts of festival juries for several years now. This time, The Tough received a special mention at the Mosor Film Festival in Croatia. In September, awards were also given to Jan Borowiec's Glass Negatives (recognised at the Bulgarian Master of Art Festival). We also saw two more Grand Prix go to Polish films. The first was awarded to xABo: Father Boniecki by Aleksandra Potoczek at the  International Documentary Film Festival Flahertiana in Russia, and the second one went to Tomasz Wolski's 1970 at the Batumi Festival in Georgia.

September saw the announcement of the list of productions nominated for the international Emmy awards. The French-Polish documentary by Gregory Monro – Kubrick by Kubrick – was among the selected titles. The nomination soon turned into a trophy.

The three most important documentary film festivals began in October. The program of DOK Leipzig included several Polish productions. Paweł Łoziński's The Balcony Movie competed for the Audience Award, but eventually came back with the MDR Film Prize. Monika Proba's Light Years competed for the Best Short Film title, but the award ultimately went to Karol Pałka's feature-length production Bucolic. The film received the Silver Dove, an award given to the best international documentaries or animations.

The second most important festival is IDFA, of course. Kacper Lisowski's Judges Under Pressure and Joanna Popinska's Polish-Canadian VR production The Choice premiered there. The Dutch capital also hosted screenings of The Balcony Movie and 1970. Both films were also presented at the Ji.Hlava festival, but in the end its award went to Andrea Kutsila's new documentary. A while earlier, When Flowers Are Not Silent won its section at the Warsaw Film Festival.

Two awards in October went to The Whale from Lorino. Maciej Cuske's film was awarded the Golden Raven at the Golden Raven festival in Chukotka and received the Grand Prix at the International Festival of Ethnological Films in Serbia. Last year, the programme of FEST – New Directors/ New Films Festival two Polish documentaries were included in various competitions – Under the Sky by Marta Skiba, and the Golden Lynx Award winner – Last Knights of the Right Side by Michał Edelman.  

The beginning of November brought good news for Magdalena Kowalczyk. The Polish cinematographer was nominated for the BIFA awards for her work on Andrea Arnold's documentary Cow. The film had its premiere in Cannes. Several awards also went to Polish productions. Fat Kathy by Julia Pełka received the Fellini Award for the best documentary at the Amarcort Film Festival in Italy, Ksawery Szczepanik's Going for Gold was named the best Olympic-themed film during the Paladino D'oro Sport Film Festival, while Weronika Jurkiewicz's The Vibrant Village won the title of the best student film at The Calvert Journal Film Festival.

Following an intense autumn, December was a bit slower, but it doesn't mean that nothing happened. Michał Bielawski's The Wind. A Documentary Thriller received another award – this time as the best documentary at last year's edition of the Mediawave – Another Connection International Film & Music Gathering in Hungary. Eliza Kubarska's film was once again appreciated at an international mountain film festival. This time, the story of the Sherpa family delighted the jury of the BBK Mendi Film Bilbao-Bizkaia.


The pandemic hit industry events the hardest. Fortunately, it did not stop them completely. Polish projects were shown and awarded at international film events: pitch meetings, forums, and co-production meetings. Another edition of East Doc Platform took place in April. There was no shortage of Polish projects and co-productions present there. Only 10 projects were invited to last year's East Doc Forum. Among the selected productions there were as many as three from Poland – Expedition 49 directed by Alisa Kovalenkom, The Trans Syrian Express by Alina Rudnitskaya (this co-production received two awards – Sunny Side of the Doc Prize and DocsBarcelona Award), and Waitersgate by Konrad Szołajski. Last year only 10 projects were invited to participate in the East Doc Market, including two from Poland – Workcenter by Aniela Astrid Gabryel and The Ultimate Joker directed by Krzysztof Dzieciołowski. In turn, the section devoted to interactive productions – East Doc Interactive 2021 – also featured a Polish project. Tadeusz Chudy is responsible for SELF Concept.

Polish cinematography was one of the special guests of this year's international documentary film festival FIPADOC, held in the French town of Biarritz. The FIPADOC Industry Days section featured a presentation of the Polish documentary industry. We are also present in Clermont-Ferrand but in an online form. The latest Polish short film productions were promoted by the Polish Shorts delegation participating in the fair, which included representatives of the most important film institutions in Poland.

The Polish project The Pawnshop directed by Łukasz Kowalski received one of the awards during the DOK.Incubator workshops. The Plague, a film essay by Monika Kotecka, the Swiss-Polish production Brotherhood by Hanna Maciąg, and the Polish-Hungarian project Swarm by Ula Sowa were invited to the MeetMarket industry forum held during the 28th edition of Sheffield DocFest.

The CPH:DOX Festival in Copenhagen is one of the world's most important festivals dedicated to documentary cinema. The festival is also accompanied by one of the most interesting events held with the documentary film industry in mind – CPH:Industry, at which the Polish delegation of Polish Docs Pro was present remotely. One of the key events of the Polish presence at the festival was MEET THE POLISH DOCS PRO DELEGATION – a presentation that had representatives of the Krakow Film Foundation discussing the possibilities of financing and producing documentary films in Poland, as well as co-producing with Poland, while selected producers presented their companies and projects.

In June, Krakow hosted KFF Industry, where as many as 20 Polish documentary projects were presented to the international industry during the Docs to Start and Docs to Go pitching sessions, crowning the Doc Lab Poland programme.

Another major undertaking was the organisation of the Polish Docs Pro stand at the Sunny Side of the Doc International Documentary Film Fair, coordinated by the Krakow Film Foundation. In 2021, it was held online for the second time. This year, as many as four Polish projects were invited to participate in the fair. To the main pitching: session GLOBAL ISSUES – Waitergate by Konrad Szołajski (produced by Małgorzata Prociak), session: HISTORY – The Ultimate Joker by Krzysztof Dzięciołowski (produced by Agata Jujeczka, Vision House Production), and for the session WILDLIFE – Jungle Fever. The Race To Save Malaysia's Last Tigers by Paolo Volponi (produced by ClearWing Foundation for Biodiversity). The Talent Hub pitching section, presenting projects by debutants from CEE countries, showed Girls' Stories by Aga Borzym (prod. Agnieszka Rostropowicz-Rutkowska, Marta Dużbabel – Pinot Films). Each of the projects received an award. And the latter, together with The Invisibles by Piotr Bernaś, was also invited to IndustryBaltic Sea Docs. Thanks to the previous award received at Docs to Start, Aga Borzym's project was also invited to the pitch meetings at the DOK Co-Pro Market in Leipzig. A delegation of producers put together by the Krakow Film Foundation also went to Leipzig to participate in industry meetings. Thanks to KFF, Polish producers also visited Amsterdam – where  the Polish Docs Pro Showcase took place during IDFA Industry, presenting Polish projects in development – as well as the networking event Guests Meet Guest co-organised together with HBO Europe. Last year, it changed its formula a bit due to the pandemic and switched from being a traditional cocktail party into a day-long informal meeting with Polish cinematographers and filmmakers present at IDFA.

The Slovenian-Italian-Polish project Cent'anni directed by Maja Prelog was included in the Cannes Docs section at the Docs in Progress – Showcase Circle Women special workshop, to ultimately receive the Docs-in-Progress Award there.

Three producers nominated by The Polish Film Institute: Magdalena Borowiec (SQUARE film studio), Marta Gmosińska (Lava Films) and Stanisław Zaborowski (Silver Frame) were qualified to participate in the Match Me! program. The programme took place during the 74th Locarno International Film Festival.

Only 11 projects were selected for last year's edition of the Astra Film Lab, and two of them were Polish co-productions. The first is the Ukrainian-Italian-Polish production Funeralzzi directed by Olena Fedyuk. The other one is the German-Polish Welcome to New Karabash by Olga Delane.

In September, the Polish delegation visited Nordisk Panorama Forum, where Poland was a special guest of the 2021 edition. The delegation included Polish documentary film producers, who had the opportunity to participate in Producers meets Producers – a series of co-production meetings with partners from the Nordic region. In addition, two projects were selected for presentation during the international pitching: Lili, directed by Sylwia Rosak, produced by Katarzyna Kuczyńska/Haka Films and Trust Me (dir. Joanna Ratajczak), produced by Stanisław Zaborowski (Silver Frame), who participated in the pitching as an “observer+”.

Matej Bobrik's Guest Worker project was presented at the Ji.Hlava New Visions Forum. It wasn't the only Polish highlight at the industry segment of the Czech festival. One of the panellists during the Visegrad Accelator was producer Stanisław Zaborowski (Silver Frame). It's also worth mentioning that Karolina Śmigiel was among the Emerging Producers.

Traditionally KFF has prepared Polish Docs film programmes at the Doc Shop documentary fair, the Hot Docs festival in Canada, Docs for Sale during IDFA in Holland, Agora 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, and DOK Market during DOK Leipzig in Germany.

Events organised or co-organised by the KFF took place thanks to the support of: the Polish Film Institute, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as foreign partners – IDFA, Hot Docs, DOK Leipzig, Institute of Documentary Films, Thessaloniki IDFF, Visions du Reel, CPH:DOX, and Sunny Side of the Doc.


1970, dir. Tomasz Wolski

Visions du Reel, Switzerland – Special Jury Award

61st Krakow Film Festival, 2021, Poland – Silver Hobby-Horse

16th Batumi International Art-House Film Festival, Georgia – Best Documentary

Agony, dir. Tomasz Knittel

58th Golden Prague International Television Festival, Czech Republic – Czech Crystal award for best documentary programme dedicated to music, dance and theatre

Bucolic, dir. Karol Pałka

64th International Festival for Documentary and Animated Film – DOK Leipzig, 2021, Germany – Silver Dove

The Balcony Movie, dir. Paweł Łoziński

74th Locarno Film Festival, 2021, Switzerland – Grand Prix Semaine de la critique/Prix SRG SSR

64th International Festival for Documentary and Animated Film – DOK Leipzig, 2021, Germany – MDR Film Prize

19. Festiwal Filmowy Millenium Docs Against Gravity - Special Mention

When Flowers Are Not Silent, dir. Andrei Kutsila

36th Warsaw Film Festival, 2021, Poland – Best Documentary Feature

25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival, Czech Republic – Special mention for Best Central and East European Documentary Film

The Tough, dir. Marcin Polar

7th Mosor Film Festival, Croatia –  Special Mention

Light Years, dir. Monika Proba

61st Krakow Film Festival, 2021, Poland – Special Mention

Anew, dir. Zofia Sawicka

21 International Film Schools Festival / 21 Festival International de Escuelas de Cine, Uruguay – Special Mention

Last Knights of the Right Side, dir. Michał Edelman

FEST - New Directors/ New Films Festival, Portugal – Golden Lynx Award

Papa, dir. Maryia Yakimovich

Northern Lights Nordic-Baltic Film Festival, Belarus – Grand Prix

Polański, Horowitz. Hometown, dir. Mateusz Kudła, Anna Kokoszka-Romer

61st Krakow Film Festival, 2021, Poland – Audience Award

Tell Me More, dir. Martyna Peszko

4. Ravno Selo Film Festival, Serbia – Special Mention

35th Pärnu Film Festival, Estonia – The Best Student Docs

Going For Gold, dir. Ksawery Szczepanik

41st Paladino D’oro Sport Film Festival, Italy – Best Olympic Film

Raisa, dir. Dorota Migas-Mazur

Moscow International Documentary Film Festival DOKer, Russia – Special Mention

Rust, dir. Rafał Małecki

Filmarte Festival, Spain – Best Short Award

Semana de Cine de Lugo, Spain – Special Mention

The Cinalfama Lisbon International Film Festival, Portugal – Best Medium or Feature Film, Best Debut Film

The Fine Arts Festival Venice, USA – Best Cinematography Award

River Film Festival, Italy – Special Mention

Judges Under Pressure, dir. Kacper Lisowski

Watch Docs, 2021, Poland – Audience Award

Walk With Angels, dir. Tomasz Wysokiński

61st Krakow Film Festival, 2021, Poland – Golden Hobby-Horse

Stolen Fish, dir. Gosia Juszczak

Livable Planet Film Festival, USA – Jury Award

One Country One Film, 2021, France – Best Documentary

25th Split Film Festival, Croatia – Special Mention

FIKE – Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragens de Évora, Portugal – Honorable Mention

Jozi Film Festival, 2021, South Africa – Best International Documentary

International Agrofilm Festival "Agrofilm", Slovakia – Award of the president of Agrofilm

The Pigeon International Film Festival, Iceland – Best Directing in Documentaries

Super Unit, dir. Teresa Czepiec

Visioni Urbane, 2021, Italy – Special Mention

Son of the Streets, dir. Mohammed Almughanni

FIKE – Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragens de Évora, Portugal – Best Short Documentary Film

Glass Negatives, dir. Jan Borowiec

Master of Art Film Festival, 2021, Bulgaria – Best short documentary

Wall of Shadows, dir. Eliza Kubarska 

Salem Film Fest, 2021, USA – Cinematography Award

69th Trento Film Festival, Italy – Mario Bello Prize

ECHO Mountain Film Festival, Macedonia – Grand Prix

15th Mountain Film Festival, 2021, Slovenia – Grand Prix

Alpin Film Festival, Romania – Grand Prix

BBK Mendi Film Bilbao-Bizkaia, Spain – Grand Prize

The Vibrant Village, dir. Weronika Jurkiewicz

23rd Mecal Pro, Barcelona International Short and Animation Festival, Spain – Audience Award for the best short film in the Documentary competition

A Little Bit of Paradise, dir. Andrzej Cichocki

61st Krakow Film Festival, 2021, Poland – Silver Hobby-Horse, Polish Society of Cinematographers award for best cinematography

35th Pärnu Film Festival, Estonia – Best Docs About Kids

12th MakeDox Creative Documentary Film Festival, Macedonia – Special Mention

We Have One Heart, dir. Katarzyna Warzecha

Flickerfest 30th International Short Film Festival, Australia – Special Mention for Documentary

Aspen ShortFest 2021, USA – Jury Award in the Documentary category, Ellen Jury Award

12th Anibar International Animation Festival, Kosovo –  Special Mention

The Wind. A Documentary Thriller, dir. Michał Bielawski

Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival, United Kingdom – Best Documentary Film

Mediawave - Another Connection International Film & Music Gathering, Hungary – Best Documentary

The Whale from Lorino, dir. Maciej Cuske

30th International Festival of Ethnological Film, Serbia, 2021 – Grand Prix

5th Arctic International Film Festival "Golden Raven", Russia – Golden Raven Award

XABo: Father Boniecki, dir. Aleksandra Potoczek

XXI International Documentary Film Festival Flahertiana, Russia – Grand Prix


*data collected from information received by Polish Docs from producers, filmmakers, and festivals. If you know of any foreign awards for Polish documentaries that have not been included in this list, please send such information to our editorial office at: redakcja@polishdocs.pl