One of the most important US festivals dedicated to documentary cinema has just announced its program. The film by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski will be contenting for the title of best international documentary film in its prestigious competition. During the short film program Hidden Histories viewers will get to see Once There Was a Sea by Joanna Kożuch.

DOC NYC is a New York-based festival, organised by Tom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen, for documentary film enthusiasts. It's one of the largest and most important events of its kind in the world, presenting the most significant and interesting new productions from all over the world. Every year the program features over 300 films and includes numerous accompanying events that attract both special guests and a huge audience wanting great films.

There's no arguing that participation in DOC NYC's international competition is hugely prestigious. The creators of the Polish-German The Hamlet Syndrome by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski received such an honour. The documentary has already won the Golden Hobby-Horse at the 62nd Krakow Film Festival (and was its opening film), the Grand Prix at the Locarno FF, the SRG SRR Award, Boccalino d’oro, and was appreciated after screenings at IDFA, among others. The screening at DOC NYC will be an american premiere of the film.

War has taken a heavy toll on the generation of young Ukrainians. Several months before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, five protagonists – inspired by the motifs of Hamlet – return to the brutal experience of recent years on stage trying to overcome their traumas. Each of them struggles with disappointment, helplessness, or anger in their own way. SLAVIK went through the real hell of war and captivity as a soldier. KATYA wants her mother to finally forgive her for going to the front lines. RODION escaped from the conflict-ridden Donbas and, as an LGBT person, is struggling with growing homophobia in post-revolutionary Ukraine. ROMAN, who tended to wounded soldiers as a military medic, is still fighting his traumatic memories. OXANA, as an actress, takes up the fight on the artistic front. What's most significant – no matter the values they represent, recent years have been a series of shocking experiences that left a brutal mark on their minds. For each of them, the theatre stage becomes a tribune for shouting their regrets while asking themselves Hamlet's central question: to be or not to be?

Let's not forget that there are also selections devoted to short films. One of the invited films is the animated documentary Once There Was a Sea by Joanna Kożuch. This Polish-Slovak production has already attracted attention at several international festivals, including Clermont Ferrand where it won the Student Prize. 

Once, there was a sea…

The Aral Sea.

A sea that has vanished…

And seaside life disappeared along with it. Fishermen lost their jobs, factories closed down, even the Rebirth Island (home to a secret Soviet military base and biological weapons test site) is no longer an island. Only a dead desert littered with wrecks of huge fishing boats remains… along with people who have been living on these dry shores for years and dreaming of “high water”… And only the salty desert is spreading, while dry salt crystals shimmer on the former seabed.

A list of all films featured during this year's DOC NYC can be found here.