POLISH DOCUMENTARY FILMS AT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVALS AND INDUSTRY EVENTS – 2022 IN REVIEW
Festival life has almost returned to normal during the past year. Granted, some events were still held in a hybrid form, but – craving human contact – the audiences, organisers and filmmakers increasingly chose to visit festival cinemas in person. Polish documentaries were screened on the big screens as well as on online platforms hosted by major international events. The same was true of the industry section, which we have also attended in its various forms. There was a lot going on, and you can read about it all in our annual summary. Enjoy!
It was a good year for Polish documentary cinema. Our films were shown at more than 220 major international festivals. They were invited to almost 330 screenings, most of the proposals being for competitions. Polish documentaries weren't only recognised by the selectors, but above all by the jurors and viewers, who eagerly awarded them prizes and distinctions.
Paweł Łoziński's documentary enjoyed a record number of screenings. His The Balcony Movie was presented 62 times! The Pawnshop by Łukasz Kowalski and Judges Under Pressure by Kacper Lisowski enjoyed more than 20 screenings each. Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski's The Hamlet Syndrome also had a good run, and so did Andrzej Cichocki's short documentary A Little Bit of Paradise, which had also been received extremely well in 2021.
More than 50 awards went to Polish documentaries in 2022. The film that received the most was The Hamlet Syndrome. The duo's documentary was granted eight awards and special mentions in total. Paweł Łoziński's film came back with seven while A Little Bit of Paradise – with five. One less was awarded to the animated documentary Once There Was a Sea… by Joanna Kożuch.
Our documentaries could be found in the programs of all the major film events of the past twelve months. They visited IDFA in the Netherlands, FIPADOC in France, Visions du Réel in Switzerland, Hot Docs in Canada, Zagrebdox in Croatia, Ji.hlava in the Czech Republic, CPH:DOX in Denmark, Makedox in Macedonia, Locarno in Switzerland. And this isn't even a complete list of festivals where our productions were on show. For obvious reasons, Ukraine and Russia were the only countries they missed.
The beginning of the year usually means a brief dip in the number of major film events. However, it doesn't mean that domestic productions were not shown and awarded at January festivals. The title of January's most awarded documentary went to Paweł Łoziński's The Balcony Movie which had its US premiere that month at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival – where it was honoured with a special mention – and received the Grand Prix at the prestigious FIPA DOC festival in Biarritz, France, as well as the Audience Prize and a Special Mention at the Trieste Film Festival in Italy.
US-based festivals of independent cinema dominated the first quarter of the year. February saw the Slamdance Film Festival, which recognised Fury by Krzysztof Kasior, while Austin's South By South West (SXSW) took place in March, with Ada Smyk's Backstage having its premiere and Joanna Popińska's VR project The Choice winning an award there. Early during the year, American critics recognised 1970 by Tomasz Wolski. The film was also awarded by the Online Film Critics Society. Also worth mentioning is the UK's London Human Rights Watch Film Festival. The event's opening film was the Polish documentary, Silence Heard Loud by Anna Konik.
March is a good time for European festivals dedicated to documentary cinema. Łukasz Kowalski's production had its world premiere at CPH:DOX – one of the most important documentary festivals in Europe – which takes place in Denmark. The event's programme also included Judges Under Pressure and The Balcony Movie. Kacper Lisowski's film also opened the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Prague, Czech Republic right around that time. This wasn't the only Polish production to be featured in its programme – No Hero At All by Michał Kawecki also had a chance at awards.
There was even more going on in April. The organisers of Switzerland's Visions du Reél invited several Polish documentaries to the programme – Silent Love by Marek Kozakiewicz had its premiere screening, followed by The Herd by Monika Kotecka and Karolina Poryzała, as well as The Pawnshop. The audience could watch as many as seven Polish documentaries at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto. Its attendees were able to see The Balcony Movie, Karol Pałka’s Bucolic, as well as Silent Love, Backstage, and Angels of Sinjar by Hanna Polak together with Only the Wind by Zofia Kowalewska and Bogna Kowalczyk's Boylesque. The latter title left Canada with The Emerging International Filmmaker Award for debuting artists.
In the spring, the films by Paweł Łoziński and Tomasz Wolski were once again showered with awards. Both received special mentions at ZagrebDox. However, for the former it was only a prelude to winning at the It's All True International Documentary Film Festival in Brazil. This award, as a so-called qualifying award provided The Balcony Movie with a shortened path in the fight for an Oscar nomination. The film was included in the long list of films recommended to Academy members without any additional conditions. In turn, Kacper Lisowski's documentary was awarded at the Millenium Documentary Film Festival in Belgium and a special mention in the short film competition went to The Amazons by Magdalena Sienicka at the Neisse Film Festival.
Our documentaries also won awards in June. One of the trophies went to Zofia Kowalska. Her Only the Wind was awarded at the TRT Documentary Award in Istanbul. Joanna Kożuch's animated documentary was noticed by the jury of the CinemAmbiente Festival, while Monika Proba's short documentary Light Years received an award at the Norwegian Short Film Festival in Grimstad. The award in Norway qualifies for an Oscar, so just like with The Balcony Movie, the film made it to the Academy's long list. There was also another award for Paweł Łoziński. This time, his film won the We are the World category at New Zealand's Doc Edge.
Years after its premiere, the short film A Little Bit of Paradise by Andrzej Cichocki still managed to delight and win praise from international juries . This time the documentary was awarded at the Barnes Film Festival in the UK, only to immediately follow it with title of best short documentary in the EcoFilm competition of the Rural Film Fest in Spain.
The last month of the summer holidays brought further good news for The Balcony Movie, which was shortlisted together with Angels of Sinjar for a chance to be nominated for the European Film Awards. In the end, however, only Paweł Łoziński's film made it into the prestigious five of nominated films. After an intense festival year, The Balcony Movie continued to be recognised at international events. In August, the production received the Maysles Brother's Award at the Docs Ireland Festival of International Documentary Film in Belfast.
The film which had opened the 62nd Krakow Film Festival at the end of May – and won the most important prizes in the national competition – also delighted the international jury of the famous Swiss festival in Locarno. The Hamlet Syndrome received the Grand Prix there as well as the SRG SRR Award Boccalino d'oro. Also leaving Locarno with The Marco Zucchi Award was The Fledglings by Lidia Duda.
Another month and even more awards for The Balcony Movie. In September, the documentary triumphed at a festival in Azerbaijan. The production received the iCyborg Award and the iHuman Award at DokuBaku. In 2021, Paweł Łoziński's film was screened as part of IDFA Special. In 2022, The Hamlet Syndrome was invited to these prestigious screenings. The screenings were a preview of the festival, which takes place in November.
As usual, October was one of the most important and intense festival periods. It was then that Łukasz Kowalski's documentary received a special mention at the Athens International Film Festival and the main prize in the competition for Best Documentary Film of Central and Eastern Europe at the Astra Film Festival in Romania; Maryia Yakimovich's animated documentary enchanted the jurors of the Linz International Short Film Festival; and Wojtek Kozakiewicz's short documentary was recognised at the 30th International Festival of Mountain Films in Poprad, Slovakia; Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski's film conquered Australia and was named best documentary at the Adelaide Film Festival; and Julia Pełka's Fat Kathy won at the OFFline Film Festival in Ireland. Making its world premiere at Doclisboa in Portugal was the short documentary Aleksandra Folczak's Waiting Room.
A third major international festival and a third prize, not to mention admiration at home. Bogna Kowalczyk's film Boylesque won an award at Norway's Bergen International Film Festival in October. During the same month, Joanna Kożuch's animated documentary was awarded the St. Vojtech Prize at the 16th Biennial of Animation Bratislava. Once again, the prestigious MDR Film Prize awarded at DOK Leipzig went to a Polish production. Marek Kozakiewicz became the winner in 2022 for his documentary Silent Love. As usual, there were plenty of Polish productions in Leipzig. The Hamlet Syndrome and Revolution 21 by Martyna Peszko appeared in competitions, while non-competitive sections included Silent Love, The Pawnshop and the short Uncle Vakho's Dream by Joanna Rój.
That's not all that was happening in October! We then learned about the nominations for the prestigious Silver Eye awards for Polish documentary producers, which went to The Hamlet Syndrome and the short documentaries Moody by Karolina Karwan and Tomasz Ratter and Calls by Ming-Wei Chiang. One of the most important American festivals dedicated to documentary cinema – DOC NYC in New York – announced its program then. The prestigious competition for the best international documentary film featured Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski's film , while viewers saw Once There Was a Sea… in the short film program's Hidden Histories segment. We also got to know the list of films that were screened at IDFA in November.
In the second-to-last month of the year Kuba Mikurda's Escape to the Silver Globe was acknowledged by the audience of the Imagine Fantastic Film Festival in the Netherlands while Diana and Krzysztof Kadłubowski's Balcony Concert was honoured with a special mention at the DocsMX festival in Mexico City.
We cannot fail to mention November's most important film event –the IDFA in Amsterdam. The audience of the Dutch event had the opportunity to see The Hamlet Syndrome, Silent Love, The Pawnshop, and the Polish-Iranian Subtotals directed by Mohammadrez Farzad out of competition. One of the boldest and most original sections of the festival, Luminous, featured Polish Prayers by Hanka Nobis, while Focus: Playing Reality showed Paweł Łoziński's already famous and award-winning documentary – You Have No Idea How Much I Love You. In turn, Lea Glob's Polish-Danish-French production Apolonia, Apolonia was invited to the international competition. The documentary was named the best film of last year's IDFA. In November, we also learned about The Balcony Movie's nomination for the prestigious Cinema Eye Honors awarded to international documentary films. The film has been shortlisted for the Audience Choice Prize. As for the IDA – International Documentary Association – awards two nominations (for best feature film and best director) went to The Pawnshop by Łukasz Kowalski.
In December, it was time to take a breather. Fewer events also meant fewer awards. However, a special mention still went to Tomasz Wolski's 1970 at the Festival Film Dokumenter in Indonesia, while the Paul Calinescu prize for best documentary was awarded to Imprisoned by Piotr Bieliński at the CineMAiubit International Student Short Film Festival. Also in December, the European Film Awards ceremony took place in Reykjavík with the participation of – among others – Paweł Łoziński whose The Balcony Movie was nominated in the Best Documentary Film category.
The pandemic has changed the everyday reality of the film industry. Although most of the events were held in person last year, quite a few meetings and panels took on a hybrid format. The important thing is, however, that there was a lot going on again, which also translated into numerous awards and distinctions for Polish projects.
Several Polish projects received awards right at the beginning of the year. One for the Team by Katarzyna Wiśniowska and produced by Katarzyna Kuczyńska (Haka Films) was named Best International Pitch and received the Docs Barcelona award at the prestigious French festival FIPA DOC, and the documentary project Man of Marble by Szymon Kuriata produced by Film Krakow received the Eave Producers Workshop Award at last year's edition of When East Meet West in Trieste.
EFM – European Film Market – held during the Berlinale (online in this edition) featured the Polish Docs Pro Rough Cut presentation organised by the Kraków Film Foundation with the support of the Polish Film Institute showing the most promising Polish documentary projects at the final stage of production: Flight by Anna Zakrzewska and Łukasz Ronduda (prod. Kijora), The Fledglings by Lidia Duda (Aura Films), Leon by Wojciech Gostomczyk (Studio Metrage), and Boylesque by Bogna Kowalczyk (Haka Films).
February saw the announcement of the list of projects shortlisted for the next edition of CPH:FORUM. Among the selected submissions was the Polish-Swiss project So-Called Sisterhood by Hanka Nobis. The project was later renamed to Polish Prayers and its final version could be seen at IDFA. Also present at CPH:Industry in March was the Polish delegation from Polish Docs Pro (also organised by the Krakow Film Foundation with support from the Polish Film Institute), which included producers and filmmakers – representatives from Silver Frame, Szymon Kudła Inspiracje i Energia, Braidmade Films, Haka Films, VnLab, Pinot Films, and EH! Production.
In 2022, the program of Czech Republic's East Doc Platform included several Polish productions and co-productions. In the end, three received awards. The winners were The World is Not (a) Mine by Natalia Koniarz, Pianoforte by Jakub Piątek, and 5 Pills Away by Karolina Domagalska. For the industry guests present at EDP in Prague, the Krakow Film Foundation – together with HBO Max – prepared a networking meeting promoting, among other things, Polish productions.
In April, we learned about the titles qualified for the DOK.Incubator workshop. Man of Marble was among them. On the other hand, only 10 projects qualified for the Public Pitch during Docs Barcelona, among them such projects as The World Is Not (a) Mine and the Swiss So-Called Sisterhood made by Hanna Nobis for First Hand Films. And in May, Małgorzata Kozera's Faces of Agata was the only Polish project invited to the Sheffield MeetMarket during the Sheffield DocFest, which takes place in June in the UK.
At the beginning of June Krakow Film Festival's prestigious KFF Industry was an important event – and the largest international event for the documentary and animation industry in Poland. Two pitching sessions were held during KFF Industry: Docs to Start – co-organised by the Władysław Ślesicki Film Foundation and a conclusion to the DOC LAB POLAND program – and Docs to Go for Polish documentary projects in development and ones in post-production. You can read more about the event and its awards here. A total of 18 Polish projects were presented to an international panel of experts. KFF Industry also included CEDOC – an international co-production market for documentary filmmakers from around the world, also co-organised by the Wlładysław Ślesicki Film Foundation.
In the second half of the month, we learned that four Polish productions and co-productions were invited to this year's Ex Oriente Film workshop. And these included December by Grzegorz Paprzycki (produced by Telemark), Young Blood by Agata Baumgart (produced by Grzegorz Pacek), the Polish-Slovakian-Estonian War on Women by Marisa Salumets, and the Polish-Hungarian-German collaboration Maomi by Judit Oláh.
At the end of the summer holidays, Street Poets by Edyta Adamczak and Michał Mądracki was presented at Docu Talents from the East in Sarajevo. In turn, Baltic Sea Docs for Documentaries was held in Riga in September. As many as three Polish projects managed to qualify – The Guest by Michał Bielawski, Zvika Portnoy, and Zuzanna Solakiewicz, A Hole in the Wall by Arjun Talwar, and Until the Wedding by Daniel Stopa.
October and November were more than packed with festival shows. There was also a lot going on in the industry domain. Presented at the Ji.hlava New Visions Forum, Lidia Duda's new project Forest left the Czech Republic with the Grand Prize and the Taskovski Award. What's more Katarzyna Kuczynska from Haka Films found herself among Emerging Producers, a programme for documentary film producers that inaugurated its new edition in Jihlava.
At the same time, Jakub Piątek's Telemark-produced Pianoforte was invited to take part in the DOK Preview Training presentation held during the DOK Leipzig festival. A Hole in the Wall was also presented at the DOK Co-Pro Market in Leipzig. For the industry guests present in Leipzig, the Krakow Film Foundation – together with the DAE (Documentary Association of Europe) – organised a networking event promoting, among other things, Polish productions. In turn, three Polish projects were presented at IDFA Forum. Once again, December Grzegorz Paprzycki was presented. Those interested had the opportunity to hear about the progress of Alyssa Kovalenko's Frontline and about Underage Astronauts by Aleksandra Skowron.
Traditionally, the Krakow Film Foundation has prepared Polish Docs film program at the Hot Docs Festival Doc Shop in Canada, Docs for Sale at IDFA in the Netherlands, the Agora Doc Market at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in Greece, Doc Outlook at Visions du Reel in Switzerland, East Silver in the Czech Republic, MediMed in Spain, Dei Popoli Market in Florence, or DOK Market at DOK Leipzig in Germany.
Events organised or co-organised by KFF were held with the support of: the Polish Film Institute, 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.
LIST OF AWARDS FOR POLISH DOCUMENTARY FILMS IN 2022*
1970, dir. Tomasz Wolski
ZagrebDox – International Documentary Film Festival, Croatia, 2022 – Special Mention
Festival Film Dokumenter, Indonesia, 2022 – Special Mention
The Amazons, dir. Magdalena Sienicka
19. Neisse Film Festival, 2022, Germany, 2022 – Special Mention
Apolonia, Apolonia, dir. Lea Golb
IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2022, The Netherlands – Best Film Award
Boylesque, dir. Bogna Kowalczyk
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival 2022, Canada, 2022 – Emerging International Filmmaker Award
62nd Krakow Film Festival, Poland, 2022 Silver Hobby-Horse, Audience Award
Bergen International Film Festival, Norway, 2022 – Beste LHBTI-film
Once There Was a Sea…, dir. Joanna Kożuch
44th Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, France, 2022 – Student Prize
Sediciocorto International Film Festival, 2022, Italy, 2022 – Animalab Award
Biennial of Animation Bratislava (BAB), 2022, Slovakia, 2022 – St. Vojtech Prize
17th Animest – Bucharest International Animation Film Festival, Romaniaa, 2022 – Best AniDoc
48th EKOFILM International Environmental Film Festival, 2022, Czech Republic, 2022 – Best Short Film
The Way, dir. Wojtek Kozakiewicz
MountainFilm Graz International Film Festival, Germany, 2022 – Honorable Mention
Brave Bunch in India, dir. Tomasz Stankiewicz (multimedia project)
Aryan International Children’s Film Festival of Jaipur-ICFF, 2022, India, 2022 – Best Documentary Film
The Balcony Movie, dir. Paweł Łoziński
FIPADOC International Documentary Festival 2022, France, 2022 – Grand Prix
33rd Trieste Film Festival, 2022, Italy, 2022 – Special Mention, Audience Prize
19th Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, USA, 2022 – Artistic Vision Award
It's All True – 27th International Documentary Film Festival, Brazil, 2022 – Best International Feature or Medium-Length Film
ZagrebDox – International Documentary Film Festival, Croatia, 2022 – Special Mention
17th Doc Edge International Documentary FIlm Festival, New Zealand, 2022 – We Are the World Award
4th Docs Ireland Festival of International Documentary FIlm, Ireland, 2022 Maysles Brother’s Award for Best Observational Documentary
Fury, dir. Krzysztof Kasior
Slamdance FIlm Festival 2022, USA, 2022 – Honorable Mention
When Flowers Are Not Silent, dir. Andrei Kutsila
19. Neisse Film Festival, 2022, Germany, 2022 – Best Documentary
The Voice, dir. Dominika Montean-Pańków
62nd Krakow Film Festival, Poland, 2022 – Best Editing, Best Cinematography Award
The Rocking Horses, dir. Marcin Lesisz
62nd Krakow Film Festival, Poland, 2022 – Silver Hobby-Horse
Balcony Concert, dir. Diana Kadłubowska, Krzysztof Kadłubowski
17th DocsMX International Documentary Film Festival of Mexico City, Mexico, 2022 – Special Mention
Light Years, dir. Monika Proba
45th Norwegian Short Film Festival 2022, Norway, 2022 – Golden Chair Award
Student International Film Festival STIFF, Croatia, 2022 – Special Mention
The Pawnshop, dir. Łukasz Kowalski
Athens International Film Festival Opening Nights, 2022, Greece, 2022 – Special Mention
29th Astra Film Festival, Romania, 2022 – Grand Prix
Papa, dir. Maryia Yakimovich
Linz International Short Film Festival 2022, Austria, 2022 – Best Documentary
The Fledglings, dir. Lidia Duda
75th Locarno Film Festival 2022, Switzerland , 2022 – The Marco Zucchi Award
Judges Under Pressure, dir. Kacper Lisowski
Millennium Documentary Film Festival, Belgium, 2022 – Bronze Goal – Best Film for Human Rights
The Hamlet Syndrome, dir. Elwira Niewiera, Piotr Rosołowski
62nd Krakow Film Festival, Poland, 2022 – Golden Hobby-Horse
75th Locarno Film Festival 2022, Switzerland , 2022 – Grand Prix, SRG SRR Award, Boccalino d’oro
Adelaide International Film Festival, Australia, 2022 – Best documentary film
Silent Love, dir. Marek Kozakiewicz
65th International Festival of Documentary and Animated Film DOK Leipzig, Germany, 2022 – MDR Film Prize
Slamdance Film Festival 2023, USA, 2023 – Honorable Mention
Subtotals, dir. Mohammadreza Farzad
45th Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, France, 2023 – Special Mention
A Little Bit of Paradise, dir. Andrzej Cichocki
Barnes Film Festival, 2022, United Kingdom, 2022 – Best International Short Doc
Rural Film Fest, 2022, Spain, 2022 – Best Short Documentary Film
Kamianets-Podolsky International Film Festival ''Brukivka", Ukraine, 2022 – Best International Short Documentary Film
Louth International Film Festival, Ireland, 2022 – Honourable Mention
Only the Wind, dir. Zofia Kowalewska
13th International TRT Documentary Awards, Turkey, 2022 – Best Documentary
Escape to the Silver Globe, dir. Kuba Mikurda
Imagine Fantastic Film Festival, 2022, Netherlands, 2022 – Audience Award
Imprisoned, dir. Piotr Bieliński
CineMAiubit International Student Short Film Festival, Romania, 2022 – Paul Calinescu Award For Best Documentary
We Have One Heart, dir. Katarzyna Warzecha
The Pigeon International Film Festival, Islandia, 2022 – Best Directing
The Soil, dir. Zuzanna Solakiewicz
ETNOFILM International Biennial Film Festival of Documentary Ethnological Film, Slovakia, 2022 – Marian Veselsky Award for the Film Soundrack
The Disappearance of Janusz Klarner, dir. Franciszek Berberka
Tbilisi International Student Film Festival, 2022, Georgia, 2022 – Best Director
*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