It's been another good year for Polish documentary cinema. Following the pandemic, festivals have returned to cinemas to a warm reception from audiences and enthusiasm from creators – who could finally showcase their films on the big screen. The industry in general also stepped away from computer screens, although in many cases, industry events have maintained their hybrid form. Regardless of these changes, one thing remains without change: Polish documentary productions and representatives of the Polish industry were well represented at major international festivals. You'll read all about it in our annual summary. Enjoy the read!


Compared to last year, the number of screenings of Polish documentaries at international festivals has increased. Our films visited over 290 such events. Polish documentary productions were appreciated not only by selectors but primarily by jurors and audiences from around the world, who eagerly awarded them prizes and distinctions.

The most frequently shown film was In the Rearview directed by Maciek Hamela, which was screened at 35 international festivals. The second place belongs to Pianoforte. The documentary was invited to important international festivals nearly 30 times. The Hamlet Syndrome by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski visited such events 25 times and   Apolonia, Apolonia by Lea Glob - 23. The Balcony Movie hasn't had its final word yet and continued its journey after a spectacular 2022, visiting almost 20 new festivals.

 This year, the film by Maciek Hamela received the most awards. His documentary In the Rearview brought home 13 statuettes and distinctions from international festivals.  Lea Glob's Apolonia, Apolonia also had an excellent run. The film not only won three trophies but also received numerous nominations for important awards such as IDA, Gotham Awards, and the European Film Awards. Next place was the film "Hamlet Syndrome," which received six awards. We Will Not Fade Away by Alisa Kovalenko was awarded five times. Similar accolades were given to The Pawnshop by Łukasz Kowalski, The Balcony Movie by Paweł Łoziński, and Silent Love by Marek Kozakiewicz.

Our documentaries were present in the programs of all the major film events of the past twelve months. You could find them at the Berlinale, Cannes, IDFA in the Netherlands, FIPADOC in France, Visions du Réel in Switzerland, Hot Docs in Canada, Zagrebdox in Croatia, CPH:DOX in Denmark, and Locarno in Switzerland. And this isn't even a complete list of festivals where our productions were on show.  Polish documentaries were awarded 53 times in total in 2023 at the international film festivals.

One might consider the beginning of the year to be a rather calm period; however, Polish documentaries brought home several awards in January. Julia Pełka's short film Fat Kathy impressed the jury at the Versi di Luce Festival and returned from Italy with an award for the best film. Meanwhile, the documentary by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski received the audience award for best documentary and the Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa Award at the Trieste Film Festival. At the same time, another edition of the celebration of American independent cinema was taking place in Salt Lake City. During this year's Slamdance Film Festival, the jury awarded Marek Kozakiewicz's Silent Love.

Invitations arrived in January, while the screenings took place in February. The Polish-Ukrainian-French co-production We Will Not Fade Away by Alisa Kovalenko had its premiere during the Generation 14plus competition at the Berlinale. The film directed by Piotr Pawlus and Tomasz Wolski also premiered in Germany. The documentary In Ukraine was invited to the prestigious Berlinale Forum section. Thematically, we remain in Ukraine. The Hamlet's Syndrome was recognised at another festival. This time, the production captivated the jury at the Budapest International Documentary Festival in Hungary. It's also worth mentioning a special screening of the film in New York at the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music. In February, The Balcony Movie received a special mention at the Frozen River Film Festival in the US. The Polish-Iranian-Algerian short documentary Subtotals by Mohammadreza Farzad received an award at the Clermont-Ferrand Festival. After a successful premiere in 2022, Apolonia, Apolonia received its first award of 2023. The co-production by Lea Glob won the Dragon Award for Best Nordic Documentary at the Göteborg Film Festival.

March saw another edition of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which turned out to be exceptionally successful for Polish cinema. The Golden Alexander went to Dominika Montean-Pańkow's The Voice, while Wojciech Gostomczyk's Leon received a special mention. The Pawnshop by Łukasz Kowalski also received a special mention but from the jury of France's L'Europe autour de l'Europe. Shortly after, the film took the International Music & Cinema Festival in Marseille by storm and returned with two major awards. In March, we also got to know the winners of the Silver Eye Awards. The main prize went to the producers of the Polish-Ukrainian-French film We Will Not Fade Away by Alisa Kovalenko. Eliza Kubarska can boast a truly extraordinary award. The director received the prestigious award presented by the International Alliance for Mountain Film. Kubarska is the first woman to individually receive this exceptional prize. Apolonia, Apolonia was awarded at  CPH:DOX (Politiken:DOX Award), Docville (Honorable Mention) and  Riga Art Doc Fest (Grand Prix).

Spring brought even more awards for The Hamlet's Syndrome. The juries at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Millennium International Documentary Film Festival in Brussels both applauded the film. Apolonia, Apolonia also returned from Hong Kong with the Firebird Award. Meanwhile, Jakub Piątek's Pianoforte stole the hearts of the jury at É Tudo Verdade / It's All True in Brazil. The film left the event with a special mention, while the Polish-Ukrainian co-operation Ptitsa by Alina Maksimenko was named the best short documentary of the festival. In the latter half of April, we received news that Maciek Hamela's documentary In the Rearview had been invited to the prestigious L’ACID section at the Cannes Festival. The film, which portrays the beginning of the war in Ukraine, had its world premiere there. 

May turned out to be a good month for We Will Not Fade Away. The documentary received three awards! First, the film was named best documentary at the Crossing Europe Filmfestival Linz and – shortly after – received the same title at the goEast Film Festival. At the end of the month, Alisa Kovalenko's film received a Special Jury Mention at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival. We Will Not Fade Away wasn't the only one to captivate the jury at the Crossing Europe Filmfestival Linz. The same award went to Marek Kozakiewicz's Silent Love. Once again, Polish documentary films returned from the prestigious Visions du Reél with awards and special mentions under their belt. Pianoforte by Jakub Piątek impressed the audience the most, while In Ukraine by Tomasz Wolski and Piotr Pawlus caught the attention of the jurors, who awarded it a special mention. In the latter half of the month, Karolina Karwan and Tomasz Ratter's Moody was named best film in the short film competition at the Docaviv festival in Tel Aviv, and thus received an Oscar-qualifying award.

It couldn't have been any different. In early June, Alisa Kovalenko's film left Docudays UA with the Grand Prix. Meanwhile, In the Rearview received the Grand Jury Award at the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest. A few weeks later, the Polish-French-Ukrainian documentary by Maciek Hamela made its way into the program of the Toronto International Film Festival. Rimana Wasi: House of Stories, created by the Polish-Peruvian duo Piotr Turlej and Ximena Malaga Sabogal, was invited to the prestigious Open Doors section at the Locarno festival, bringing home an award for the best film in the entire section. In July, Monika Proba's Light Years was recognised as the best short production at the Iceland Documentary Film Festival (IceDocs), while Maciej Miller's Tell Me My Story received the title of the best short film at the Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival in Estonia. August also brought several awards: The Special Jury Award at the RojaL Film Festival went to Mariusz Biernacki's short documentary Stopover; Paulina Wilczyńska's Volatile was named the best short in its category at the Faito Doc Festival near Naples, Italy; and Maciek Hamela's film was awarded the Grand Prix at the Odessa International Film Festival. In announcing the verdict, the jury stated that the victory was determined not only by the film's human element but also by its cinematic quality.

In early September, another award joined the rich collection amassed over the years by Andrzej Cichocki's film A Little Bit of Paradise. The production was called best documentary at the Oslo Short Film Festival in Norway. Meanwhile, Joanna Rój's Uncle Vakho's Dream returned with the award for best film from the Czech-German 6th ELBE DOCK International Film Festival held in Ústí nad Labem and Dresden. The Lea Glob continues her winning streak. This time, her Apolonia, Apolonia was named the best Nordic documentary at the Nordisk Panorama festival.

Autumn is definitely a good time for documentaries. It's when several important international events dedicated to documentaries are held. First, In the Rearview was named best documentary at the Zurich Film Festival, while – soon after – Maciek Hamela's documentary was applauded at the Filmfest Hamburg. The production received the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Political Film Award. Lidia Duda's Fledglings was recognized as the best TV documentary at Prix Italia, Judges Under Pressure by Kacper Lisowski was awarded the title of best film in the IMPACT competition at the Human Rights Inconvenient Film Festival in Lithuania, while Matej Bobrik's Distances, which premiered at the Ji.hlava International Documentary Festival, left the event as the Best Film from Central and Eastern Europe. The nomination season began in October with Lea Glob's co-production nominated for prestigious American independent cinema awards – the Gothams – and the European Film Awards. Simultaneously, along with Maciek Hamela's and Jakub Piątek's films, it made the IDA shortlist, resulting in nominations. 

November saw the next edition of IDFA, featuring several Polish productions, but it was Mariusz Rusiński's short documentary Sister of Mine that received an award and left Amsterdam with the IDFA Award for Best Youth Film in the 13+ category. Another film aimed at a younger audience, Aga Borzym's Girls' Stories, was recognised at the Porto/Post/Doc festival, receiving the Teenage Award. After travelling to countless destinations, The Balcony Movie also made its way to two Chinese festivals. Paweł Łoziński's film received a special mention at the West Lake Festival and won the award for best director at GZDOC. Zinebi Bilbao awarded In the Rearview with ZIFF Grand Award.

December brought recognition for Tomasz Ratter's and Karolina Karwan's film Moody at Festival Tous Court in France. The end of the year proved extremely successful to Maciek Hamela – with the Pare Lorentz Award brought home from IDA and, on top of that, the Silver Hugo Award from the Chicago International Film Festival. In the Rearview was also shortlisted for the Academy Awards in the documentary category as well as Apolonia, Apolonia.


There's no denying that the pandemic has changed our reality. While everything seems to have returned to normal, this “new normal” is different, and hybrid industry events no longer surprise anyone. Fortunately, the Polish film industry and its representatives continue to be present and invited to all the major workshops, pitch events, trade fairs, and networking meetings.

Towards the end of 2022, we learned about the list of documentary projects qualified for East Doc Platform, which was held in March. There were several Polish projects among the selected titles: Insurance Against Meteorites by Natalia Śliwowska was invited to East Doc Forum, December by Grzegorz Paprzycki and Young Blood by Agata Baumgart were selected for Ex Oriente Film, while in the East Doc Market 2023 section, we saw Flowers of Ukraine by Adelina Borets, Four Winters in Edificio Cuba by Aleksandra Maciuszek, Hasan's Joy by Natalia Pietsch and Grzegorz Piekarski, and Until the Wedding by Daniel Stopa.Polish presence was highlighted by a networking event sponsored by Polish Docs PRO and HBO Max.

The Polish-German-Hungarian documentary project Maoimi – Larger than Life directed by Judit Oláh was invited to TIDF25 Agora. It returned from Greece with the Beldocs Networking Award. We also learned that the documentary project The Guest by Michał Bielawski, Zuzanna Solakiewicz, and Zvika Gregory Portnoy was invited to the VdR-Pitching at the Visions du Réel festival.

In March learned the 20 projects that qualified to the 9th DOC LAB POLAND, the Poland's largest program for documentary filmmakers. Participants had attended workshops with experienced tutors, and their projects were ultimately be presented to an international group of experts at the Docs to Start and Docs to Go pitch sessions during KFF Industry in June in Kraków. At the end of the month, the projects selected for the Rough-Cut Pitch were announced, an event organized by DocsBarcelona Industry. One of them was Man of Marble by Szymon Kuriata. The title made it to the final four.

April brought more good news. It was then that learned about the projects invited to the DOK.incubator workshops. These Polish productions were among them: 5 Pills Away by Karolina Domagalska and Just Hear Me Out by Małgorzata Imielska, as well as the Polish-Finnish project The Eternal War.

In May, we found out that two Polish documentary projects were invited to the prestigious Sheffield MeetMarket during the Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK. These were the Polish-German-Danish Runa by Agnieszka Zwiefka and Forest by Lidia Duda. Around the same time, the selection process for projects submitted to the CEDOC Market and the Ukrainian section of Doc Lab Poland & Ukraine concluded. In total, 28 projects from Poland and Ukraine were showcased at the Docs to Start and Docs to Go pitch events. Polish projects were also present at CEDOC Market. 

In early June, we learned the recipients of the industry awards presented during the Krakow Film Festival as part of the KFF Industry program.  As every year, there were two pitch sessions at KFF Industry – presentations of film projects at various stages of completion – co-organised with DOC LAB POLAND: DOCS TO START and DOCS TO GO for Polish documentary projects in development and post-production. You can find the list of all awarded projects here

In June Polish producers had the chance to promote their projects at the Polish Docs Pro booth at the Sunny Side of the Doc International Documentary Film Fair in La Rochelle, France. The Krakow Film Foundation-coordinated delegation included 5 producers representing Silver Frame, Kijora Film, Pinot Films/ATM, Raban Foundation, and Vision House.  

In July, the selection for Eastern Promises at the Karlovy Vary IFF was announced. Distances by Matej Bobrik was among the 27 projects chosen for Works in Progress, Works in Development – Feature Launch, and First Cut+ Works in Progress.

In July, Polish Days 2023 – the most important industry event of the New Horizons International Film Festival – came to a close. One of the awards, a financial contribution of PLN 75,000 for sound post-production, went to the documentary Runa by Agnieszka Zwiefka. Shortly after, the project was among the elite eight titles selected for Docu Talents from the East 2023 at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

The Polish-Swedish Cecilia's Project by Edward Porembny, Ant-hill by Katarzyna Kultys, the Polish-Ukrainian Divia by Dmytro Hreshko, the Polish-Georgian The First Swallow by Joanna Rój and Sandro Wysocki, and the Finnish-Polish Once We Were Heroes by Oliwia Tonteri were the titles of documentary projects invited to the 2023 Industry Baltic Sea Docs. In August, we learned the list of producers invited to the next edition of the prestigious Emerging Producers program. Adrianna Rędzia from Poland was among them.

We need to do this again some time. Autumn is not only the time for finished documentaries but also for projects in development. Leipzig, and especially the industry events held at the DOK Leipzig festival, were visited by a Polish delegation of producers and directors who presented themselves to film industry representatives from around the world, including at events organised as part of the Polish Docs Pro project. Three Polish projects were invited to the DOK Co-pro Market. These were December by Grzegorz Paprzycki, The Home Movie by Anu Czerwiński, and Divia by Dmytro Hreshko. Shortly after, the first of these titles received the Dogwoof Award at the festival in San Sebastian. In October, the project Riding with Ghosts by Piotr Małecki and Maciej Nabrdalik was presented at the Jihlava New Visions Forum, while Isabella by Joanna Janikowska had its five minutes at the New Visions Co-production Market. The events in Jihlava and Leipzig had the support of the Krakow Film Foundation. 

Last year's edition of IDFA Industry, a series of industry events accompanying the largest documentary film festival in the world – IDFA in Amsterdam – was held on 10–15 November. A Polish delegation of filmmakers and producers visited Amsterdam and met with other film industry insiders at the Polish Docs Pro Showcase – a presentation of documentary film projects in development by Julia Kuzka, Agnieszka Zwiefka, Małgorzata Szumowska, Natalia Pietsch, and Grzegorz Piekarski. In addition to the delegation, three Polish projects were included in the IDFA Forum program. These were Flowers of Ukraine by Adelina Borets, Son of Streets by Mohammed Almughanni, and A Hole in the Wall by Arjun Talwar. In the end, it was the Polish-Palestinian project Son of Streets who received the Forum Award for Best Pitch. Several films were also presented at the Docs for Sale market, and Polish presence was celebrated at a special event, Guests meet Guests, co-organized by the Krakow Film Foundation and HBO Max. 

At the end of December, news came that Polish producers Marta Gmosińska from Lava Films and Krystyna Kantor from Shipsboy would participate in the Eave workshops. In ExOriente workshop in 2023/2024 edition 3 Polish projects took part: Birdie by Aneta Ptak, Keep the Ruins by Mariia Shevchenko, Letters by Andrei Kutsila.



CPH:DOX, 2023, Dania (Politiken:DOX Award)

Nordisk Panorama Film Festival, Sweden, 2023 (Best Nordic Documentary) 

International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival One World, Czech Republic, 2023 (Best film 

Göteborg Film Festival, 2023, Sweden, 2023 (Dragon Award Best Nordic Documentary)

DOCVILLE - Documentary Film Festival Leuven, 2023, Belgium (Honorable Mention)

47th Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hong Kong, 2023 (Firebird Award)

Art Doc Fest Riga, 2023, Latvia (Grand Prix)

GIRLS' STORIES, dir: Aga Borzym

10th Porto/Post/Doc: Film & Media Festival 2023, Portugal, 2023 (​Teenage Award) 

THE BALCONY MOVIE, dir: Paweł Łoziński

Frozen River Film Festival 2023, USA, 2023 (Special Jury Award) 

20th Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival, ChinA, 2023 (Best Director)

6th West Lake International Documentary Festival, ChinA, 2023 (Special Mention)

THE VOICE, dir: Dominika Montean-Pańków

25th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, Greece, 2023 (The Golden Alexander Award) 

THE PAWNSHOP, dir. Łukasz Kowalski

L'Europe autour de l'Europe, 2023, France, 2023 (Special Mention) 

24th Festival International MUSIC & CINEMA Marseille, France, 2023 (Best Feature, Grand Prize for the Best Original Score)

SISTER OF MINE, reż: Mariusz Rusiński

IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2023, The Netherlands, 2023 (IDFA Award for Best Youth Film (13+)) 

MOODY, dir: Tomasz Ratter, Karolina Karwan

DOCAVIV 2023 Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, Isreal, 2023 (Best Short Film) 

41st Festival Tous Courts of Aix-en-Provence, France, 2023 (Special Jury Award)

WE WILL NOT FADE AWAY, dir: Alisa Kovalenko

International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival One World, Czech Republic, 2023 (Best Director)

Docudays UA, 2023, Ukraine, 2023 (Grand Prix)

DOXA Documentary Film Festival, 2023, Canada, 2023 (Special Mention)

Crossing Europe Filmfestival Linz, 2023, Switzerland, 2023 (Best Documentary Film)

GoEast Filmfestival, 2023, Germany, 2023 (Best Documentary Film)

PIANOFORTE, dir: Jakub Piątek

Visions du Réel International Film Festival Nyon 2023, Switzerland, 2023 (Audience Award) 

It's All True International Documentary Film Festival 2023, Brazil, 2023 (Special Mention) 

STOPOVER, dir: Mariusz Biernacki

RojaL Film Festival 2023, Latvia, 2023 (Special Jury Award) 

POLISH PRAYERS, reż: Hanka Nobis

DocsBarcelona, International Documentary Film Festival 2023, Spain, 2023 (Reteena Young Jury Award 2023) 

Zurich Film Award 2023, Switzerland, 2023 (Best Director) 

CALLS, dir: Ming-Wei Chiang

XXXVII Pärnu Film Festival 2023, Estonia, 2023 (The Best Student Docs) 

68th Cork International Film Festival, Ireland, 2023 (Grand Prix Documentary Short Award) 

UNCLE VAKHO'S DREAM, dir: Joanna Rój

6th Elbe Dock International Film Festival, Germany, Czechia, 2023 (ELBE DOCK 2023 Award) 

JUDGES UNDER PRESSURE, dir. Kacper Lisowski

Inconvenient Film Festival 2023, Lithuania, 2023 (Best Film of the IMPACT Competition) 

SILENT LOVE, dir: Marek Kozakiewicz

Slamdance Film Festival 2023, USA, 2023 (Honorable Mention) 

Crossing Europe Filmfestival Linz, 2023, Switzerland, 2023 (Best Documentary Film)

IN THE REARVIEW, dir: Maciek Hamela

Sheffield Doc Fest, 2023, United Kingdom, 2023 (Grand Jury Award ) 

Chicago International Film Festival, 2023, USA, 2023 (Silver Hugo Award)

Zurich Film Festival, 2023, Switzerland, 2023 (Best Documentary Film)

Filmfest Hamburg, 2023, Germany, 2023 (Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Political Film Award)

Iceland Documentary Film Festival – IceDocs, Iceland 2023 (Special Mention)

Odesa International Film Festival, Ukraine 2023 (The Best Ukrainian Documentary Feature Film Award)

Festival 2 Cinéma de Valenciennes, France, 2023 (Grand Prix, Critics’ Award, Students’ Award)

Filmfest Hamburg, Germany 2023 (Political Film Award for the best directorial work)

Zurich Film Festival, Switzerland 2023 (The Best Documentary)

Festival International de cinéma War on Screen, France 2023 (International Jury Grand Prize)

Corsica.doc - International Documentary Festival, France 2023  (Main Award Corsica.doc/Via Stella for the Best Feature Film, Youth Jury Award for the Best Feature Film)

ZINEBI – IF of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao, Spain 2023  (ZIFF Grand Award)

Bastau International Film Festival Kazakhstan 2023 (Main Prize named after Oraz Abishev)

SUBTOTALS, dir: Mohammadreza Farzad

45th Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, France, 2023 (Special Mention) 

THE HAMLET SYNDROME, dir: Piotr Rosołowski, Elwira Niewiera

34th Trieste Film Festival, Italy, 2023 (The Audience Best documentary film, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa Award) 

9th BIDF Budapest International Documentary Festival, Hungary, 2023 (Special Mention) 

47th Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hong Kong, 2023 (Jury Award) 

15th Millenium Film Festival 2023, Belgium, 2023 (Special Jury Prize for the Most Original and Innovative Film) 

IN UKRAINE, dir: Tomasz Wolski, Piotr Pawlus

Visions du Réel International Film Festival Nyon 2023, Switzerland, 2023 (Special Mention) 

*data collected from information received by Polish Docs from producers, filmmakers, and festivals. If you're aware of any foreign prizes awarded to Polish documentary films that have not been included in this list, please contact our editorial office at: polishdocs@kff.com.pl