Last Thursday, September 17, the final winners of the 17th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival were announced at the award ceremony in Gdynia. This means that this year’s winners have been already selected, even though we’re only halfway through the festival: our viewers will be able to watch over 100 films from this year’s lineup from September 19 to October 4 on mdag.pl. The Festival’s social media will feature meetings with creators, workshops, and special never-before-seen footage. Keep reading for a full list of the winners of local awards and a recap of the results of the Warsaw edition.
Audience Award (Warsaw audience vote):
For Sama, dir. Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts
“Co Jest Grane 24” Readers’ Choice Award (audience vote in Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia, and Poznań):
Woman, dir. Yann Arthus-Bertranda, Anastasia Mikova
Lower Silesia Grand Prix
Lessons of Love, dir. Małgorzata Goliszewska, Kasia Mateja
Reasoning: “For an appealing style of storytelling, for its firm opposition to domestic violence and its affirmation of love in all its forms”.
Special mention: Welcome to Chechnya, dir. David France, reasoning: “For a powerful statement about an issue on which too many remain silent”.
Jury: Małgorzata Szczerbowska, Joanna Synowiec, Jarosław Perduta.
Mayor of Gdynia Award
Welcome to Chechnya, dir. David France
Reasoning: “The authors of this picture have masterfully utilized the language of film and the toolkit of the cinematic art. However, the beauty of its cinematography was not the sole reason for the jury’s decision—the painful authenticity of this film played an important role as well. The entirety of its 107-minute duration had the viewers holding their breath, balling their fists and tensing their muscles, and made them wonder after leaving the screening room whether the horrible harm inflicted on LGBT+ people in Chechnya could spread to other European countries. The emotions stirred by this film open the viewers’ eyes to the tragedy taking place here and now, a few hours by plane east from Poland. The jury admires the authors of this picture for their bravery in taking viewers to the very place that the persecuted are fleeing, and for their concern for those silently exterminated by that demonic ideology. “Welcome to Chechnya” also tells a universal tale, its message formulated by Seneca the Younger at the dawn of our era: HOMO RES SACRA HOMINI, or HUMANS TO HUMANS ARE SACRED.”
Jury: Magdalena Grzebałkowska, Maciej Moskwa and Sławomir Pultyn.
Silesian Voivodeship Audience Award
The Wall of Shadows, dir. Eliza Kubarska
The award was sponsored by i2 Analytical Ltd., a Polish-British company specializing in environmental research and climate protection.
Bydgoszcz ART.DOC Award
The Earth is Blue as an Orange, dir. Iryna Tsilyk
Reasoning: “We naturally have to appreciate the subject of this film: war is shown not just as a tragedy taking place in our region (depicted with amazing subtlety), but also as a great metaphor of our times. We have to admire the cinematography, which imbued this dramatic subject with an atmosphere of calm as well as an indistinct (not necessarily related to bullets whistling by) tension and drama. The protagonists clearly deserve accolades: living in this dramatic solitude, they nevertheless display the might of the matriarchy (and while confirming that “war is nothing like a woman”, they show that women bring dignity to wartime existence). The clever construction of the film is also deserving of acclaim: allowing us to watch this “film within a film” (and simultaneously the making-of), it lets us regain faith in an art capable of standing up to the horrors of war.
But most of all we must appreciate the perfect honesty of emotions, which never fail and never betray neither the wartime theme, the subtle construction, nor the thoughtful cinematography and the Utopian idea of belief in the power of art. Not only do they never betray these principles, but they imbue the whole picture with a rare authenticity. And most importantly: they powerfully impact the viewer.”
Honorable mention of the jury on behalf of the Bydgoszcz Bar Association:
Welcome to Chechnya, dir. David France
Reasoning: “It’s obvious that the Bar Association should honor a film that speaks of and stands up for human rights, a film that touches upon the most important parts of our reality—even if they’re also the most painful. A film which will make us want to exclaim, whether with fury or with hope: Begone, dictator; Begone, heartless people devoid of tolerance and respect for the fellow human being; Begone, dark alleys where evil lurks. Let all of this vanish in the name of love for the world and love for the people.”
Jury: Justyna Komowska, Jarosław Piskozub and Michał Tabaczyński.
Films awarded in Warsaw (more info: https://mdag.pl/17/en/warszawa/news/Znamy-pierwszych-zwyciezcow-17.-Millennium-Docs-Against):
The Grand Prix – the Bank Millennium Award, along with EUR 8000
Winner: “The Earth is Blue as an Orange”, dir. Iryna Tsilyk
Best Polish Film Award, along with EUR 3000
Winner: “Between Us“, dir. Dorota Proba
The Smakjam Polish Competition Prize for the Best Production, along with EUR 3000
Winner: “The Whale From Lorino”, dir. Maciej Cuske
The Amnesty International Polska Award, along with EUR 3000
Winner: “Welcome to Chechnya”, dir. David France
Special Mentions: “For Sama”, dir. Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts, “The Cave”, dir. Feras Fayyad
The Award for Best Cinematography, along with EUR 2000
Winner: “The Earth is Blue as an Orange”, cinematographer: Viacheslav Tsvietkov
The Green Warsaw Award, along with PLN 15000
Winner: “My Octopus Teacher”, dir. Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
The Chopin’s Nose Award, along with EUR 2000
Winner: “System K”, dir. Renaud Barret
The “Zwierciadło” Award for the Best Film on Psychology, along with EUR 1000
Winner: “Lessons of Love”, dir. Kasia Mateja, Małgorzata Goliszewska
The “Focus” Award for the Biggest Personality of the Festival
Winner: prof. Szymon Malinowski, the protagonist of “It’s Okay to Panic”, dir. Jonathan Ramsey
The Best Debut Award
Winner: “The Euphoria of Being”, dir. Réka Szabó