The winners of the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival announced! The jury comments

On May 18 at Teatr Studio in Warsaw took place the Award Ceremony of the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival. 13 carefully selected films were included in the Main Competition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival, Bing Liu’s “Minding the Gap” has won the Grand Prix – the Bank Millennium Award and 8 000 EUR. The winner has been chosen by the jury comprising  Jan Gassmann – film director, Grzegorz Jarzyna – theater director, Anna Zamecka – film director. The award was handed by Wojciech Rybak, Board member of Bank Millennium. The award is funded by the main partner of the festival: Bank Millennium.

The jury comments:

„Set in an American ghost town, this deeply personal film starts disguised as a coming of age – skater movie just to reveal itself as a deep-digging drama about family, domestic violence and dealing with the existing trauma. The director succeeds not only in creating a fearless, emotional portrayal of his friends, but also in presenting nuanced observations about class and race. For a mature, multilayered look at American families and society, the Bank Millennium Award in the International Competition goes to Bing Liu’s  ‘Minding the Gap’.”

Lower Silesia Grand Prix – The Marshal of Lower Silesia Voivodeship Award

For the Lower Silesia Grand Prix competed the 13 films out of which the winner of the Main Competition of the Warsaw edition of the festival was chosen.

The jury of the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival, comprising Magdalena Piekarska, Maciej Kurowicki, Arkadiusz Wojnarowski and Jarosław Preduta, has decided that the Lower Silesia Grand Prix goes to Bing Liu’s “Minding the Gap” – „for a portrait of a generation, personal story about a brutal crash with adulthood and  proof that [a documentary] can be a fascinating meeting, adventure, passion and therapy regardless what the genre limits are.

Markus Imhoof’s ‘Eldorado’ receives a special mention as it is a mirror in which the director  and his story look, and in which the supporters of closing and sealing borders, building walls, including the ones created in our minds by politicians, should look, but also those who do not want to see and know. For a moving, compassion enhancing plea for empathy”.

The 13 films will be also considered for other awards. The jury in Gdynia will choose the winner of The Mayor of Gdynia Award, and the jury in Bydgoszcz will choose the winner of the Bydgoszcz ART/DOC Award. Those decisions and award ceremonies are still ahead of us.

On Saturday, May 26, in Bydgoszcz, the jury: Michał Bukowiński, Maciej Cuske and Karolina Leśnik chose the recipient of the Main Award – the Bydgoszcz ART.DOC AWARD out of 13 films of the Main Competition. The jury also decided to give two special mentions: the Jury Mention and the District Bar Association in Bydgoszcz Mention.

The Grand Prix – The Mayor of Gdynia Award

On Thursday, May 24, another two awards of the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival were announced during the Award Ceremony of the Gdynia edition of the festival.

The jury: Marcin Borchardt – director, film historian and lecturer, Katarzyna Smoła – producer and promoter of cultural events, Anna Witkowska – visual artist and designer, decided to award the Grand Prix – the Mayor of Gdynia Award for Best Feature of the Main Competition and 15 000 PLN to “The Long Season” by Leonard Retel Helmrich. The award is funded by the mayor of Gdynia.

“For the most noble form of documentalism that is observational documentary, for film excellence and great courage. For strength and perseverance in presenting a world far from the European one. For diving into the harsh reality of a camp. For presenting the Syrian tragedy without relying on stereotypes – without theatrical empathy and drastic images of the war” – the jury comments.

In “The Long Season”, Leonard Retel Helmrich shows the real life of Syrian refugees in a camp for seasonal workers in Lebanon. The war has rendered going home impossible for them so they try to adapt to the new life. Their everyday life consists of work, taking care of children, waiting for food or waiting for news from Raqqa. Although there are also births, weddings, celebrations and dances, the issues of the exploitation of cheap labor force by the Lebanese, limits put on women’s freedom, increasing frustration of men or aggressive behavior of children whose lives have been impacted by the war, are escalating.

The jury of the Grand Prix – the Mayor of Gdynia Award also gave a special mention to “The Prince and the Dybbuk” (“Książę i dybuk”) by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski. “For excellence in telling the story of a life filled with contradictions. For great cinematography and oneiric atmosphere. For bringing back the memory of the director Michał Waszyński” – the jury said.

“The Long Season” and “The Prince and the Dybbuk” were chosen out of 13 films of the Main Competition during the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival.

The Main Award – the Bydgoszcz ART.DOC AWARD

The Main Award – the Bydgoszcz ART.DOC AWARD of 5 000 PLN has been awarded by the jury to “Minding the Gap” by Bing Liu. The jury says: “for a touching portrayal of growing up, dealing with childhood trauma, looking for yourself within yourself and in other people around us; for a special film form which allows us to understand the passion that the characters of the film have for skateboarding”.

The jury also gave out two specials mentions. The Jury Mention goes toGenesis 2.0” by Christian Frei and Maxim Arbugaev. “For a unique ‘journey’ joining the prehistory and the future of our planet, for a metaphysical reflection on the dangers of scientific developments; for wonderful cinematography of the expedition to New Siberia, presenting the prose and the beauty of that part of the world and of the characters’ lives” – said the jury.

The District Bar Association in Bydgoszcz Mention went to Mila Turajlic, the director of “The Other Side of Everything” “for a moving film story about the fact that freedom and democracy are at the same time a beautiful dream and a hard task”.

This is the fourth award given to “Minding the Gap” during the 15th Film Festival. The film by Bing Liu has also won the Main Competition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival and the Grand Prix – the Bank Millennium Award, which was funded by Bank Millennium. The film also received the Lower Silesia Grand Prix. The award was funded by the Marshall of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. Bing Liu’s “Minding the Gap”, by the decision of the audience, also received the Warsaw Documentary Award, funded by the City of Warsaw.

The Bydgoszcz Annex to the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival was organized once again in cooperation with the ART-HOUSE Foundation.

Fiction/Non-Fiction Award

The winner of the Fiction/Non-Fiction Competition has been chosen by the jury comprising Robert Bolesto – writer, playwright, screenwriter (“A Heart of Love”, “The Last Family”), Dario Oliveira – co-director and artistic director of the Porto/Post-Doc Festival, Frank Piasecki-Poulsen – screenwriter and director (“Blood In The Mobile”), Magnus von Horn – film director and screenwriter (“The Here After”). The Fiction/Non-Fiction Award for Best Feature Mixing Fiction and Non-Fiction and 2 000 EUR goes to “Before Summer Ends”, dir. Maryam Goormaghtigh.

The jury comments:

“The winner of the Fiction/Non-fiction Competition is an intimate, funny and moving film, which is also local, personal and universal. Thanks to its precise and convincing form, the film masterfully blurs the line between reality and fiction to convey the sense belonging. The award goes to ‘Before Summer Ends’, dir. Maryam Goormaghtigh”.

Amnesty International Award

The winner of the Amnesty International Award for Best Human Rights Feature and 3 000 EUR has been chosen by the jury comprising Draginja Nadaždin – director of Amnesty International Polska, Mirosław Chojecki – film producer and lecturer at Collegium Civitas and Tadeusz Sobolewski – film critic at “Gazeta Wyborcza”. The winning film is “The Venerable W.”, dir. Barbet Schroeder. The jury has also given two specials mentions to: “The Other Side of Everything”, dir. Mila Turajlic; “A Woman Captured”, dir. Bernadett Tuza-Ritter. Amnesty International is co-funding the award.

The jury explains their choice:

‘The Venerable W.’ is the last installment of the so-called film trilogy of evil by Barbet Schroeder, which has begun in 1974 with a film about the general Idi Amin Dada (‘General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait’), and continued with the 2017 portrait of the controversial lawyer Jacques Vergès (‘Terror’s Advocate’).

The film, made before the escalation of genocide on Rohingya Muslims in Burma, shows an aspect of living in Burma known by few people. The director exposes a monk whose teachings convey islamophobia, and who, through hate speech, ignites the hostility towards Muslim minorities living in Burma. The camera follows not only the monk’s public speeches, recordings and social media posts, but also shows him from an unnervingly close distance. The film is socially pertinent and presents the situation of one of the key areas for Amnesty International. It also presents the mechanism of building social hostility through the endorsement of hate speech with which AI consistently fights.”

The jury’s comments on the special mention recipients:

“ ‘A Woman Captured’ by Bernadett Tuza-Ritter shows the filmmaker’s determination to expose the problem of modern slavery and to use the camera as the tool for intervention and actual social change. Thanks to this story we learn how ubiquitous, although successfully hidden, is the issue of modern slavery in Hungary

‘The Other Side of Everything’ by Milej Turajlić is an intimate story presenting the life of an oppositionist and activist who talks about the hopes and disappointments of the fight for human rights in Serbia. Thanks to this character we learn about the history of political and social changes: from communism, through the rule of Milošević, until the present day rebirth of nationalism, which is looked at from the perspective of an activist accomplished during the revolution against Slobodan Milošević”.

Chopin’s Nose Award

Dorota Masłowska – writer, playwright, Katarzyna Nosowska – singer, lyricist, Łukasz Ronduda – director, curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Dariusz Wieromiejczyk – director of the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, as the jury, decided to give ex aequo awards for Best Music and Art Feature and 2 000 EUR  each to: “The Prince and the Dybbuk” (“Książę i Dybuk”), dir. Elwira Niewiera, Piotr Rosołowski, “Love Express. The Disappearance of Walerian Borowczyk” (“Love Express. Zaginięcie Waleriana Borowczyka”), dir. Kuba Mikurda.  The award is funded by the the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute.

The jury explains their choice:

“We have chosen two films which (accidentally) are to some degree similar, they talk about somewhat rejected, distinct artists who experienced their career peak outside of Poland. Both characters are Polish directors with a mystery within them, both got to the top as Polish emigrants and, paradoxically, experienced there lack of fulfillment.

Both films use archival materials in an innovative way. Despite their similarities, they remain completely different.’The Prince and the Dybbuk’, poetic, oneiric and metaphysical, leaves us with a mystery. Love Express. The Disappearance of Walerian Borowczyk’, discursive, capably told and produced, contextual and panoramic. It shows the genealogy of the obligation to seek pleasure that rules our times. We fought terribly. We really liked both films.”

Shades of Freedom Competition

The winner of the Shades of Freedom Competition has been chosen by the jury comprising Artur Liebhart – director of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival and president of the jury, Dorota Żurkowska-Bytner – SVP Country Manager Discovery Polska, Dariusz Wieromiejczyk – director of the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, Paweł Łoziński – director, cinematographer and producer of documentary films, Robert Gliński – director, screenwriter, producer and lecturer at the Film Department of the Lodz Film School. Three films have been awarded in the competition: Grand Prix Discovery of 10 000 PLN, funded by Discovery Polska, for “Between Us” (“Między Nami”), dir. Maciej Miller; Grand Prix FINA of 10 000 PLN, funded by the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, for “Daniel”, dir. Anastazja Dąbrowska; the Discovery Audience Award of 5 000 PLN for “Ostatni Junak”, dir. Mikołaj Janik.

“Documentary is a genre especially close to us – documentary programs of the highest quality are the basis of the world-wide phenomenon that is Discovery. We have been honored to become a partner on the SHADES OF FREEDOM Competition that is a part of this year’s edition of the festival. It has allowed us to learn more not only about Polish documentaries, but, what’s even more important, hear the voice of a new generation of Polish filmmakers. To talk with them about  – a subject so important during this anniversary edition – different dimensions of freedom” – said Dorota Żurkowska-Bytner, vice-president and board member of Discovery Networks.

„On behalf of the jury, it is my great pleasure to announce the winners in two categories:

The Grand Prix goes to ‘Between Us’ by Maciej Miller. We were touched by the unflinching honesty and courage of its makers and subjects, it is an important and very personal portrayal of freedom, love and responsibility.

The Audience Award goes to ‘Ostatni junak’ by Mikołaj Janik. The film received three times more votes than other films. I just wanted to add that during their deliberations, the jury fully shared the appreciation and the decision of the audience” – said Dorota Żurkowska-Bytner, vice-president and board member of Discovery Networks.

“The FINA Award in the Shades of Freedom Competition goes to Anastazja Dąbrowska for ‘Daniel’ – a story full of warmth, about everyday dreams, a story that makes you think about equality and mutual respect” – the jury said about their decision.

The winning films are screened during the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival – in five Polish cities from 19 to 25 May and in 19 additional Polish cities on May 19 and 20 during Weekend With The Festival. The winning films will be broadcasted on the Discovery Channel.

Green Warsaw Award

The Green Warsaw Award for Best Environmental Feature and 3 000 EUR, given by the jury comprising Leszek Drogosz – director of the Office of Infrastructure of the City of Warsaw, Marta Dymek – vegan, food blogger and writer, Dariusz Gatkowski – expert from WWF Polska, goes to “Eating Animals” by Christopher Quinn. The jury gave also special mention to “Silas”, dir. Anjali Nayar, Hawa Essuman. The award is funded by the Office of Infrastructure of the City of Warsaw.

The jury explained their choice:

”We wanted to distinguish ‘Silas’, dir. Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman, in which social and political issues are no less important than environmental protection. The courage and dedication of the eponymous character, who runs an NGO in Liberia, his fights against the corporate world to save the old-growth rainforest, but also with the establishment of his own country may improve the outlook of many NGOs in Poland. The filmmakers also show their courage by exposing the dirty politics of the president of Liberia who is renowned internationally.

The jury has decided to give the Green Warsaw Award to ‘Eating Animals’ by Christopher Quinn, which was inspired by a popular in the Western world book by Jonathan Safran Foer. The ethical, environmental, social, economic and legal matters are interwoven within the film in many ways, creating a picture which encourages further reflection. The title of the film sounds forceful and explicit, but at the same time, if anyone thinks that the filmmakers will try to impose on them certain mindset, they will be mistaken. The film leaves a wide field for one’s own opinion and moral ponderings.

The world seen through the filmmakers’ eyes is not optimistic. It seems that humans have gone too far in their mindless, often dictated by greed, destruction of everything that surrounds us. Still the characters in the film are in many cases impossible to clearly asses, they bring optimism and hope with their behavior. The filmmakers also won’t hand us a list with ways of fixing the world. The film shows us, though, in an intelligent and subtle way what to avoid and how to guide our lives, which might be an inspiration to change our everyday actions.”

Warsaw Documentary Award

The audience has decided to reward Bing Liu’s “Minding the Gap” with the Warsaw Documentary Award, funded by the City of Warsaw, of 2 000 EUR.


The “Co Jest Grane 24” Readers’ Choice Award

This year, for the second time, the “Co Jest Grane 24” Readers’ Choice Award was given out. The festival audience in Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia and Lublin voted for their favorite film among the 9 films presenting different pop culture phenomena, but also more serious subjects. “Dolphin Man” by Lefteris Charitos received the most votes! The director will be awarded with a statue and 1 000 EUR.

“Dolphin man” is a film about Jacques Mayol, one of the greatest divers in history, multiple world record holder in deep-sea diving, known as dolphin man, theoretician and enthusiast of diving, philosopher, whose life inspired the cult film by Luc Besson “The Great Blue” (which Mayol helped writing). He was the first freediver to dive below 100 meters, and his idea of unity of people and the ocean, including the dolphins, presented in the book “Homo Delphinus” is crucial for all deep-sea divers.

During the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival, the audience saw 160 documentary films which encouraged BREAKING FREE! – from routine and stereotypes to open up to the world presented by the most interesting and intensively developing film genre that is documentary.

The VRsawa Award

During this year’s edition of the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival, a VR competition took place, it is a first competition of that kind at a Polish film festival. The audience has chosen “Dolphin Man VR” by Benoît Lichté at the winner.

The winning film will receive the VRsawa Award for Best VR (Virtual Reality) Film of 1 000 EUR, funded by the City of Warsaw.

“Dolphin Man VOR”, dir. Benoîta Lichté is a breathtaking journey through the ocean. Dolphin Man VR allows us to get closer to the experiences of the characters from “The Big Blue”, divers who do not use any breathing apparatus.


“Zwierciadło” Award for Best Psychology Feature

The editorial team of the “Zwierciadło” magazine has given an award of 1 000 EUR for Best Psychology Feature to „Call Me Tony”  by Klaudiusz Chrostowski.

About their decision:

“We are giving the award to ‘Call me Tony’ by Klaudiusz Chrostowski for the matury of vision. It is also an award for the way that the subject was approached. It is at the same time perceptive and not devoided of warmth and kindness which touches us, the viewers. It is impossible not to like a 19 year old who decides that he can be just like Tony Montana from ‘Scarface’ and has the courage to fight for his dream”.

Documentary Academy Award

The cross-generational jury of students from high school collaborating with with the Documentary Academy and the participants of the Archipelago of Generations program: Justyna Cozac, Filip Chołodowski, Elżbieta Golińska, Krystyna Jedlińska, Szymon Klimczewski, Delfina Kotlińska, Julia Kuryłek, Olimpia Pokora, Dorota Rożek, Alina Rudnicka, Kacper Senkowski, Grażyna Słomka, Aneta Zdziech, gives the award to “The Distant Barking of Dogs”, dir. Simon Lereng Wilmont. Special mention goes to “Deaf Child”, dir. Alex de Ronde.

The cross-generational jury, comprising seniors and high school students, explains their decision:

„First we would like to thank the festival programmers for an interesting selection of great films. The jury of the Documentary Academy faced a really big challenge. The award of the Documentary Academy during the 15th Millenium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival  goes to Danish director Simon Lereng Wilmont and his film ‘The Distant Barking of Dogs’ for a story told in whispers about everyday life of premature growing up of children in the war zone. The film made thanks to consequence of the director in his observational approach towards children and adults is impressively close to the characters, surprises with poetics of dark shots of the war. Let us not forget the war in Ukraine!

The jury of the Documentary Academy gives also special mention to ‘Deaf Child’ by Alex de Ronde for a magical and funny accessing the quiet of deaf people and showcasing that you do not need to be able to hear to listen!”

“Focus” Award for Biggest Festival Personality

The editorial team of the “Focus” magazine has given the Award for Biggest Festival Personality to “Big Time”, dir. Kaspar Astrup Schröder.

„Bjarke Ingels has a unique ability to connect seemingly adverse qualities: beauty and practicality, ecology and economics. His eccentric in form and often monumental designs remain close to people. This way of thinking is very rare. It is worth appreciating. I’m happy that we are able to do just that during the festival” – says Piotr Kościelniak, editor-in-chief of the “Focus” magazine, explaining their choice.

Those are not all awards given during the 15th  Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival. We will still hear from the audience who chooses the recipient of the Documentary Warsaw Award of 2 000 EUR. The award is funded by the City of Warsaw. The audience will also give out the VRsawa Award and 1 000 EUR– for the first time awarded to VR films (Virtual Reality). The VRsawa Award is funded by the City of Warsaw.

The Winners of the 15th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival - a list >>