The 20th anniversary edition of Millennium Docs Against Gravity will commence on 12 May in the eight Polish cities of Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia, Poznań, Katowice, Łódź, Bydgoszcz and Lublin, as well as online on mdag.pl, starting on 23 May. This year's motto, "Don't be indifferent", is a nod to Marian Turski's famous words spoken in 2020 in Oświęcim during the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. "These words reflect the mission of Millennium Docs Against Gravity and the films it has presented over the years. They highlight such values as mindfulness and sensitivity towards people around us that the festival has cherished since its inception, also in the language we use", emphasise the organisers.
It is this sensitivity and caring that resulted in the inclusion of films addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war in the country. Maciek Hamela's "In the Rearview" portrays the onset of the conflict, while Piotr Pawlus and Tomasz Wolski's "In Ukraine", explores the extent of the devastation caused by the war and the struggle to restore normality in the liberated territories. Although "We Shall Not Disappear" by Alisa Kovalenko predates the war, going back to 2019, it takes on a whole new significance in light of Russia's onslaught.
While the festival consistently focuses on current events, it is impossible this year not to reflect on the two decades of its history. The organisers offer a treat for long-time viewers with the "20 legendary films for the 20th anniversary of MDAG" Section which, not insignificantly, features documentaries hand-picked by Artur Liebhart, the festival's director and founder. Other sections tend to focus on contemporary themes, such as "The Power of Sisterhood" (fighting unequal treatment of men and women), "Se_x Work" (dedicated to pornography and sex work), and "We're Here, We're Queer" (exploring the LGBTQ+ theme).
Traditionally, the festival will showcase the best films of a current edition, as selected by the festival's jury. This year, 12 films, including three Polish productions or co-productions, have qualified for the Main Competition. These titles cover the theme of nature and ecology, and include Lizzie MacKenzie's "The Hermit of Treig", which depicts the story of Ken Smith who has spent four decades in the Scottish Highlands, living a solitary life in a log cabin near Loch Treig and searching for a spiritual connection with wildlife, and Jean-Albert Lièvre's "Whale Nation", a visually and musically spectacular journey into the world of whales, showing their extraordinary abilities and rich and complex social life. Two other productions: "Innocence" by Guy Davidi and "Theatre of Violence" by Łukasz Konopa and Emil Langballe, share a common theme. The former addresses the militarisation of Israeli society whose members are targeted of army propaganda from early childhood. The latter tells the story of Dominic Ongwen, the first person in history to stand before the International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted for war crimes committed as a child soldier. Interestingly, these films will compete not only for the festival's Grand Prix, but also for local awards in other festival cities, including the Lower Silesia Grand Prix in Wrocław, the Bydgoszcz ART/DOC Award, and the Poznań-funded Freedom Award.
This year's Millenium Docs will also showcase the Reality Check section, presenting the most intriguing virtual-reality productions along with regular meetings with filmmakers and film protagonists, workshops and debates on the topical issues raised on screen. The ultimate objective is give audiences insights into the perspectives of fellow humans so they can see the world through their eyes. As Marian Turski has pointed out: "If, from all the lessons learned and all the words I were to choose one or two, it would be empathy and compassion. These two sum up what life is all about."
translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski
- 20th Millennium Docs Against Gravity, Poznań edition
- May, 12-21
- For more, see www.mdag.pl
© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2023