In Relationship With the World. 21st Millennium Docs Against Gravity

The 21st edition of Millennium Docs Against Gravity, Poland's biggest film festival, will take place from 10 to 19 May in cinemas in seven Polish cities (Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia, Poznań, Katowice, Łódź, and Bydgoszcz) and from 21 May to 3 June online at! As always, the unforgettable film journeys will be accompanied by meetings with the filmmakers and protagonists as well as debates on topics presented on screen. 

The slogan of this year's MDAG is “In Relationship With the World”, and this is how the festival's artistic director, Karol Piekarczyk, explains its meaning: "The slogan refers directly to the topics addressed by the films presented in the festival programme. It is also a tribute to the extraordinary work of the filmmakers who show us the reality that surrounds us and the magical bond created in the cinema hall. Following the slogan, this year, we are focusing on human relationships and showing the boundless complexity of our nature. On the one hand, it enables us to develop friendship, love, and empathy. On the other hand, our species is responsible for the destruction of itself and the planet, which is not only our home."

New sections

As always, we have made several new additions to the programme, including sections that reflect current trends in documentary cinema. Japan Story looks at various aspects of East Asian culture. The films presented in this section explore to what extent we are similar to Japanese society and where differences are most apparent. Meanwhile, Unforgettable Female Stories takes a closer look at outstanding women who had to fight for recognition of their merits against a patriarchal culture. Their achievements were often erased, and they long waited for the world to hear about them. In The Path to Happiness, we embark on a journey in search of a balanced life. The path leading to fulfilment and happiness can be winding and bumpy. How do the protagonists of the festival films handle it? This is an excellent opportunity to learn an important lesson from their surprising, often amusing, but also serious and moving quests. On the other hand, the films presented in the First Nations section address current challenges faced by indigenous peoples around the world. As part of it, the festival will have the great honour of hosting the international premiere of the film “Sugarcane”. In a highly sensitive way, its creators confront the audience with the decades-long pain of Canada's indigenous people. The film's directing duo Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie, who won the directing award in the US competition at Sundance, will be visiting Warsaw for the festival. 

Once again, a selection of the most interesting VR experiences will also be presented during the festival under the name MDAG Beyond. The experiences employ the latest technology to engage all the senses in reflecting on fundamental issues of today's world – from our ambiguous relationship with nature to the essence of human relationships. The exhibition will take place from 13 to 19 May at the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw (free admission). 

Sundance and Berlinale winners at MDAG 

MDAG will feature the Polish premieres of films awarded at the world's most important festivals – Sundance and Berlinale. As for Sundance, it will be a total of five award-winning films: the winner of the international documentary competition – Silje Evensmo Jacobsen's “A New Kind of Wilderness”; the winner of the US documentary competition – Brendan Bellomo and Slava Leontyev's “Porcelain War”; the winner of the best director award in the international competition – Benjamin Ree's “Ibelin”; winner of the best director award in the US competition – the aforementioned “Sugarcane” by Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie; winner of the Special Jury Award for Cinematic Innovation – “Soundtrack to a Coup d'Etàt” by Johan Grimonprez.

“A New Kind of Wilderness” is a beautiful story of a family that seeks a wild, free existence in the Norwegian Wilderness, but a tragic turn of events shatters their isolation, compelling them to adapt to the demands of contemporary society. "Porcelain War" follows three Ukrainian artists as they fight for their country. "Ibelin" by Benjamin Ree, well known to festival audiences for his film "The Painter and the Thief", is a moving tribute to Mats Steen, who died of a degenerative muscular disease at the age of 25. His parents mourned what they thought had been a lonely and isolated life when they started receiving messages from online friends around the world. "Soundtrack to a Coup d'État" focuses on the years 1960-1961, with 16 African countries declaring independence, causing unrest among the superpowers. The US sends black jazz stars to Africa to soften its image, but things don't go according to plan, as the musicians begin to notice how they are treated in their own country.

From Berlinale, our programmers have brought the winner of the best documentary award, “No Other Land” by Rachel Szor, Yuval Abraham, Hamdan Billal and Basel Adr. At the darkest moment of his life, facing mass eviction, Palestinian activist Basel befriends Israeli journalist Yuval, who supports his protests.

Polish Competition

This year's programme also includes many interesting Polish films presented in the Polish Competition. They will introduce us to a 19-year-old DJ Marysia (“Rave”, dir. Dawid Nickel, Łukasz Ronduda), musicians with a past (“Twenty Years After: C.K.O.D.3”, dir. Piotr Szczepański), a family helping refugees ("Forest", dir. Lidia Duda), female protagonists fighting for the right of Polish women to abortion ("Abortion Dream Team", dir. Karolina Domagalska), or Gosia who proves that a young person with schizophrenia can find her place in society ("Just Hear Me Out", dir. Małgorzata Imielska). It is not just about the present – MDAG will also look at the legends of Polish (pop)culture – Wanda Rutkiewicz (“Last Expedition”, dir. Eliza Kubarska) and Marek Hłasko (“8th Day of Khamsin”, dir. Zvika Gregory Portnoy), whose lives and personalities we will see in a completely new light.


This year’s retrospective is devoted to the queer and feminist cinema pioneer, icon, and activist Barbara Hammer. It covers her work ranging from the early 1970s – when the director brought the body and the lesbian nude to the screen, creating truly subversive art for that time – to her most recent films made in the 21st century. Barbara Hammer's films are the result of an experimental search for tools to challenge stereotypes about gender roles, lesbian identity, and sexuality and expose the historical exclusion of non-heteronormative people from public space. 


We are also joining the celebration of the 75-year post-war history of Polish cinematography and the existence of Wytwórnia Filmów Oświatowych (Educational Film Studios) in Łódź by presenting a selection of WFO films. In this special section, we will present films with music by Krzysztof Komeda, creative documentaries, images of unspoilt nature, and the studio's new production, “Indistinct Clatter of Birds” by Franciszek Berbeka.


Also on the programme is a set of exceptional films that have left a mark on the history of Millennium Docs Against Gravity and documentary cinema. Ten unforgettable screenings of all-time classics and more recent films worth knowing will take place as part of The Best of MDAG. 


The 21st Millennium Docs Against Gravity will be a fascinating journey not only around the world, but also through many relevant issues – from ecology, politics, psychology, human rights, art (also avant-garde), and pop culture to family relations.

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