A great celebration of documentary cinema, the 21st Millennium Docs Against Gravity, is fast approaching! The cinema part of the festival will take place from 10 to 19 May in seven cities (Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdynia, Poznań, Katowice, Bydgoszcz, Łódź). The full programme of this year's MDAG, featuring the latest developments in international documentary filmmaking screened in Poland for the first time, is now available at! We invite you to check out the descriptions and trailers of the films.

TOP 12 films of the festival according to Artistic Director Karol Piekarczyk

The 21st Millennium Docs Against Gravity features nearly 190 films from all around the world! Recommendations from the festival's artistic director, Karol Piekarczyk, can help you navigate the programme. Which films deserve special attention?

My top 10 is a top 12 which happens to be also the Main Competition of the festival. Such incredible work was achieved by the filmmakers that it is hard to find words to describe them. But I'll give it a go:

Agent of Happiness,  dir. Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbó

Proving that documentaries are not a genre, this film blends comedy, drama and a road movie, in an epic journey to find happiness. The beautifully crafted shots of Bhutanese Himalayas are a setting for Amber who ventures on an expedition to measure the levels of happiness among his compatriots. The happiest country on earth proves more complex and, somewhere along the way, we find out that it is not just a collage of stories, but that there is a clear protagonist whose own tale might prove to be the most meaningful.

Hollywoodgate, dir. Ibrahim Nash’at

Like aliens landing on a foreign land, so do Taliban soldiers start exploring the Hollywoodgate base in Afghanistan. Once this planet was occupied by the American army, now we will see the birth of a totalitarian state. First, however, the new power will have to navigate through corridors of equipment left by the previous owners – from cans of Coca Cola to sabotaged aircrafts. The camerawork provides an apt feeling of grandeur, surrealism and theatricality.

The Remarkable Life of Ibelin, dir. Benjamin Ree

An exceptionally moving and beautiful story of Mats (a.k.a Ibelin) whose death at the age of 25 left his parents devasted. Worried that their son, because of his illness, didn’t have a chance to live through the most beautiful parts of the human experience they discover the computer password which he left for them. It becomes a key to a beautiful world, one which we (us as in viewer and his family) slowly discover. With great game-like animation this film will make you cry and smile at the same time. If not you might check if you’re not an inanimate object left by someone in the cinema.

I’m Not Everything I Want To Be, dir. Klára Tasovská

Libuše Jarcovjáková is a photographer whose work spans decades of roaming between Prague, Berlin and Tokyo. Her signature take at framing, structuring and placing protagonists within the setting is ingeniously unique, and perhaps was too unique for a long time. This exceptionally edited film (composed exclusively from photographs) is not only a significant portrait of an artist but moreover of a human being, whose psychological experience is analysed by Libuše herself, as it’s narrator. Oh, and we are showing photographs by Libuše Jarcovjáková at the festival.

Forest, dir. Lidia Duda

When horrifying thing happen in beautiful and pristine places to make a film which captures the complexity of humanity at the same time giving the voice to nature seems near impossible. Yet, Lidia Duda’s film achieves this. This is a film about so many things – about families, about growing up, about the migration crisis at the Polish border, about the need to help and about a primeval forest. There is great balance achieved in narration, cinematography and sound. The perfect commentary is provided by the wild animals, that with disbelief look at people and the way we behave.

Mother Vera, dir. Cécile Embleton, Alys Tomlinson

Mother Vera helps those battling addiction whilst living in a Belarusian monastery. It is there where she is battling her past, trying to find ease in the present whilst searching for a road to her future. This cinematic experience is both refreshing and profound. Naturally the black and white photography, interspersed with mysticism invokes Pawlikowski’s “Ida”, but there is more to explore here. There are multiple layers, symbolism, even a separate narration told by shadows, and at the same time there is some inexplicable peacefulness and simplicity. The phrase “you have to see it on the big screen” has never rang more true. Oh, and we are showing photographs by the co-director, Alys Tomlinson at the festival.

No Other Land, dir. Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham, Rachel Szor

This film has gathered new meaning in the light of recent months. ”No Other Land” portrays the slow and calculated dismantling of the Palestinian area of Masafer Yatta. The camerawork and editing puts us in the middle of homes which any day might seize to exist. On this devastated land a friendship is forged between Basel, a Palestinian activist and Yuval, an Israeli journalist. The universality of this bond, in a film created by a Palestinian-Israeli collective, is strong and the message which the film and its creators carry with them should be heard by everyone.

Nocturnes, dir. Anupama Srinivasan, Anirban Dutta

This film is a perfectly constructed mediation which like no other drops you inside of a Himalayan forest. Under the cover of night a scientist and her assistant study the magical life of moths. They gather in their thousands on white sheet which illuminated by lights create scenes of inconspicuous beauty. The craft of the camerawork, the intense shades of green and the piercing sound of the jungle truly immerses us in pure nature. And the punchline, which we are quite unaware of until it arrives, is as powerful as the whole experience.

The Last Expedition, dir. Eliza Kubarska

Wanda Rutkiewicz was the first woman and the first person from Poland to conquer many of the highest peaks on earth. Her road, in a male dominated environment had often to be twice as long. This film perfectly interweaves archival material, with great contemporary footage from places which Wanda visited and where she was last seen. Rediscovered tapes with her voice-diary make this story a deeply intimate and psychological voyage. The urge to be the first, to conquer mountains which tower over clouds, with a baggage of personal tragedies and having to answer questions about one’s gender are counterbalanced by a personal story with which everyone can identify with.

sr, dir. Lea Hartlaub

This poetic film transgress the limits of borders, continents and time. The majestic giraffe which is the subject of this cinematic essay provides a mythological link between different, often surprising notions. The film is uncompromising in its’ formal decisions whilst providing both philosophical questions, facts and a look at our bizarre reality. Giraffes have lived on this planet for 20 million years, perhaps they know something that we don’t?

Sugarcane, dir. Julian Brave NoiseCat, Emily Kassie

Can a film kick you in the stomach and give you hope at the same time? This one can. An Indigenous community in Canada, with dignity and calmness faces the brutal past and tries to forge a future, in a land where the church under the protectorate of the state committed heinous crimes. In this documentary masterpiece the Sugarcane Reserve is a setting where a mythical battle is fought – where you lose faith in humanity just to be given a ray of light by its incredible characters. I am extremely proud and moved by the fact that the international premiere of this film will take place at our festival.

Soundtrack to Coup d’Etàt, dir. Johan Grimonprez

When the cold war was raging a parallel one was orchestrated – the cool war. The US State Department sends musical ambassadors, with Louis Armstrong headlining, to Africa. It is a tour, during which, unbeknownst to the artists, a political and devious ploy is at play. This is a master stroke of a movie which pinpoints a moment in history where colonialism, decolonisation and postcolonialism meet. The latter is being born. The archival footage is incredible, the music provides aptly a great soundtrack, and there is rhythm, plenty of rhythm. Maybe the best review of this film would be that it lasts 2,5 hours and yet I did not want it to end.