Sundance Breakout ‘Flee’ Wins Top Prize at Millennium Docs Against Gravity

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Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary “Flee” – already awarded at Sundance and Annecy – was granted the Grand Prix – Bank Millennium Award at the 18th edition of Millennium Docs Against Gravity, which will continue online from September 16 until October 3. Jurors Agnieszka Holland, Christian Frei and Tomasz Wolski were taken by the story of a man who, about to marry his husband, decides to finally open up about his refugee past. The film also picked up the “Zwierciadło” award for the Best Film on Psychology.

“This film speaks about a real, extremely important subject in an artistically powerful, compelling, and complex way,” it was argued. “The original form, the sincerity of the main character, the lack of sentimentality and its strong emotional content make it not only an attractive movie for the wider audience, but also an important statement about the real situation of today’s refugees, helping us to understand their destiny and choices and evoking deep empathy.”

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Special Mentions went to “A Thousand Cuts” by Ramona S. Diaz and “The Balcony Movie” by Paweł Łoziński, the latter appreciated for “its original, minimalist idea” as well as artistic execution, tenderness and “proving that you can see the world in a single drop of water if you know how to look,” noted the jury. The film, showing Łoziński engaging in casual conversations with people passing under his balcony, was also granted the Studio Cinemas Association’s Special Mention. “What was particularly important to me is that these films say so much about today’s world,” said Holland, commenting on the selection.

“Bucolic” by Karol Pałka was named Best Polish Film, while Kuba Mikurda’s exploration of Andrzej Żuławski’s troubled sci-fi epic “Escape to the Silver Globe” left with the first-ever Studio Cinemas Association Award.

“Regardless of the times, culture should be apolitical and artists should have the liberty to create and express themselves,” shared the jurors, noting that Mikurda was awarded for his “technically mature, universal and cognitively interesting tale about an ambitious, underrated creator working in a time when the regime quashed culture and the individual had no importance.” The film was also granted The Chopin’s Nose Award and its producer, Daria Maślona, was given the Smakjam Award for the Best Production in the Polish competition.

The Amnesty International Poland Award went to the directors of “Songs of Repression,” Estephan Wagner and Marianne Hougen-Moragi, with Special Mention going to “Courage” by Aliaksey Paluyan about Belarusian protests, praised by the jury for a “moving, unsentimental portrayal of the incredible courage of daily choices which become major life decisions in the context of living in an authoritarian country.” Paluyan’s film was also given the TVP Dokument Award.

Accepting the prize on behalf of the director, Belarusian activist Jana Shostak asked the audience to join her in “one minute of screaming,” commemorating the victims of the regime. “No man is ‘illegal’,” she said, also echoing the festival’s motto. “The world is waking up, so let’s wake up as people.”

Elizabeth Lo’s “Stray” was noticed for its cinematography, while the “Focus” Magazine Award for the Biggest Personality of the Festival went to Greta Thunberg, the protagonist of Nathan Grossman’s “I Am Greta.” Finally, the Green Warsaw Award was claimed by the director of “Who We Were” Marc Bauder. Mikołaj Borowy’s “The Last Generation,” about young climate activists, scored a Special Mention.

“Changemakers, activists, climate fighters. ‘The Last Generation’ is like a lens examining from the inside all the worries, challenges, and reality of young Polish activists – the youngest and most active generation fighting for climate in Poland and abroad,” said the jury. “They are the ones protesting in the streets, initiating civil disobedience and direct action, working online, educating, debating and carrying the future of the planet on their shoulders.”

“It’s such a classic saying of mine: ‘This is not the end!’ There are still three more days of the festival in cinemas, an online festival and several other attractions,” said founder Arthur Liebhart. This year’s edition consisted of 148 films, including 135 Polish premieres, and 1350 screenings. Happening simultaneously in seven different Polish cities, the festival will add one more in 2022.

“In difficult times, our efforts to develop the audience have paid off. I am happy with the brave decisions by the juries, underlying the diversity of styles, topics and perspectives of the world of documentary cinema at its best, presented here every year. It seems that for the second time in a row, our festival will be the most popular one in Poland.”

Here is the list of award winners from this year’s Millenium Docs Against Gravity festival:

The Grand Prix – the Bank Millennium Award
Winner: “Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Special mentions: “A Thousand Cuts” by Ramona S. Diaz and “The Balcony Movie” by Paweł Łoziński

Best Polish Film Award
Winner: “Bucolic” by Karol Pałka

The Studio Cinemas Association Award in the Polish Competition
Winner: “Escape to the Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda
Special mention: “The Balcony Movie” by Paweł Łoziński

The Smakjam Polish Competition Prize for the Best Production
Winner: Daria Maślona, producer of “Escape to the Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda

The Amnesty International Polska Award
Winner: “Songs of Repression” by Estephan Wagner, Marianne Hougen-Moragi
Special mention: “Courage” by Aliaksey Paluyan

The Award for Best Cinematography
Winner: “Stray,” cinematographer: Elizabeth Lo

The Green Warsaw Award
Winner: “Who We Were” by Marc Bauder
Special mention: “The Last Generation” by Mikołaj Borowy

The Chopin’s Nose Award
Winner: “Escape to The Silver Globe” by Kuba Mikurda

The “Zwierciadło” Award for the Best Film on Psychology
Winner: “Flee” by Jonas Power Rasmussen

The “Focus” Award for the Biggest Personality of the Festival
Winner: Greta Thunberg, protagonist of the film “I Am Greta” by Nathan Grossman

The Best Debut Award
Winner: “Black Jesus” by Luca Lucchesi

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