Millennium Against Gravity: I am still waiting for a documentary version of House of Cards, says festival director Artur Liebhart.

Steve Rickinson
Steve Rickinson
Published date: May 9, 2019

Millennium Docs Against Gravity abandoned the idea of having one main location (Warsaw) and has gradually added new cities. The festival is held in 6 major Polish cities, gives 14 cash awards, screens approximately 140 films and invites 80 foreign filmmakers. Against Gravity releases films in theatres, sets series of thematic screenings and has an education branch called «Akademia Dokumentalna», which provides programmes for schools and 3 major Polish Universities. It also sells approximately 100 films to various Polish TV channels and VOD platforms throughout the year. As its festival’s directors say to MTR, «We take care of the Polish premieres and work to secure the selected films’ long life in Poland.»

 Is there any overall theme of this year’s festival – and why?

We have not set an a priori theme of this year’s edition. It comes naturally through the films we have curated since the time of Cannes Festival 2018. Historical memory interweaves with other subjects in several major films this year. Can we still use memory of the past for current decisions and evaluation of what is wrong? Or have we surrendered to living in a constant «the future is now» mode and neglected the experience of the past?

The documentary genre started believing in itself as a rightful part of the film industry.

A juxtaposition of fear and hope is noticeable in this year’s film program: co-existence with AI (Hi AI, More Human than Human), uncertain future of Europe as a common value (The Brink, Erasmus, Meeting Gorbacev) or neofascism on the rise (The Exit). On the one hand, the values of progress and rationalism are in danger, but on the other, we can see the seeds of hope when it comes to citizenship power, community or won battles for equality and justice (Belingcat, What you Gonna Do When the World is on Fire, Female Pleasure, Untouchable).

Nowadays, they often are film essays, aimed for cinemas, with elements of a thriller.

The programme provides the right mixture of a general perspective (Anthropocene, Push) and close ups of individuals as well as their daily struggle (Reformist, The Talking About Trees). Films on art (The Proposal, Architecture of Reality, Up the Mountain) reflect on our times too and sometimes offer surprisingly fresh approaches toward reality.

Millennium Docs Against Gravity film festival.

Documentary as a genre has steadily been on the rise on popularity over the past two decades – hasn’t it?

 The documentary genre started believing in itself as a rightful part of the film industry. The conviction that fiction films and documentaries have one fundamental thing in common– they need to trigger emotion – makes also the latter attractive for young filmmakers and responsive young audience. Hybrid films by Michal Marczak (Fuck for Forest, All These Sleepless Nights) and their reception around the globe are a very good example of these tendencies. Another example of a documentary filmmaker who shows the genre’s values in the world of fiction landscape is Sergey Loznitsa. He has not stopped making documentaries and keeps presenting new ones in Venice and Cannes. His precision and passion depicting places, time and protagonists in his fiction films become a reference point in wider circles of the industry. This mingling of genres is one of the many reasons for a current high esteem of the documentary genre.

Any prominent changes over the past decade?

A decade ago, when films on science were made, an educational style was automatically assumed. They were 30-52 minutes long, to be easily squeezed into TV slots. Nowadays, they often are film essays, aimed for cinemas, with elements of a thriller.

Where do you see the documentary landscape progressing in the next decade?

There will be many paths. Victor Kossakovsky, with his Aquarela, has paved one of them. The new technology of 95 fps and Atmos sound 7.1 gives a documentary film the chance to become spectacular enough to reach young mass cinema audience. I am still waiting for a documentary version of House of Cards. In the period of the rapidest changes ever, documentaries are definitely going to grow in significance.

Finally, do you have a documentary that was seminal to your interest in the genre?

The documentary films of Krzysztof Kieślowski amazed me. When I heard he stopped believing in documentary as a genre, I found inspiration in films by Marcel Łozinski and Andrzej Fidyk. Neither was obsessed with the idea of the «fly on the wall», which is never is the filmmaker’s actual situation.

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