6 Must-watch Documentaries Directed by Poles
no-image, 6 Must-watch Documentaries Directed by Poles
A voodoo shaman in Poland under the communist regime, a Russian teenager living in a garbage dump, a priest who performs exorcisms: these are just a few of the characters you’ll encounter if you step into the thriving world of documentary film-making in Poland. Here are six exceptional titles.
Michał Szcześniak’s debut documentary focuses on the relationship between Aneta, who went to jail for murder at the age of 19, and Helena, an elderly paralytic living in a nursing home. After almost a decade behind bars Aneta starts to work as a caretaker, and is hence allowed to leave jail for her daily visits to Helena. The two women bond in a way that proves transformative for Aneta. The director spent 2 years searching for the right protagonists for his documentary. Starting Point won several awards at festivals, among them Documenta Madrid, Plus Camerimage and Sheffield Doc/Fest.
The Art of Disappearing
In 1980 Amon Frémon, a Haitian voodoo shaman with Polish ancestry, was invited to Poland by the legendary theatre director Jerzy Grotowski. We are shown everyday life under the communist regime through the shaman’s eyes, and this results in an entirely new perspective. For example, to the Haitian, communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski looked like a demon from a parallel universe. The film by the Oscar-nominated duo Bartek Konopka and Piotr Rosołowski loosely revolves around the shaman’s visit to Poland and blends archival footage with contemporary, experimental shots taken in Poland and Haiti.
Bartosz Dombrowski investigates social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s theory, which claims that everyone is no more than six handshakes away from everybody else on the planet. Six Degrees confirms Milgram’s idea by connecting two people chosen at random, a Warsaw punk rock singer and a Mexican farmer. The film’s creators travelled across the world and found out that the two men indeed could be linked by 6 acquaintances. Ultimately, Dombrowski’s documentary sheds a new light on how we perceive distances between individuals and cultures.
Something Better to Come
It took Hanna Polak 14 years to make this documentary. For all this time the director filmed a homeless girl’s tragic existence in a Muscovite garbage dump. Yula survives on what she can salvage from the trash. The filming begins when she is 10 years old and documents her childhood and her attempts to leave the dump. Over the years the director gathered over 400 hours of footage, all the while providing invaluable help to Yula and her entourage. The resulting documentary leaves no one indifferent.
The Battle With Satan
The Battle With Satan reveals what takes place at contemporary exorcisms. Director Konrad Szołajski followed three young women wishing to undergo the ceremony so they can rid themselves of the demonic influences which allegedly plague them. Apart from scenes of intense religious rites, the documentary contains a reflection as to why the women volunteered for such treatments. The Battle With Satan shows an nuanced point of view and much psychological finesse in handling its explosive topic.
Waiting for Saturday
‘When I’m bored I start counting how many days are left til the disco’ says a villager portrayed in this documentary feature by Irena and Jerzy Morawski. This statement sums up the lives of countless small-town people residing in provincial Poland and whose lives revolve around Saturday disco evenings. The documentary-makers presents provincial clubs, their parties, their erotic shows, but also their employees, for example a 48-year-old woman with 11 children whose only source of income is cleaning a disco. A poignant showcase of voices isolated from the urban lifestyle we often take for granted.
Author: Marek Kępa, July 2016
contemporary polish documentary
the art of disappearing