Why I Love Polish Documentaries

It all started on the island of Bornholm. From 1990 and for ten years we Danes arranged a film festival on this wonderful place in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The name was Balticum Film & TV Festival and the films came from the countries around this Sea, including Poland. During a decade this post-USSR festival became a meeting place for creative documentarians to show films and discuss.

Here I saw ”Hear My Cry” (1991) and ”State of Weightlessness” (1994) by Maciej Drygas and ”89mm from Europe” (1993) ”Anything Can Happen” (1995) by Marcel Lozinski. Just to mention some of the Polish masterpieces which were screened at the old cinema in Gudhjem. It was also here I met the producer Wojtek Szczudlo from Kalejdoskop Film Studio, who became a dear friend, who later joined several workshops that I was in charge of. RIP, dear Wojtek.

After Bornholm I was for years part of the Ex Oriente workshop arranged by the IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) in Prague and met talents like Bartek Konopka and Piotr Rosolowski with their “Rabbit à la Berlin”, a fantastic work that their powerhouse of a producer Anna Wydra managed to bring for an Oscar nomination!

In 2005 I was in the jury of Krakow Film Festival. I was chairing the international jury: 3 out five awards was given to Polish filmmakers – Wojciech Staron’s “The Argentinian Lesson”, Pawel Kloc’s “Phnom Penh Lullaby” with a mention to “Doctors” by Tomasz Wolski.

Why are Polish documentaries so good? Could it be because Polish filmmakers always have an aesthetic choice before shooting starts. They think about form before content, they think about the style of storytelling that could fit this or that theme. They think in images that can carry emotion and information without words. Many directors have developed their film language in short films, like Piotr Stasik with his “7 x Moscow” (2005, 18 mins.), Thierry Paladino with “At the Datcha” (2006, 26mins.) and “Suburban Train” by Maciej Cuske (2005, 18 mins.). Not to forget short doc master Pawel Lozinski. There is a tradition for shorts in Poland contrary to where I come from. We used to have one…

I am sure that the existence of the Wajda School plays and has played an important role for the development of the Polish documentary. It is indeed impressive what has come out of this school that I have had the chance to visit a couple of times. What else to mention than ”Joanna” (2013) by Aneta Kopacz, beautiful as a film and as a hymn to Life and Love!

Three more female directors who has impressed me deeply: Wiktoria Szymanska whose ”The Man Who Made Angels Fly” (2013) with the puppeteer Michael Meschke is magic, Marta Prus meeting with her protagonist in ”Talk To Me” (2015) and Karolina Bielawska’s ”Call me Marianna” (PHOTO). For that no presentation needed, awarded all over the world, last ti me at DocsBarcelona the director got the New Talent Award.


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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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