The world in the shadow of the pandemic – The International Documentary Competition

The International Documentary Competition at the 61st Krakow Film Festival.
Another edition of the Krakow Film Festival, taking place in difficult times for the world and culture, is ahead of us. The latest films from all over the world, qualified for the prestigious documentary film competition, will take the viewers on a journey to an alternative reality without any traces of the pandemic, but full of equally serious problems. The films from esteemed festivals, as well as long-awaited world premieres, will compete for the Golden and Silver Horns in front of the international jury. Among them, there are 2 Polish productions.

We will show films that present both the dark and the bright sides of the contemporary world. The competition films deal with personal and collective traumas, record various tensions and turmoil, but are also a record of changes taking place in different areas of our globe – mainly thanks to the unconventional heroes and heroines, this is how Anita Piotrowska, film critic and the documentary curator of the Krakow Film Festival, summarises the competition selection.

As always, the international documentary competition will take us on a trip around the world, adds Krzysztof Gierat, the director of the Krakow Film Festival, the filmmakers reveal to us fascinating stories and extraordinary protagonists from the Republic of South Africa, Cambodia, the USA, Sweden, Russia, Mongolia, India, Hong Kong, Korea, Iran and Syria.

Crime scene investigation

One of the two Polish films in the international competition is the documentary film “Walk with Angels” by Tomasz Wysokiński, who for years accompanies mysterious Jerry like a shadow. Jerry searches for missing children in the Republic of South Africa.

After the unexplained death of his little niece, Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his hometown in Michigan and directs the camera at his loved ones. “North by Current” does not, however, provide unambiguous answers, but paints a picture of a family struggling with addiction, spirituality and identity.

“Lost Boys” (dir. Sadri Cetinkaya, Joonas Neuvonen) is a dark documentary about three men lost in a drug hell in Southeast Asia. The controversial video diary turns into an attempt to solve the riddle of a mysterious death.

Per Anders Rudelius in the film “Dad Shot Them” recalls the story of a crime that shocked the inhabitants of a small Swedish town several years ago. It is a story of trauma and the process of healing internal wounds, where, regardless of the judgement of the court, everyone had lost.

Abuses committed by the American police have a long tradition. A New York detective exposed corruption on a large scale, after which he was labelled as a traitor. Who he really was? Magnus Skatvold in the film “Blue Code of Silence” deals with the double life of his protagonist.

Tundra and Steppe

The eponymous Ivanna in the film by Renato Borrayo Serrano (“Life of Ivanna”) is a member of nomadic peoples who live in boundless Arctic Russia. She decides to abandon the traditional austere life, free herself from a toxic relationship and set out to the city in search of a better life for herself and her children.

The protagonists of the film “The Wheel” do not have the courage to change their fates. Through various stories, the director, Nomin Lkhagvasuren, wonders what makes the descendants of the nomadic peoples of Mongolia take their own lives, and why Mongolia is at the forefront of suicide.

Video revolution

“Inside the Red Brick Wall” (dir. Hong Kong Documentary Filmmaker) shows one of the most dramatic moments of the recent protests in Hong Kong – the siege of the technical university by the police. The events, captured by amateur cameras and mobile phones, in the hands of the documentary filmmakers turn into a suspenseful cinema.

The protagonists of the documentary film “Writing with Fire” (dir. Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh), with the help of digital media, regain their own voice in defiance of the stereotypes, superstitions and in spite of the Indian caste system.

A remarkable hero

“No Hero at All” by Michał Kawecki is the second of the Polish films in the competition. Miszka is a guy with many faces, a petty criminal and a promising Alpine skier who, in spite of a serious disability and difficult living conditions, makes the most of life.

Kim Tschang-Yeul is an outstanding Korean painter, the protagonist of the documentary film “The Man Who Paints Water Drops” (dir. Oan Kim, Brigitte Bouillot) shown through the eyes of his French son, also an artist, who derives the sophisticated form of the film from his father’s fascinations and obsessions.

Extraordinary History

Patricio Galvez, the protagonist of the film “Children of the Enemy” (dir. Gorky Glaser-Müller), after the death of his daughter and her husband, fights on his own for his grandchildren, imprisoned in the monstrous ISIS camp al-Hol in Syria.

The director of the documentary “The Red Ring”, Joonas Berghäll, who suffers from chronic Lyme disease, searches the entire world for the cure for his disease and explains why no efforts are made to stop the global epidemic.

Firouzeh Khosrovani in the film “Radiograph of a Family” uses the metaphor of the X-ray photographs to see right through the complicated relationship between her parents: the mother dedicated to the Iranian revolution and the secularised father, a radiologist.

The films of the international documentary competition at the 61st Krakow Film Festival:

  • “No Hero at All,” dir. Michał Kawecki, Poland, 2021

  • “The Red Ring,” dir. Joonas Berghäll, Finland, 2021

  • “Far Eastern Golgotha” dir. Julia Sergina, Russia 2021
  • “North by Current,” dir. Angelo Madsen Minax, the USA, 2021

  • “Children of the Enemy,” dir. Gorki Glaser-Müller, Sweden, 2021

  • “The Wheel,” dir. Nomin Lkhagvasuren, Mongolia, 2020

  • “Blue Code of Silence,” dir. Magnus Skatvold, Gregory Mallozzi, Norway, 2020

  • “Courage”, dir. Aliaksei Paluyan, 90’, Germany, Belarus 2021
  • “Writing with Fire,” dir. Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh, India, 2021

  • “The Man Who Paints Water Drops,” dir. Oan Kim, Brigitte Bouillot, France, South Korea, 2020

  • “Radiograph of a Family,” dir. Firouzeh Khosrovani, Norway, Iran, Switzerland, 2020

  • “Walk with Angels,” dir. Tomasz Wysokiński, Poland, 2021

  • “Lost Boys,” dir. Joonas Neuvonen, Sadri Cetinkaya, Finland, 2020

  • “Dad Shot Them,” dir. Per Anders Rudelius, Sweden, 2020

  • “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” dir. Hong Kong Documentary Filmmaker, Hong Kong, 2020

  • “Lobster Soup”, dir. Pepe Andreu, Rafá Moles, Spain / Iceland / Lithuania 2020
  • “Life of Ivanna,” dir. Renato Borrayo Serrano, Russia, Norway, Finland, Estonia, 2021

The Krakow Film Festival is on the prestigious list of events qualifying for the Academy Award in the feature-length documentary film category, and the winner of the Golden Horn is on a fast track to the Academy Awards selection. The KFF qualifies films for the Academy Award also in the short film categories (feature, animated, documentary film), and it recommends the films to the European Film Award in the same categories.

The detailed programme will be published in mid-May.

The 61st Krakow Film Festival will be held from the 30th of May to the 6th of June 2021, at the cinemas in Krakow and on the Internet.