Polish Documentaries in Competition

On December 9, the Sundance Institute announced the lineup of the short film competition at next year’s Sundance festival, which takes place in January. In a little over a month, two Polish short films, both co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, will compete for the title of Best Short Film: Punkt wyjścia (Starting Point) by Michał Szcześniak and Obiekt (Object) by Paulina Skibińska.


The Sundance festival is one of the world’s top events for independent cinema. Every year, the festival marks over 11,000 submissions. The lineup includes dramatic and documentary competitions for feature-length and short films. The out-of-competition lineup at Sundance includes the New Frontier, Spotlight and Park City at Midnight festival sections, as well as the NEXT programme, launched five years ago and focused on films made with extremely low budgets.

Polish Documentaries Selected for Competition Screening

This year’s Shorts section saw 8,061 submissions from around the world. Michał Szcześniak’s Punkt wyjścia (Starting Point) and Paulina Skibińska’s Obiekt (Object), both produced at Munk Studio, are among 18 shorts that made the cut and will screen in the short documentary competition, running against films from a number of countries, including the US, the UK, and Australia.

Polish Films at Sundance

Punkt wyjścia (Starting Point) and Obiekt (Object) are not the first films to be selected for screening in the Shorts competition at Sundance in recent years. Gwizdek (The Whistle), a film directed by Grzegorz Zariczny and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, won the top prize of the Sundance short film competition in 2013. That same year, Michał Englert received the Best Cinematography prize in the World Dramatic competition for his work on Nieulotne (Lasting), a film by Jacek Borcuch.


In 2012, the Sundance lineup included Opowieści z chłodni (Frozen Stories), a short feature by Grzegorz Jaroszuk. In 2011, Jakub Stożek’s documentary short Poza zasięgiem (Out of Reach) received special mention at Sundance, while the 2010 festival screened two Polish short feature films – Echo by Magnus von Horn and Urodziny (Birthday) by Jenifer Malmqvist. Jacek Borcuch’s feature Wszystko, co kocham (All That I Love) also screened at the 2010 Sundance festival.

A Film About Second Chances

The protagonist of Punkt wyjścia (Starting Point) is Aneta, a young woman serving time in prison for murder, is given an opportunity to be released on parole. As we get to know Aneta, we realize she is a kind person working in a nursing home, caring for a number of patients, including a very ill woman named Hela.


Following a screening in Warsaw’s Kultura cinema, director Michał Szcześniak talked about the difficulties in the making of this film, about finding the right protagonist, and the uncertainty regarding the ending and whether the prosecution would agree to reduce Aneta’s sentence. “This was the eighth prison I visited; I was rushing to catch a train to Warsaw, when the warden asked to me to wait a moment so that I could meet someone,” said Michał Szcześniak. “If it wasn’t for the fact that there was an error on my prison pass, we wouldn’t have met then,” said the film’s protagonist Aneta Cieślik at the screening.


Punkt wyjścia (Starting Point) was produced by Munk Studio within the framework of the ‘First Documentary’ programme, co-produced by Studio Filmowe N, and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute. To date, the film has received awards at the 33rd ‘Young and Cinema’ Festival of Film Debuts in Koszalin (Best Documentary Short) and the 22nd Camerimage festival (Golden Frog Award in the Documentary Short Film Competition).

World Premiere of Obiekt (Object)

Paulina Skibińska’s Obiekt (Object), also co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, has not yet screened in public; the Sundance screening will mark the world premiere for this latest documentary produced by the Polish Filmmakers’ Association’s Munk Studio. According to the director, she never expected to be selected for screening in competition: “I was surprised. I thought that Sundance prefers documentaries on social issues, films built on dialogue or commentary. Our film is different, there is not a single word said on-screen.” The film shows a search&rescue party set in two worlds: on an ice desert and under water. The story is told from the point of view of the rescue team, the diver descending under water, and the common folk waiting on the shore. The film was lensed by Jakub Stolecki and co-produced by Studio PUK.


Sundance 2015 will run from January 22 through February 1. Further details about the festival and the complete festival lineup is now available at www.sundance.org.


Marta Sikorska, Magdalena Wylężałek


Translated by Karolina Kołtun