Michał Szcześniak’s “Starting Point” and Paulina Skibińska’s “The Object” have been selected for the Documentary Short Films competition at the world’s most important independent cinema event, the Sundance Film Festival. Both films were produced by the Munk Studio, which operates under the auspices of the Polish Filmmakers Association (PFA).

To have two films selected for screening at such a prestigious competition is an exceptional success for the Munk Studio-PFA, given that 8061 films were submitted for what will be the 37th edition of the festival. "Starting Point" and "The Object", will be entering the battle for award along with 60 other documentaries from all over the world.

The two films were both made under the Munk Studio-PFA’s First Documentary programme. For "Starting Point", the screening in Park City will mark its American premiere. Director Michał Szczesniak recalls the moment he heard the news; I found out that “Starting Point” had been selected for the Sundance while I was taking part in the IDFAcademy in Amsterdam. The news was greeted with great enthusiasm. In the meantime, I was just beginning to understand exactly how important the Sundance Festival is, that being selected for it is a huge distinction and that it will be a wonderful place for the film to be shown.

“Starting Point” tells the story of Aneta, who rebelled when she was nineteen and wound up in prison for murder. Nine years later, while serving out her sentence, she starts working as a carer under a rehabilitation programme. Every day, she is driven out from behind the walls of the prison and taken to a care home for the elderly, where she looks after Helena, who is sick. Her conversations with her charge lead Aneta to realise how much she has in life and enable her to start believing in herself before the ordeal that awaits her. The film has already won awards at a number of Polish festivals, including Koszalin, Radom, Opole and Kielce, while the cinematographer, Przemysław Niczyporuk, won the Golden Frog in the Short Documentary Films Competition at the 22nd Camerimage International Film Festival in Bydgoszcz. “Starting Point” was made in co-production with Studio Filmowe "N".

In turn, Paulina Skibińska’s “The Object”, the Munk Studio-PFA’s most recent documentary, will be making its world premiere, with its first ever festival screening taking place at the Sundance Film Festival. The director herself had never supposed that it would get as far as being selected; I was astounded. It had always seemed to me that the Sundance has a preference for social themes, for documentaries rooted in dialogue or commentary. Our film’s very much grounded in form. There’s not so much as a single word in it.

The film, which shows search and recovery in action, is played out in two worlds; on a wilderness of ice and underwater. It tells its story from the standpoints of the search and recovery team members, who dive into the world under the ice and the ordinary people waiting on the shore. With cinematography by Jakub Stolecki, “The Object” was co-produced by Studio PUK.

In 2013, the Sundance Short Film Grand Jury Prize went to Grzegorz Zariczny’s “The Whistle”, a Munk Studio-PFA production, while in 2011 a Honourable Mention was given to “Out of reach” by Jakub Stożek. There were also Polish shorts fiction films screened at Sundance Film Festival: “Frozen stories” by Grzegorz Jaroszuk in 2012 and “The Echo” by Magnus von Horn as well as “Birthday” by Jenifer Malmqvist in 2010.

The Sundance Film Festival, which is organised by the Sundance Institute, is one of the most world’s most important events as far as the promotion of independent cinema is concerned and the competition sections encompass feature-length and short films alike. The 15th Sundance Film festival runs from 22nd January to 1st February 2015.

The full list of the selected films can be found here.

[source: Munk Studio press release]