dok.incubator reveals eight selected talents for 2023

    dok.incubator workshop announces the final selection of documentaries for 2023. From women’s rights, war trauma and mental illness to measuring happiness – the variety of topics to be unfolded at this year’s workshop creates an impressive mosaic of today’s world.

    The well-established rough-cut training will bring eight project teams from Europe, Iran, and Bhutan to work together with international editors, producers, and sales representatives. For the upcoming eight months their goal is to sharpen their film’s cut, shape its dramaturgy, and create marketing strategy, preparing each film for festival premiere in 2024. “Every year we see that the current social and political situation is imprinted into the films that apply for our workshop. I believe we brought up fresh and diverse perspectives and that this year’s selection carries many important messages of the contemporary world,” says Andrea Prenghyova, the dok.incubator CEO.

    All eight films are directed (or co-directed) by women and demonstrate varied filmmaking approaches, cultural backgrounds, and themes. Among them the topic of oppressed women’s rights told by four brave protagonists of 5 Pills Away who fight the abortion ban in Poland can be found next to a personal story of an Iranian woman who decides to pursue a dream. In Zun: an octopus under my skin, we follow her difficult journey of becoming a singer in a country where singing solo is forbidden for women.

    These are not the only strong female protagonists you can see in the selected films. Fighting the stereotypes and proving that women can drive just as well as men was a mission of Ewy and Ursula, heroes of an archival documentary Racing Hearts who became the first Mercedes-Benz female competitive drivers in the 1960s. Similarly empowering are the elderly cheerleaders from Kyiv who call themselves Nice Ladies. Despite self-doubt, unrealistic beauty standards and different labels, they still claim the spotlight and find fulfillment in the sport. However, when the Russian invasion happens nothing remains the same.

    No matter what the narrative is, documentaries help us to better understand the world around us and to raise awareness. That is also the case of Just Hear Me Out, a story of a Polish girl who wants to find her own way in life that has so far been built only around her condition – paranoid schizophrenia. Being incarcerated and not being heard is something that Mina wants to change by starting a radio in 6 Norwegian prisons. In Mina and the Radio Bandits we follow her project of giving the freedom of speech to those who lost the freedom to move. Another probe into unfree minds is depicted in The Eternal War, a documentary study of how propaganda changes the thinking of people.

    A whole new world can be experienced also through the film Agent of Happiness shot in Bhutan, a small country where happiness has a higher value than GDP. Amber travels around with a survey to measure how happy the people there actually are but deep inside he is the one searching for own happiness.

    dok.incubator 2023 selected projects:

    5 Pills Away /PL/

    director: Karolina Domagalska, editor: Laura Pawela, producer: Anna Stylinska

    In October 2020, the Polish government introduced an almost total abortion ban. From now on, abortion is impossible even if the fetus has fatal birth defects. It caused a huge response of Polish women – they walked out on the streets in what is known as the biggest rebellion seen in democratic Poland. As a result, abortion hotline +48 222 922 597 run by Abortion Dream Team became the symbol of the revolution. The number appears on banners, walls, even churches. For Natalia, Karolina, Justyna and Kinga this is a turning point. They literally take over the responsibility of the state to provide access to safe abortion. They inform women how to perform self‑managed abortions at home or direct them to clinics abroad. Only this time they do it on a massive scale. For them abortion is a part of life, not a political debate. But before they realize they become the enemies of the state, their lives and safety are being put at risk. Justyna is charged with aiding abortion and is facing 3 years in prison. The lawsuit takes a huge toll on their lives. The pressure becomes unbearable. Will they persevere? Will their sisterhood and friendship prevail?

    Produced by: MY WAY STUDIO

    Agent of Happiness /BT, HU/

    directors: Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbo, editor: Peter Sass, producer: Noemi Veronika Szakonyi

    On the top of the Himalayas there is a small, isolated country, Bhutan where happiness agents travel door to door to measure the happiness index of the society. They collect this data for the Center for Gross National Happiness that was established by the king in the 90’s in order to create 5-year happiness plans. GNH is a development philosophy, an abstract science that became Bhutan’s top global brand. But in Bhutan, considered to be the last Buddhist Kingdom, everything is about Happiness.

    The film is a poetic road movie following a happiness agent, Amber who goes around the country to do the happiness survey. Through his journey, we encounter everyday people from different social classes, while we also get to know their personal stories and desires. Amber is 40, still living with his old mother and a relentless romantic, who dreams about finding love but as time passes, he becomes more desperate. His job is to measure how happy people are, but deep inside he is hopelessly sad. This gives the absurd dramatic tension to the film: a happiness agent who is in search of his own happiness.

    Produced by: Match Frame Productions Kft

    Just Hear Me Out /PL/

    director: Malgorzata Imielska, editor: Marcin Szymanski, producer: Adrianna Redzia

    19-year-old Gosia has spent her entire adolescence in a secure ward, receiving treatment for full-blown, drug-resistant paranoid schizophrenia. But now, for the first time she is leaving care and returning to her home in Bialystok, Poland. The only thing awaiting there is misery, and people from her past who always treated her as crazy. Gosia will fight to prove them wrong, whilst at the same time battling to keep the voices in her head from taking control of her. But even getting out of bed can be overwhelming, and there are days when the things she sees in her hallucinations utterly terrify her.

    Gosia’s hopes for escape depend on her getting into university in Warsaw, where she dreams of studying to be a teacher. She travels to the capital often, to get away from her town and to see the friends she met in psychiatric hospitals. Together, Gosia and her companions must try to find their way as young adults. But mental health crises are ever present, and one day Gosia walks into a room to find her best friend with her wrists cut open.

    Produced by: Kalejdoskop Film Studio

    Mina and the Radio Bandits /NO/

    director: Kari Anne Moe, editor: Karsten Meinich, producer: Gudmundur Gunnarsson

    At the beginning of the year 2000, Mina Hadjian entered the spotlight in Norway and became the most popular radio-host as the star of her show MINA. She got famous for confronting the establishment, asking uncomfortable questions. But, in the end, Mina became too controversial for the public broadcaster NRK, and in 2007 she was fired – which got huge coverage in the media. With the press still lurking in the bushes outside her house, Mina, not knowing what to do next in life – got a phone-call - offering her a new job. There's a radio-studio in Halden Prison - maybe she could do something with that?

    Today, Mina has built prison-radio in 6 different prisons in Norway. Mina believes incarcerated people also should have the freedom of speech. You sure have lost your freedom to move around where you want, but you still have the right to make your voice heard. The Bandit Radio-show is ironically picked up by Mina’s former employer NRK and is now aired every Sunday by the national broadcaster. It is not always clear where the boundaries go for Mina’s personal involvement in how to make life better for the Radio Bandits. This creates challenges and sleepless nights, especially when they get out of prison. Mina offers her journalists an opportunity to become storytellers where what they know, and their experiences, matter. For five hours a week, she gives them the feeling of freedom, and the feeling of one day becoming something more than just a criminal.

    Produced by: Fuglene

    Nice Ladies /NL, UA/

    director: Mariia Ponomarova, editor: Annelotte Medema, producer: Rogier Kramer

    Nice Ladies is a documentary about a group of aging cheerleaders from Kharkiv, Ukraine called Nice Ladies. Despite self-doubt, unrealistic beauty standards and being considered old or 'expired', they collectively claim the spotlight. For these women cheerleading is a sport, a community and a gateway to a fulfilling life. On February 24, 2022, the brutal Russian invasion disrupts their lives and their training for the European Cheerleading Championship. 62-year-old Sveta, one of the key figures of the team, flees to Amsterdam: she has to save her 2-year-old grandson. While she is trying to remain in contact with her beloved friends who stayed in Kharkiv, she becomes more and more absorbed in the role of grandmother. However, Sveta is not ready to give up and continues her training. Will the Nice Ladies be able to reunite, succeed to preserve unity and find a common language despite the scars of war?

    Produced by: Labyrint Film

    Racing Hearts /SE/

    director: Milla Bergh, editor: Dominika Daubenbüchel, producer: Martin Bergh

    1. Swedish race car driver Ewy Rosqvist and her co-driver Ursula Wirth are signed as Mercedes-Benz first female competitive drivers. As Ewy's career blooms, her husband wants to control her and demands of her to choose between him and Mercedes-Benz. Ewy chooses the latter and never looks back. That same year Ewy and Ursula travel to Argentina to participate in the infamous, dangerous race Gran Premio. 284 cars had entered the race, and never before had a woman participated. Ewy and Ursula face mistrust and protests simply for being women in a male dominated sport. 4th of November 1962. They win all six stages of the almost 5000 km long race, and rewrite motorsport history. Through Ewy's own words from 1962 and double 8 film in color shot by Ursula, the struggles behind their sudden rise to fame is unveiled.

    Produced by: Escathon AB

    The Eternal War/FI, PL/

    editor: Waltteri Vanhanen, producer: Pertti Veijalainen

    A documentary study of the minds of people changed and duped by propaganda.

    Produced by: Amnunna Films Ltd

    Zun: An Octopus Under My Skin /IR/

    director, editor: Leila Amini, producer: Afsaneh Salari

    One day my sister Nasreen texted me: “It’s time, I've decided to get my first tattoo. It’s the music note “sol.” I knew that this tattoo for her was the symbolic sign of going after her long-lost dream, music. We were born into a religious family and Nasreen had an arranged marriage with Mohammad. Through the years, she never dared to express her desire of becoming a singer. Becoming 40 with two kids Hamid (10) and Hana (1) with an unavailable husband, she decided to fill the void surrounding her by bringing radical change in her life. But as Nasreen tries to raise her voice, Mohammad shows his disapproval by completely ignoring her. Whether losing extra weight or doing beauty surgery on her belly, Nasreen’s efforts to attract her husband remain fruitless. She’s punished for the path she’s chosen. Their distance increases to the point that they finally divorce. After the separation, Nasreen pursues singing more seriously. But as singing solo for women is forbidden in Iran, the true difficulties of her journey have just begun.

    Produced by: Docmaniacs