Screening in this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Competition, the animation A Documentary Film [Dokument] (Dir. Marcin Podolec, Poland, 2015) is a deceptively simple animated portrait of a man whose children have flown the nest.

Antoni recounts his daily routine – waking in the morning, going to the swimming pool and switching the lights on at night. He also talks about his children, who now live in different cities to him. His innocuous recounting of his day – and moments of his life - reveal a man who misses his children deeply and for whom life appears to be ordered yet lonely.

At first glance this is a slightly whimsical affair. Podolec’s animation style is cozy and friendly with some moments of subtle comedy. One moment has Antoni glimpsed going to the swimming pool from overhead – as he visits the Jacuzzi, his feet pop out of the water in a small snatch of humour. Another has him in exactly the same pose as Mena Suavri in American Beauty. These fleeting moments also accentuate the sadness. Antoni is often alone in the frame - when his children do appear, they are differently sized, accentuating their distance.

Similarly, there is no voice-over with Podolec utilising on screen text woven into the animation. It emphasises the lack of personal connection that Antoni is feeling and works wonderfully. The effect is (unavoidably) slightly blunted in translation – subtitles take your eyes from the text unfolding in the middle of the screen. 

But A Documentary Film is not a despairing piece of work. Despite the lonely moments, there are glimmers of hope: a walk in the mountain ranges, remembrances of meeting his wife. It’s these that make this an understated yet richly emotional affair that should find favour with many audiences.

The film – a product of the Polish National Film School in Lodz – has already won numerous awards in its native Poland and, especially after the screening in Clermont-Ferrand, should find a place on the festival circuit on both animation specific and general fests.

Laurence Boyce, CineEuropa