Verzio 11 Opening Speech

Delivered by poet, writer Virág Erdős at the opening ceremony of Verzio 11 Festival in Toldi Cinema.

11 November 2014

Good evening, my name is Virág Erdős.

It is my great pleasure that this year I have been honored to deliver the opening remarks at Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.

We, who are here in Toldi Cinema tonight, came for one of these two reasons: either because we like to make documentaries or we like to watch them.

However, there is a possible connection between us we tend to ignore: We are not only creators or recipients of documentaries, but participants as well.

Someone living, working in Budapest in the mid-2010s, going to places here and there – say to festivals – and is not entirely insensitive to changes in our world, all its current anger and happiness, drives and fallbacks, sooner or later becomes the participant of the Great Hungarian Documentary – rolling even at this very moment.

And not only symbolically, but for real.

For there is in Hungary a legendary Béla Balázs award winner documentary filmmaker, director of Dunaszaurusz (1988), known as the film of the regime change, who has been persistently shooting since 2010 a long and unhappy, painful, disturbing, depressing and discouraging documentary that does not seem to end – a documentary about us and with us.

Ádám Csillag was present at each and every small scale or mass demonstration and flashmob in Budapest over the past four years.

He was there yesterday and will be, presumably, there the day after tomorrow.

So, anyone who as much as once went to a demonstration for the sake of for instance his or her own or other people’s human rights, has very likely become a participant in Ádám Csillag’s film.  

I am sure, quite a number of us here have.

What is more, I secretly hope that all of us.

The silent fans of the genre we once were, now are trained, determined and steady participants of a real time documentary.

It is a joyful yet dangerous part we play, we can be proud of it. As for myself, I am very proud.

As in the 1920-30s, sociography was an important and prestigious part of literature, in the current social situation and ideological ice age – in many ways very similar to that of the Horthy regime –, cold resistant and heavy-duty branches of art, such as the documentary theater, but first of all the documentary film, are assuming an ever greater significance and standing.

However "dangerous acts" they both seem to be.

While it is not an act and is dangerous to participate in Ádám Csillag’s documentary, it is good thing because he documents like an artist.

I was first sadly honored to participate personally in October 2011.

It was then that the group named The City is for All which fights for the rights and advocates for the interest of homeless people had its first great demonstration against the bill which would criminalize the homeless.

This demonstration took place on the square in front of the building of the Parliament where I read my poem There is a Country. The trees since cruelly cut were my backdrop.

"there is a country / where I live / a bottle hanging / on the branch of nothing" and so on and so forth.

Ádám Csillag was there and shooting.

Documentary filmmakers are friends with time: they are outstandingly patient people. They can patiently sit through 167 days of a trial. They can patiently record on camera that a notorious perpetrator shows 21 fine tickets one by one which he was given for worn bicycle tires, lack of lights on the bike and similar very grave violations of law.

What is more, they are capable of patiently and maniacally repeating: six dead, many wounded. Six dead, many wounded.

This particular short film is not interesting because it is steadily capturing an utterly boring poem by Virág Erdős (“there is a country / where I live / a bottle hanging / on the branch of nothing” and so on and so forth) but because, while I was reading, the camera recorded another scene taking place on the stairs of the Parliament building.

Another "theater". Because behind one theater there is always another.

It was mid-October and during the demonstration of the The City is for All, rehearsals for the state commemoration of October 23rd were going on.

Four young soldiers in civilian clothes but in white army gloves held a huge flag of Hungary with a hole in the middle: during the revolution the communist coat of art was cut out from flags. Three soldiers held their swords high up in salute.

"there is a country / where I live / say its name / serve it blind" and so on and so forth.

We were demonstrating, they were saluting. In a shared space at a shared time: October 17, 2011, Hungary, Budapest, Kossuth Square.

This documentary etude, currently hidden in a corner of the virtual space, especially important and memorable for me, with its modest brilliance does only what very good documentaries do.

It shows the struggle between forces and counter forces in their total simultaneity and fatal reliance on one another. Shut inescapably in their shared present time.

What I mean is the sad, yet hopeful simultaneity of the rite of army salute and the poem.

I could, however, mean the most memorable moment of tonight’s opening film: the frightful yet hopeful simultaneity of the brutal images of the demonstration in Minsk in 2010 and the imitation of the sound of truncheons on the stage.

For me, it is exactly this frightful yet hopeful simultaneity, the infinitive of the consolation of our shared present time that is the main secret and lesson of documentaries I like the best.

It can be opened.
And can be shut.
It can be hung.
And can be cut.
quote from János Pilinszky

A good documentary is impartial and just: it shows the whole picture and helps choose. In this sense, a good documentary is poetry, a good documentary is protest itself.

What can I say?

Make documentaries, write poems, make revolutions.