Hungarian Films at the 19th Verzió Film Festival

The experiences of immigrants in Hungary, a priest in dilemma, female body builders, a Jewish community, the renaissance of a Hungarian sheepherding dog, a hair salon in Ózd, and many other interesting topics and sites are explored in the Hungarian films of the 19th Verzió Film Festival. Nóra L. Ritók will open the festival on 8 November, at the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts. The opening film tells the story of two Ukrainian teenagers who escaped from Kharkiv, and now hold drawing classes for Ukrainian refugee children after school.  

For the past 19 years, Hungarian documentaries have held a prominent place in the festival program. The organizers have found it important to show the latest Hungarian documentaries and provide screening opportunities for debutant directors. This year, ten Hungarian films on very exciting topics will participate in the competition, including two among the student/debut films, and another two in the AniDoc selection organized with Primanima. The first film in Tamás Almási’s Ózd series will also be shown. 

The festival kicks off at the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts on 8 November, opened this year by Nóra L. Ritók (educator, founder of the Igazgyöngy Foundation). The opening film is a 28-minute piece shot in Budapest by award-winning Belarussian director and Docnomads student Ruslan Fedotow. Away (dir. Ruslan Fedotow, 2022) is also listed in the program of this year’s International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam, but will debut at Verzió. The film introduces us to Andrii and Alisa, two Ukrainian teenagers who escaped from Kharkiv to Hungary. After school, they hold drawing classes for Ukrainian refugee children and wait for news about their family in Ukraine.

A professional jury of film connoisseurs—Teréz Vincze, Lóránt Stőhr, and Janka Pozsonyi— selected the films for the Hungarian competition. The following works have been selected, and for most, this will be their first screening in Hungary: 

Ali, the Hungarian Yazidi, a documentary by Réka Dubinyák, is about Ali, who, fearing his life was in danger in Iraq due to his ethnic and religious background, escaped and found a home in Hungary. Yet, he doesn’t feel he can be a full member of society without becoming a Hungarian citizen, so he starts to prepared for the citizenship exam. Will this be the key to his happiness? 

Anna Nemes’ Beauty of the Beast presents four different approaches to body building through the portraits of four middle-aged women. The film focuses on their lives behind the scenes, when they are alone or with their loved ones. 

Robi is a talented, highly-qualified and dedicated Roman Catholic priest for a rural parish in Hungary. He is an attentive spiritual leader and community builder, loved and respected by the faithful. Robi, however, also has a life partner and three children. As his family increasingly needs him, he faces a difficult decision: give up his vocation and risk the community falling apart, or continue to raise his children in secret. What’s the right course of action? This is tackled in Holy Dilemma

Howling Like We Do is the latest documentary by Asia Dér. It takes on the legacy of Lajos Kassák, a self-educated, working-class poet who created avant-garde in Hungary, walked across Europe in torn slippers, published an antimilitarist journal during wartime, fought Italian futurists, and believed in the revolutionary power of art to change the world. How can we handle this legacy more than 50 years after Kassák’s death? 

The Missing Tale leads us to the town of Cochin, India, which has been home to an active Jewish community for 2000 years. At the start of making this film, only seven Jews remained in Cochin, including 95-year-old Sarah Cohen, director Klára Trencsényi’s adopted grandmother. This film documents an intimate journey between Europe and India, during which we learn about the experiences of discrimination and the search for identity, as well as the magical stories of the Jews of Cochin.  

Máté Fuchs’s informative documentary Unprocessed, explores societal memories of the racist murders of Roma people that took place in 2008–2009, and how deeply these are embedded in Hungarian society. Rehearsals and a performance by the theater troupe Romano Teatro launch the film, and along with the play’s creators, sociologists, writers, TV journalists, and artists try to answer the question of how Hungarian society can process such a tragedy, and why it is necessary to create art about it so long after the event.  

It Has Passed, and It's Fine, a film by Zsuzsa Debre, shows the nostalgic relationship women have with the past and their employment at the Ózd Metallurgical Works through thoughtful formal techniques, archival footage, and an intimate interview setting: the hairdresser’s chair. 

Erika Kapronczai’s KIM is about Kim Corbisier, a mysterious Budapest figure. Ten years ago, the director began documenting Kim’s struggle with methadone addiction, and the process of giving it up, which remained unfinished. A few months after meeting the director, Kim took her own life. She left behind a short, but extremely powerful oeuvre, along with a camera for Kapronczai that contained mesmerizing footage. 

Ábel Visky’s short documentary, Prayer for the Weary, previously screened in Hungary, has also entered the Hungarian competition. It offers a glimpse into an ordinary day for Ádám Stark, a performer living on the autism spectrum, and his parents. It focuses on a special method for memorizing poetry in which Judit, Ádám’s mother and a drawing teacher, turns the poem’s images into pictures to help her son interpret and memorize the piece. The film is part of a mission to (re)discover the possibilities hidden in lyric poetry as a VerShaker production. 

Whose Dog Am I? is a playful and parabolic video essay from director and protagonist, Róbert Lakatos. A Romanian citizen and person of Hungarian origin, Róbert believes that one’s national identity is reflected in the kind of dog one has, and therefore keeps a Kuvasz, an ancient Hungarian breed. Róbert realizes that Hungarian breeds are in danger and tries to take part in bringing about a “Kuvasz Renaissance.” The film is a satirical allegory thematizing unresolved political and social issues. 

Among the student/debut films we find Jozsef in Autumn, a coproduction of several creators, including Sára Judit Elek. Its protagonist, József, is president of the Kazincbarcika Urban Beautification Association that aims to give people a greater appreciation for their surroundings.  Also in the student/debut films is Fanni Hatházi’s Almost Fine, in which Balázs, the former financial manager of a renowned Hungarian NGO, seeks the missing link in his life by becoming a bicycle courier. 

Hungarian productions also appear in the animation section. Zsuzsanna Ács’s Betti is a five-minute film about internal freedom; we enter the thoughts of a female taxi driver, who tells us about her view of life and two well-known taxi drivers’ demonstrations. Borbála Tompa’s Random Walks is an experimental documentary based on unstructured interviews with five immigrants living in Budapest, focusing not only on their lives and circumstances, but also on the effort to get to know them. 

In 1987, Kossuth prize-winning director Tamás Almási began a ten-year project that followed the fate of metallurgy and the city of Ózd. The resulting series is a unique, monumental enterprise in Hungarian documentary film. On 13 November, Verzió will screen the first part of the Ózd series, In a Vise, at Művész Cinema. The film will be shown together with Zsuzsa Debre’s short film, It Has Passed, and It's Fine, filmed at a hair salon in Ózd, 35 years after Almási launched his series. Lóránt Stőhr will host a discussion with the directors after the screenings. 

In the Vektor VR section, a pre-launch special preview gives us insight into the Hungarian production, Missing 10 Hours. The film was directed by Fanni Fazakas, and highlights the operating mechanisms of the bystander effect via interactive VR. 

Many of our world’s actual and burning issues are explored in the 70 creative documentaries at this year’s Verzió, and for most, this will be their first screening in Hungary. The festival will take place in cinemas in Budapest and five rural towns 8–16 November. The festival’s online film collection, Verziótéka, will be open to all who would like to join via the Internet on 14–20 November.  

A more detailed program and information about tickets will be available shortly!