It was bound to happen that politics would make its way into an artistic endeavor. Bence Fliegauf, a young Hungarian film director, shot a film about one day in the life of a Roma family during the serial murders that took place during 2008 and 2009. I wrote so much about the murder cases that it would take too long to refer to all the articles available on this blog. If you’re interested, I suggest that you search for “Gypsy murder” and you will be able to follow the events of those days in some detail.
Fliegauf worked with an amateur Roma cast who apparently did a superb job. One of the film reviewers was so impressed that she wanted to know more about Katalin Toldi who plays the long-suffering mother, Mari. She was looking all over the Internet but not surprisingly didn’t find her name. The family consists, besides the middle-aged Mari, of her elderly father and two younger children who dream of emigrating to Canada one day.
The artistic community was impressed by the “shaky close-ups [that] create an atmosphere of fearful entrapment and [by the fact that] the characters rarely talk, remaining tight-lipped and steely-faced in the face of the omnipresent threat.”
Bence Fliegauf and cast. Katalin Toldi is to the right
Fliegauf’s film hasn’t been released yet, but the Hungarian Ministry of Justice and Administration was already busy handing out pamphlets stressing the fictional nature of the film and highlighting measures the Hungarian government has taken to support the Roma community. The usual clumsy PR work of the Orbán regime.
Seventeen films were entered at the Berlin International Film Festival and many critics considered “Only the Wind” worthy of the Golden Bear Award. As Magyar Nemzet wrote, “the leftist Berliner Zeitung outright demanded” the winning place for Fliegauf’s film. Note that for Magyar Nemzet it is important to mention the political orientation of the newspaper. Surely, they figure that if a film critic happens to like a film about such a topic he must be left-leaning.
In the end “Only the Wind” received the Silver Bear Award, which was announced in Magyar Nemzet thus: “The Roma film was rejected by the critics” (A romafilm nem kellett a kritikusoknak). And these so-called journalists aren’t ashamed of themselves.
Zoltán Balog, undersecretary in charge of Roma affairs, once again demonstrated that the officials of the Orbán government don’t know how to behave on the international stage. Perhaps the problem is a lack of self-confidence or some kind of deep inferiority complex, but they feel compelled to answer every criticism publicly. For instance, Zoltán Kovács, undersecretary in charge of communication, is upset that no Hungarian government official was invited to the panel discussion that took place at Princeton University last week because, in his opinion, as a result the discussion wasn’t balanced. But since when it is customary for government officials to discuss matters of academic interest? This time about constitutional law. Similarly, what on earth is the Hungarian government doing at a film festival? And why do Hungarian ambassadors feel compelled to answer every blessed critical article that appears in a newspaper somewhere in the world? The result is that they make laughing stocks of themselves and are becoming known as boorish clowns.
The reaction to the pamphlet, apparently written in not exactly faultless German, was total incomprehension. It turned out that neither Bence Fliegauf nor the organizers of the press conference had any inkling of Zoltán Balog’s “informational activity.” But the German 3SAT TV mentioned it on its program called Kulturzeit.
Balog’s brainstorm to hold a panel discussion on the film backfired. It was viewed as Hungarian government propaganda. Patrick Wildermann wrote a fairly long article in Tagesspiegel called “Whitewashing at the Danube” which described the Hungarian embassy affair in connection with the showing of “Just the Wind.” He called the panel discussion “a highly questionable event.” The title itself was unfortunate: “Roma in Europe and in Hungary. Is it a problem?” It turned out that the producer of the film couldn’t make it and neither the director nor any of the cast was present.
As for the pamphlet, Wildermann had a very low opinion of it. He called Balog “clueless” and the pamphlet full of relativistic references. Time and again comparisons were made to other European countries and racist violence, for example, in Germany. But such comparisons, Wildermann claims, are used only to divert attention from the situation in Hungary.
Meanwhile, in Hungary far-right circles are already calling Fliegauf a Gypsy ass licker. Fliegauf announced that he is proud of the label. After all, every normal Hungarian should be proud of the award “Only the Wind” received in Berlin.
So, as a blogger said in an article entitled “Only boorishness,” “boorish Balog managed to achieve only one thing: in the German media the topic is not Fliegauf, but Balog.” Poor Fliegauf who knew nothing about what was coming could only utter: “My God, but this is typical in today’s Hungary.”