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Filming in Hungary: Blog

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Complex Realities in Easy Lessons: Hungarian Documentary Awarded in Zagrab

zita kisgergely


That immigration is one of the biggest and most divisive issues facing the European Union is without question. With this in mind, various local film-makers have offered responses, and even asked more questions in recent projects. Foremost we are thinking of the very lauded feature film The Citizen, released recently in Hungary and around Europe. Less noted but equally probing is the documentary Easy Lessons, which was released last year, but is still making waves on the festival circuit, most recently winning an award at the ZagrebDox documentary film festival in Croatia.

The film, the first full length documentary by Hungarian film-maker Dorottya Zurbó, follows the days of teen-age Somalian immigrant/refugee Kafia Mahdi as she attends a Hungarian school and tries to learn the Hungarian language and study for her final exams. Funded with assistance from the Hungarian Film Fund’s Incubator Program, the documentary has received good review attention in recent months. Moreover the UNHCH, the United Nations agency for refugees, wrote up the film, interviewing its subject, who it now is now getting work as a fashion model, having been given so much exposure from the film.

As a refugee, Mahdi crossed the Balkans to arrive at the Serbian/Hungarian border, and was eventually taken into care in a center for children in the Hungarian town of Fot. Of the film, Mahdi said, “Working on the film was challenging. I had to share my full story, my feelings and my deepest thoughts, which I always find hard to express. But after a while, I got to know the crew and that made me comfortable to open up about a lot of things.” Quick to learn Hungarian, she describes Hungarians as “straightforward and nice.” Having fled the prospect of a forced marriage, the model now continues to study Hungarian and other languages, and hopes to get citizenship soon.

In awarding the film, the ZagrebDox jury said this: “Easy Lessons is a strong personal story of a young Somali refugee finding herself in Hungary. Excellent dramaturgy and editing underscore the significance of Kafia’s lonely journey. Through nuancedly layered personal story (sic.) about identity, acceptance and finding a new home, we glimpse universal questions and lessons about finding your place in the world, when you cannot return to the place you call home.”

It is of course not the film’s job to offer answers to the complex problems facing modern Europe, but rather to shed light on human experience, which it does capably. Easy Lessons can be seen in Budapest, at the Magyar Film Hét (Hungarian Film Week) festival, which runs April 22 - 27th of this month. Below find the trailer, which is in Hungarian with English subtitles.

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