An old man is taking a walk in a garden pondering among the grass of memories. The garden and the house are the dwelling of László Ravasz, a retired bishop of the Reformed Church.
I Am von Höfler - Variation on Werther pt. 1
Péter Forgács specializes in collecting amateur movies and re-editing them into unique cinematic works. This time, he presents the von Höfler family saga, which began 250 years ago. The family belonged to the aristocracy and owned a leather factory in the city of Pecs in southern Hungary. Tibor Höfler, the main protagonist, documented the history of the family throughout the 20th century, and it is his films and letters, as well as additional archival material, that give us a look at the story of his life and that of his family-his relations with women, his complex relationship with his son, born out of wedlock, his life during World War II when many of his family members were sent to ghettos and concentration camps, the communist era during which the family property was confiscated, and even a brief visit to Israel in 1967.
I Am von Höfler - variation on Werther pt. 2
How does the process of film-making—like weaving a carpet, a of a 250 years saga of the Hungarian von Höfler family—render the chosen subject topical, re-liveable? And what is the topical signifier, is it merely a fleeting (a momentary) décollage — which is neither a piece of news, nor official history? And what does the glance at (the films, stories) from the past of my protagonist, the young Tibor Höfler projected into his future (our present), offers to find, by such puritan means, about the vortex called time? The twists of a long life, the elegy of the last member of the great Pécs leather manufacturers. Recently researchers claim that Goethe modelled his famous Werther figure after an ancestor of Tibor Höfler: our film journey presents itself in time and space with this double twist. Not only Goethe's hero Werther is different from the real 18th-century Jakob von Höfler, but thus the threads of the Höfler saga intertwine in a double spiral of fate within the 20th century Central Europe's turmoil. The real and invisible images of the melancholic hero, Werther — a literary fate — cross cut with the real life protagonist von Höfler's life, his love, his family, his fate.
Miss Universe 1929 - Lisl Goldarbeiter. A Queen In Wien
A film about the life of Lisl Goldarbeiter - the first and only Austrian Miss Universe - and her cousin Marci, who kept his camera trained on her throughout his life. A film about big-time fame and eternal love, set against the background of 1930s Vienna. Lisl Goldarbeiter's cousin, amateur filmmaker Marci Tenczer came from Szeged. He studied in Vienna, where he saved even his money for the tram to buy a camera and film and to pursue from time to time his passion for making films. It is through him that this bittersweet twentieth-century Austro-Hungarian life and family story has come down to us. Lisl, who grew up in Vienna in modest circumstances, first won the title of Miss Austria in 1929 at the Austrian beauty contest, finishing ahead of 600 other contestants. She finished second at the Miss Europe beauty contest in Paris, where the first Hungarian beauty queen, Böske Simon won. That year the beauty queens of the world set sail to the United States to compete against the American beauties in Texas. This is where Lisl was voted the first Miss Universe by a unanimous decision of the jury! Lisl, now suddenly world famous, received various invitations and an offer from Hollywood, and her company was sought after by many celebrities. She traveled extensively and, having rejected numerous suitors, finally married Fritz Spielmann, heir to a silk necktie fortune in Vienna. Marci Tenczer faithfully recorded it all on film. These golden years in Vienna came to an end when Hitler's Germany annexed Austria. They lost nearly everything in the war, and the adventure of suffering and life continued…
The Diary of Mr. N.
If, by luck, eternal love and world war do not cross each other's path, an idyllic life can be the reward. The film is the story of our heroes Mr. N and Ilona: drama and love embedded in history. Through the lens of 9.5 mm camera of Mr. N, the meticulous military engineer of Catholic faith, we follow the events as they were taking place from 1938 his private life –factory – public life triangle. All happens under the shadow of the historic drama of Europe. Mr. N’s evocative shots of the re-annexation of former Upper-Hungary – after the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia - following the revision of the Trianon Peace Treaty 1938. Mr. N’s boss, the convivial army contractor bears an awful resemblance to Rákosi, the communist dictator of later times... Mr. N has a special documentary message to us, comprising thirty years in the life of Hungary, visions of terror and dictatorships, peaceful home life and the 1956 revolution. A Hungarian family: they are looking at each other, at outsiders, and as we are looking at them, the hidden similarity of things dawns upon us.
Seven video essays.
Private Hungary's roll call of family members is reminiscent of the grand and ghostly survivors assembled at the party of the Prince de Guermantes as described by Proust in the final volume of À la recherche du temps perdu, dining together, sharing good times, romance, intrigues, and jealousy. Because suppressed memory eludes direct address, this elegiac, silent mode with voiceover is Forgács' solution to the tragic fate of those who lie at the silent heart of books and films produced in this post-communist moment. "I wanted neither to be sentimental, nor to construct worlds only of those under repression and segregation. I don't know how I would behave in such circumstances...the account is there, you have to face it-it's burning, still, in me-not ash, but fire. I wanted you, the audience, to be hurt, too. The lamentation is somewhere, nowhere, everywhere-it's more universal. I love it when an audience is silent after this film- then I know it's worked."
Through the works of D-Film and Photographed by László Dudás may we follow the life of filmmaker László Dudás, from the late ’20s for almost a 50-year long period. The film diary is a special genre, since it makes the personal time visible, and so bridges the ages of youth and elderly as a novel. László Dudás could not become a professional film director, but he was so passionate towards the industry, that as an architect, he became a set-designer of the Film Factory. He shot his first short movie in 1928 titled Toldi. This was followed by such special films like the expressionist Jazz, and Tempo. Later he created several movies, such as the adventurous Silver Triangle, and the burlesque titled Do Not Give The Bank. Until now, the films of the Hungarian independent film history’s exceptional creator have been hidden – with them the Budapest of the times, and the 1938 reannexion of Felvidék, which appear in the movies. László Dudás had been the set-designer of the Film Factory until 1948, when the communists fired him. The D-Film is the first chapter of the two-part life history film.
Photographed by László Dudás
Through the works of D-Film and Photographed by László Dudás may we follow the life of filmmaker László Dudás, from the late ’20s for almost a 50-year long period. The film diary is a special genre, since it makes the personal time visible, and so bridges the ages of youth and elderly as a novel. László Dudás could not become a professional film director, but he was so passionate towards the industry, that as an architect, he became a set-designer of the Film Factory. The second part of the life history film of László Dudás, who shot films from 1928. From the many intriguing Dudás silent films emerges the Deadly Spring. This is followed by the vision of Italy in the 30s, and later we may see the secret recordings of the 1956 revolution in the home movie of Dudás. The Dudás films are joined together by Tibor Szemző’s music composition.
Arizona Diary - with poet György Petri
Poet, in the landscape, with bystanders. „Every note is casual. Because what decides importance? This is the disadvantage of the diary” The story of Arizona Diary seemingly is told by Péter Forgács: we see his pictures and hear his voice sometimes. In the diary the storyteller and the main character of the story is the same person. This role triples and splits in the Arizona Diary. The film is the document of György Petri’s, György Galántai’s, and Péter Forgács’ collective work journey. On the one hand, Forgács is telling the story of the three, on the other Galántai is gradually falling out, and Petri drifts to the center, and so Forgács’ diary is mostly on György Petri. The voice – the poem – is Petri’s, the hand – the camera – is Forgács’.
“How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes!” (L. Wittgeinstein) Seven short video essays that refer to Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus with each essay relating to one of Wittgenstein's philosophical propositions. Home movies from early 20th century Europe are accompanied by voiceovers and written texts from Tractatus, and a somber, lyrical score. Scenes of bourgeois life are haunted by foreboding of the future. Drawing up the disjunction between language and image, Hungarian filmmaker Péter Forgács created a symbolic approach of Wittgenstein's theories of logic, language, reality and representation.
A portrait of the generation of 'our parents' in the form of an unconventional documentary in which Dutch filmmaker Albert Wulffers and Hungarian filmmaker Péter Forgács look for the Dutch definition of family happiness in the Rotterdam post-war suburb Ommoord, utilizing 8mm films from the sixties made by amateur filmmakers living in Ommoord supplemented by quotations from interviews with these amateur filmmakers.
The Notes of a Lady
We travel 'a la recherche du temps perdue' with Baroness Jeszenszky, and her forgotten Hungarian aristocrat film diary, from her Buda villa to their Castle in Tolna County . The reanimated images of the past enchant us, the estate, the park, the harvest, the servants, the travels, the dogs the neighbors visits, the peasants, the hunting, the marriage, or all the pomp. As red ivy shines the disappeared universe of the aristocracy from the scratchy films. The world of the aristocracy sank like an Atlantis when the Big World War burned the land and later the Communist nationalized what's left …
Meanwhile Somewhere ... 1940-1943
Recontextualizing the W.W.II. time home movies, is juxtaposing the extremely different lives of Europeans. The patchwork images of the "Übermensch", the "Normal" and the "Untermensch" families in Meanwhile Somewhere offers visible evidence of the private aspects of the war. Hitler's plan was simple with most of the population of occupied East and Southern Europe, destroy or enslave them. In 1942 after the Wannsee Conference the European Jews deadly destiny was decided as the Final Solution. In Meanwhile Somewhere the intimate, the brutal, the happy, the rare or clandestine amateur shots of different European amateurs home movies and clandestine shots counter point a Nazi ritual’s film, the miscegenation’s racist punishment of the two young lovers, the eighteen year old German boy, Georg-Gerhard and the seventeen year old Polish girl, Marie in occupied Poland, Scinawa Nyska village, 1940. This public punishment film document is the rondo pulse through out the piece. Mosaics of suggestive different families images stories counter point the sadist shaving: a National Socialist performance lesson to the children of the German-Polish village. Meanwhile Somewhere’s elegy accompanied by Tibor Szemzõ's visionary music.
The Land of Nothing
An amateur film journal sometimes contradicts the 'official', the so called 'public history' from a private history view. Sometimes offers a radically different, emblematic, or even banal aspect. But rarely may we see the unseen, a private view of the bloody WW2, diary footage of László Rátz that was never aimed for the public eye, made only for family memory. Rátz, ensign of the Second Hungarian Army, 18th Szekszárd Infantry, was shooting 9,5 mm family films from 1938. His private film eye just the observant's gaze around without ideological filter. This war film story begins with their entrainment in June 1942, and follows, registers the exhausting long march of the Second Hungarian Army through half the Ukraine. On the road side Ukraine people stare in to the camera. Reaching the Don River, the Second Hungarian Army was immediately thrown into the bloody and devastating clash with the Soviets at the Voronhez front. Rátz filmed until the eve of the catastrophe of the Hungarian Army at the river Don. He safely brought the films home on his Christmas leave 1942, so this unique chronicle survived...
Documentation video on Gyula Pauer the remarkable Hungarian sculptor – performer – concept artist, who– apart from arts and his various theatre and film stage design - coined the unique avant-garde concept of PSEUDO genre.
Free fall reflects to the times before the Shoah, the darkest chapter of the 20th century Hungary, based on the home movies of the talented musician, photographer and businessman, György Pető who made 8mm films from 1938. We follow their story, to discover what's behind the Pető’s happiness, how they suppress the fearful signs of threatening evidences of forthcoming massacres. Free Fall envisions the illusions of a Jewish Hungarian family eroded step by step, the happy, banal moments framed by the Hungarian Jewish laws. How do we understand segregation, the racist laws if ‘angels’ voice recites them? We follow their determination, the unpredictable events, and their illusions, and hopes until the very last moments. The Free Fall video opera recitative music composed and conducted by Tibor Szemző.
Second episode of the Pető family saga 1946-1971. Mr. György Pető and his wife Éva survived the war and continued filming the family events, but in a very different way. Life was not the same…. How could families - like the Petős - suppress after the war what happened with them through the Shoah? How the did the Hungarian communist regime punish the middle classes - among them Jewish bourgeois - and tabooed the Nazi-Hungarian atrocities? What happened with the Petős after the war? Class Lot tells an ironic and tragic story through the eye of the post war generation...
After 1956 the Hungarian Communist dictatorship under Party Secretary János Kádár was a "softer" version of the Soviet rule. But its double speak, repression and shameless ideological or political perversion contradicts the everyday life behind the doors of private homes. Kádár's Kiss ironically explores the Kafkaesque Hungarian life and politics juxtaposing the public and the private Hungarian histories.
The Maelstrom - A Family Chronicle
The Maelstrom makes extraordinary artful use of considerable cache of home movies shot in the Netherlands before and during World War II and dealing with the extended Peereboom family. Information is conveyed through subtitles and instead of voice-over, the soundtrack consists of period sound, usually from radio broadcasts, and brooding, disturbing jazz score by Tibor Szemzõ. What wee see is a Jewish family first living unknowingly in the shadow of the Holocaust and then trying to cope with it still unaware of what it will finally mean. A shot of the film's photographer Max Peereboom, and his family we've come to know, cheerfully sewing and doing general preparation for a trip to a "work camp" when their destination was in reality the nightmare of Auschwitz adds a devastating dimension to our understanding of the Final Solution that nothing else, no Hollywood movie, no documentary, has been able to provide.
The Danube Exodus
In the travelogue The Danube Exodus,Forgács documents the Jewish exodus from Slovakia just before the beginning of World War II. In two boats, a group of nine hundred Slovak, Austrian Jews tried to reach the Black Sea via the river Danube, in order to get to Palestine from there. Forgács based his film on the amateur films of Captain Nándor Andrásovits, the captain of one of the boats. He filmed his passengers while they prayed, slept and even got married. At the end of this journey, it is clear that the boat will not return empty: a reverse exodus takes place, this time of repatriating Bessarabian Germans, fleeing to the Third Reich because of the Soviet invasion of Bessarabia.
Angelos Papanastassiou, the man behind the camera, a story of a Greek patrician of WW2 times Athens. In the very first days of the Nazi occupation Angelos decided to record and document the Greece motherland's sufferings. Using a clandestine 16-mm film camera risking daily his own, and his families life, filmed, documented the Nazi atrocities in Athens all through the German-Italian occupation. Meanwhile his daughter, Loukia was born and we follow her first steps as the family life images juxtaposed over the tragic chapter of modern Greek history. Angelos Papanastassiou secretly developed, edited and saved the films, which later become one of the principal evidence of the Nazi atrocities at the Nuremberg Trials 1947. The Angelos’ Film composed from a unique film journal of wartime Athens and offers a new insight to Greece’s past, with the music of Tibor Szemzõ.
A Bibó Reader
"The greatest threat to the rule of law is not the people outside it, but those uncertain and distorted situations in which it becomes bad, contradictory, and hypocritical." István Bibó In his work Péter Forgács presents a poetic overview of the Hungarian terrain in the twentieth century, with the use of magically composed, scratched found footage. As before, he collaborates with composer Tibor Szemzõ, whose mesmerizing music glides us through Hungarian and Middle European history and landscape. A Bibó Reader brings us closer to the eternal and crystal-clear conclusions of the greatest Hungarian political thinker of the 20th century. István Bibó, philosopher, and minister during the 1956 Hungarian revolution, was sentenced to life imprisonment, but later released under an amnesty. He never gave up his faith in freedom. The sensitive rendering of Bibó's social and historical analysis, the meditative texts pace this unique film vision from one chapter to the next. The fascinating images and sounds offer the viewer the unexpectedly special and profound experience.
The Bishop's Garden
An old man walks in his garden. The house and the garden are home to retired Calvinist church bishop László Ravasz. This is where the great orator has lived for many years, ever since 1950 when Communist dictator Rákosi sent him into inner exile, to break the independence and backbone of the church. Earlier Ravasz always spent the summers with his family here, since acquiring the house in 1929. Between 1921 and 1948, he was one of Hungary's most influential and powerful clergymen. His archconservative personality, controversial ambivalence toward Jews left its mark on history of the Hungarian Holocaust. As the first of Bishop the Calvinist church was a member of the Upper House of Parliament, in from 1927, and later of the Royal Gubernatorial Council of Miklós Horthy. In his garden he only walks amongst the strands of his memories.
Day in day out, for fourteen years Zazie and I analysed each other. In a word, it was not a casual affair; our relationship was intimate but placid. One might say we served time and each other meaningfully, not indifferently. She would often come to me to discuss relationship problems, psychosomatic anxieties, fits of panic, passionate and frustrating friendships, parallel existences, the dreams of lovers, archetypical associations related to her ancestors. At other times, in an excellent mood, she'd be talkative, tenderly observe my wander over her eternal good mood, that friendly and tail-wagging attitude that was basic to her nature. Although Zazie and I carried on for months, she only agreed to screen this excerpt.
El Perro Negro - Stories from the Spanish Civil War
El perro negro takes a clichés braking view of the Spanish Civil War trough a mesmerizing found footage collage. The saga begins in 1929 with the talented amateur filmmaker, Joan Salvans, son of a wealthy Catalan industrialist, of Terrassa. The Salvans were the object of admiration as one of the most successful wool manufacturer of Catalonia, but also of hatred by the emerging anarchists and socialist trade unionists. On 24 July 1936, six days after the Civil War broke out; a militant anarchist group led by 'Pedro el Cruel' kills Joan Salvans, filmmaker, and his father Francesc Salvans. A cyclist, not far from their house, finds their bodies 'La Barata'. Just about the same time when Joan's life unfortunately ends, a new saga of the other young clandestine filmmaker, Ernesto Noriega picks up the story line to guide us through his adventures. He is arrested and almost executed, but luckily survives and secretly film the prison and on way to Madrid. The twentieth century saw an unprecedented vitality of the Spanish spirit, but also an unpredictably sharp conflict between old and new, developed North and feudal South. What drove the anarchist 'Pedro el Cruel' to murder Salvans? And why did the Spanish army revolt against the Republic 1936? While searching for answers we travel through Spain's chaotic decade with the images and stories of several amateur filmmakers and their memories focusing on all sides of the front like republicans, anarchists, Communist, and the foreigner Brits, Germans, Italians, Americans, who fought on both side. El perro negro takes a clichés braking view of the Spanish Civil War trough a mesmerizing found footage collage. The saga begins in 1929 with the talented amateur filmmaker, Joan Salvans, son of a wealthy Catalan industrialist, of Terrassa. The Salvans were the object of admiration as one of the most successful wool manufacturer of Catalonia, but also of hatred by the emerging anarchists and socialist trade unionists. On 24 July 1936, six days after the Civil War broke out; a militant anarchist group led by 'Pedro el Cruel' kills Joan Salvans, filmmaker, and his father Francesc Salvans. A cyclist, not far from their house, finds their bodies 'La Barata'. Just about the same time when Joan's life unfortunately ends, a new saga of the other young clandestine filmmaker, Ernesto Noriega picks up the story line to guide us through his adventures. He is arrested and almost executed, but luckily survives and secretly film the prison and on way to Madrid. The twentieth century saw an unprecedented vitality of the Spanish spirit, but also an unpredictably sharp conflict between old and new, developed North and feudal South. What drove the anarchist 'Pedro el Cruel' to murder Salvans? And why did the Spanish army revolt against the Republic 1936? While searching for answers we travel through Spain's chaotic decade with the images and stories of several amateur filmmakers and their memories focusing on all sides of the front like republicans, anarchists, Communist, and the foreigner Brits, Germans, Italians, Americans, who fought on both side. El perro negro telling personal dramas, faults, faiths, illusions and desperation, the unseen side of an insane war. The workers self-government experiments, the multitude sufferings of civilians, the schism of the divided country, the revolutionary illusions, murders and the systematic massacres orgies of Franco's brutality changed once and for ever the universe of Unamuno, Lorca, Bunuel, Hernandez, Durruti, the royalists, and the Falangists. The rise, and fall of ideas, the final personal losses come near to our eyes. The unseen private films reveal the cruel and beautiful sides of the Spanish times - as a prelude to the World War II.
Hunky Blues – The American Dream
The internationally acclaimed director and recipient of the Erasmus Award in 2007, Péter Forgács created a documentary exploring the fate of hundred thousands of Hungarian men and women who arrived to the United States between 1890 and 1921. To tell their sagas Forgács weaved this grand epic from the early American cinema, found footage, photographs and interviews. The film reveals the difficult moments of arrival, integration and assimilation, which eventually fed the happiness of the later generations and their fulfillment of the American dream.
German Unity @ Balaton
A reconstruction composed from amateur films, interviews, photographs, music, and documents from German Stasi and Hungarian Internal Ministry files, incorporating fictional elements.
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