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IDFA - Private History & The Danube Exodus

“A free selection from a few old amateur films.” This is the subtitle of Private History. Recorded between 1920 and 1950, these films have been edited into more-or-less chronological order, telling the history of Hungary on the basis of various people’s lives.

Poster idfa 2019 2 0

In the time immediately after World War I, the film excerpts are still static and jerky. The scenes are preceded with introduction texts such as “A summer day in the country” or “Rendez-Vous”. Over time the image quality improves, and the actions become more fluid. We watch moving snapshots from the lives of regular Hungarians, or a silly sketch acted out in front of the camera.

Meanwhile, on the radio in the background, we hear news, a beer ad and a children”s song about a yo-yo. From 1933 on, we see the occasional Hitler salute, and later images of the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews in 1944.

In this chilling Hungarian film experiment from 1978, the personal is continually explored and contrasted with the history taking place. Sometimes this results in bitter irony—in contrast to those being deported, we know what happened next.

Danube Exodus

During this screening, Danube Exodus (Péter Forgács, 1998) will be preceded by the short film Private History.

Merging material from a diverse range of archives, the prominent Hungarian found-footage filmmaker Pèter Forgács brings to life a footnote from 20th-century history: an exodus in two opposite directions, driven by political forces.

In the summer of 1939, the president of the Jewish community in Bratislava hires two river cruise ships to bring a group of almost 900 Jews from Slovakia, Hungary and Austria down the Danube to the Black Sea. From there they will sail on to Palestine. One of the ships was the Erzsébet Királyné (Queen Elisabeth), under the command of Captain Nándor Andrásovits, also an avid amateur filmmaker. His cinematic impressions of life on board are combined with excerpts from letters and diary entries written by the ship”s passengers.

A year later, Captain Andrasovits and his ship are back in the Black Sea to transport hundreds of refugees again, this time up the river. The German community from Bessarabia (in the southwestern part of present-day Ukraine) is looking for safety after the country their forefathers settled in a century before gets invaded by the Soviet army.

On the 26th of November with Doc Talk.

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