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IDFA 2018

Review: Hungary 2018


- In her thrilling documentary, Eszter Hajdú tells the David and Goliath story of the 2018 Hungarian parliamentary elections

Review: Hungary 2018

In her political documentary, world-premiered at the 31st edition of the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) as part of the feature-length competition, Eszter Hajdú follows the countdown to the 2018 parliamentary elections in Hungary. It was the 8th time multi-party elections were held in the post-communist country. The progressive ideals held high since the first free elections, however, have been paralleled by far-right conservatism, led by the populist Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party. In Hungary 2018 [+see also:
film profile
, Hajdú portrays the crossroads at which the country finds itself before the 2018 elections.

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The film develops with two storylines, one of which is built solely on footage of Orban’s campaign events, as his ministers travel the country to strengthen ties with voters. While the other storyline focuses on Ferenc Gyurcsany, head of the small centre-left Democratic Coalition. The scenes of Gyurcsany’s campaign events alternate with more personal footage of his family life. Showing his life beyond politics gives him a more human side, allowing the viewer to sympathise with him as he faces the giant that is Orbán. In this sense, the Orbán Campaign footage serves the mere purpose of establishing the enemy Gyurcsany is facing. It’s therefore not difficult to get an idea of Hajdú’s personal views through the film’s formal objectivity. It is meant to criticise the country’s growing international seclusion, as its people are being tricked into believing that they are at war with Brussels, migrants or both.

Throughout the film, Hajdú seems to substantiate the idea of a scapegoat mechanism being put into effect by the current populist government. Migrants are singled out as being the common enemy of the Hungarian people. Shots of huge Fidesz banners alongside public streets, openly pointing fingers at refugees as a threat to the nation, emphasise the pressure being enforced on the voters. In the film, Gyurcsany calls it ‘mass psychosis’, in which the people are led to believe they are at war, with only one man who can save them. And if this all sounds familiar, the multiple references in the film to the rise of the Nazi regime will quickly remind you why. We might already be aware of the outcome of the elections, but the film still provides a unique insight into what drives voters to re-elect their right-wing prime minister. The film therefore becomes a portrait, not only of the elections in Hungary, but of the rise of nationalism worldwide, with all its disruptive practices, such as the suppression of balanced, independent media. This is only reinforced as the credits appear on screen, which lists six crew members as anonymous due to fear of repercussions. With this film, the director takes on a strong and outspoken position on these developments, and thus succeeds in creating awareness among viewers.

The film was produced by Sandor Mester for Miradouro Media LDA.

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