Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well
but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it turns out. (Václav Havel)

Members of the European Film Academy applauded Lívia Gyarmathy, winner of the documentary ilm category, twice. And she also received Hungarian awards for her films (the Kossuth Prize and others). However if you think about Lívia Gyarmathy it is not the deservedly received awards but her films that come to mind first. She “is not simply” a film director who has received the Kossuth prize, but she is the director of Üzenet, the director of Kilencedik emelet and the director of Együttélés, and I could continue the list of her memorable documentary films, closing this list with A tér, her film completed two years ago. It is her films we remember, her creations that have remained live and have made huge impact for many years.

We remember her images, each as pure as a water drop. We may not remember the shots, the composition (although she worked with excellent cinematographers), but we definitely remember the simple and sincere language she uses. Form and clear speech never contradict in her films. She makes her films not only for our eyes but also for our minds while looking straight into our eyes. Her look is determined, her openness is disarming. She speaks a clear, understandable language. There is no mistake about our understanding: she says exactly what she intends to say. No beating around the bush.

She talks about us, human beings. She talks about our disappointments, sufferings, gullibility, exposure, and sometimes our tortured selves, our losses and pains — and of course, our struggles, desires, dancing moments and happiness. In a figurative way, it looks like she holds her protagonists’ hands and walks hand-in-hand with them. But this is not really true. Partly because her films also feature characters she would never shake hands with, and partly because she actually does a lot more than that: she elevates them into the position of the witness of history through the gesture of ilm making. Their testimonies will stay with us as long as the world exists, and as long as there is cinematography.

Solidarity and irony. These are the basic characteristic, almost hallmarks of her films. We can admit that these are a rather rare couple in documentary film making. Apart from Lívia Gyarmathy, there are only a few who can achieve this. The wrecks of history and the society, the subjugated and the outcasts can be often (maybe not often enough) seen in the documentary films of the world. But to show their struggles in an ironic way? It is almost unimaginable. The mild, emphatic irony present in Lívia Gyarmathy’s documentary films opens the way to credibility: her characters are not heroes, but they are flesh-and-blood people who are searching for happiness and an honest way of living through struggling not only with “crafty powers” but also with their own characters and fallibilities.

All this creates a peculiar harmony and gives hope in Lívia Gyarmathy’s films. No tricks, no delusions, no lies.


Vince Zalán