Daniele Martinis

Hungary21, the reasons for a choice

Saturday January 15th, 2022

Una scena del documentario “Ungheria21”

Filmmaker Daniele Martinis talks about the reasons that led him to follow L'Atlante's investigation in Hungary After two years of pandemic, leaving for a reportage that would take me to travel far from Italy for more than a month, besides representing a new adventure from a professional point of view, gave me the opportunity to open a window on the world that had been closed for too long. It had been more than ten years since I had worked on a documentary, the last time being during the earthquake in L'Aquila when, driven by much more personal reasons, almost feeling the need to bear witness to what had happened to a land very dear to me and which was home to people very close to me, I threw myself headlong into a job I had never tackled before. More than ten years later, my career path took me far away from documentary filmmaking. Advertising, video clips, and television led me to work a lot on a search for aesthetics to tell other stories, to communicate in other ways. I had to deal with the need to continue my research path, often making compromises with the needs of the clients, agencies or artists I worked with. When L'Atlante started talking about Hungary21, about telling what was (and still is) happening in that country, about doing it through a series of different languages, from audio-documentary to photography to the written word, I didn't hesitate for a second to accept. I was quite familiar with the Hungarian political situation, I remembered the images of migrants crammed together at the border in front of a barbed wire wall, I had read about the anti-LGBQT law that Orbán brought to parliament but immersing myself in that reality in order to tell its story was, of course, another story. Telling through images the contradictions of a foreign country I had only been to as a traveller led me to ask myself many questions. How would I relate to a reality I had only read about in the newspapers? How would I feel meeting the migrants hiding in the abandoned villages along the triple border? How would I have stood in front of the statements of politicians from a party like Jobbik? And, above all, how would I have survived with five of us for more than a month in an Opel Astra? The more the days and the kilometres went by, the more fluid and natural it all became, the more the tiredness, the plates of goulash and the litres of palinka increased, and the more the story came together. We listened to the voices of hundreds of people, we asked questions, we tried to understand, we confronted each other during the long journeys through the sunflower fields, and what came out is a story in which you are guided only by the voices of the protagonists. There is no voiceover to explain or illustrate a point of view, there are many voices that, like the combination of many brushstrokes, paint a real picture of what Hungary in 2021 looked like to our eyes. In advertising, a desire for a product is often built up through an image; in today's Hungary, on the other hand, politics builds up an imaginary based on the constant search for an enemy: the Roma, migrants, the LGBQT community and NGOs. During this trip I was reading “Europa 33” by Geroge Simenon who had crossed half of Europe by train and had also passed through Hungary. We were now driving through those camps and countries he described, meeting the descendants of the men and women he had met, and it was impossible not to make comparisons with what the French writer had told us. The borders that were closed then take the form of a barbed wire wall from which loudspeakers tell migrants to turn back, the identical Hungarian houses are now Soviet-style reinforced concrete buildings, and the fascism that gained strength then can now be seen in the propaganda posters against Europe and minorities plastered all over the country. And the people? Many people have decided to live in a sort of "programmed indifference" where turning away helps them to live better, some are victims of government propaganda and live in fear of an invasion by an enemy that does not exist, others still fight for civil rights and a different future, but after 12 years of Orbán's government their positions are strongly questioned. All this is what our work is about, the images and voices are those of these people, the voices of the migrants at the border and the people at the market, the Hungarian skies and the national holiday, the contradictions of a small country in the middle of Europe that is nevertheless the paradigm of a new souverainism and reactionary direction that is once again appearing at the dawn of the ’20 of the new millennium.