Alumni Event of 2023
The Alumni Event, which is a major staple of the thematic activities organized at Budapest in the transition between curricular semesters of enrolled classes, this year presented a selection of eight documentary projects in development or in production that displayed some of the current professional endeavours of graduated students from DocNomads program.
Once more, this event attracted a great number of DocNomads alumni converging to Budapest for an occasion of reunion, complemented by the preceding showcase of the films recently completed by the current students in their 1st and 3rd curricular semesters.
11 FEBRUARY, SATURDAY
PREMIER KULTCAFÉ, CONFERENCE HALL
Moderator: DOROTTYA ZURBÓ, MANUEL F. CONTRERAS, PÉTER KEREKES
First Session 11:30-13:00
FAN WU & VENICE ATUENZA (DN4, Taiwan, Philippines)
Project title: XiXi
Synopsis: I encountered XiXi, a Chinese improvisation artist in Berlin, and got fascinated by her unapologetic and uninhibited attitude in pursuing her own life. For a time, we were free from the ideologies we grew up in. Over years of correspondence across Eurasia, our friendship that was a window to freedom, evolved into a room where what was silenced found its voice, forcing us to face the vulnerability that comes with the autonomy we realize we have always possessed.
AGNES MENG (DN4, China)
Project title: Histories of Smugglers
Synopsis: The film takes place in Tourém, a frontier village at the border between Portugal and Spain. As one of the last villages on Portuguese territory, Tourém owns several paths to its Galician neighbour villages. Tour Tourém has a reputation as the “smugglers’ nest”, many villagers who are still inhabitants there nowadays were involved in the business in the past. The film presents selected interviews with people who live in Tourém and know each other for all their lives. They are from different classes and participated in smuggling in different roles. They remember the same events, but sometimes, their opinion contradicts. It is focused on a micro-universe, a small scope looking into a small village, but through it, the film aims to build a bigger picture of the memory of Portugal’s past.
KAROLIINA GRONDAHL (DN6, Finland)
Project title: My Choice
Synopsis: The feature-length documentary My Choice is a unique depiction of the childbirth culture in Finland seen from the perspective of two exceptional birth professionals – Anna-Riitta and Kirsi – who both work with both, hospital and home births, Anna-Riitta as a doula and Kirsi as a trained midwife. They call themselves birth activists who fight for a better birth experience and the rights of the birthing people. Despite their similar starting points, Anna-Riitta and Kirsi both fight the battle of their own. Doula Anna-Riitta defends the rights of gender and sexual minorities through the Doula Academy that she established. She finds it difficult to understand why the public has not understood that not all people giving birth are women by gender. Spirituality and rituals loving Kirsi, a midwife with a hippie soul, seems to be straddling two worlds. After hiding the home birth activism for years at her narrow-minded working place in a regular maternity ward, she is ready to reveal her true colors and becomes a respected expert of home delivery among her colleagues. The theme of freedom and the individual’s right to self determination – cornerstones of contemporary society – is mirrored in the culture of childbirth. The interweaving storylines underline the need for people to take the reins into their own hands, also at birth.
LESIA DIAK (DN9, Ukraine)
Project title: Dad’s Lullaby
Synopsis: In 2018 Serhiy returned after 3 years in war between Ukraine and Russia burned out and traumatized. He served as a commander and was responsible for other people’s lives. Now he wants peace in himself and his family. The veteran starts working night shifts and dedicates short hours of rest to his three sons and wife. Serhiy enjoys this phase of family reunion. However, the shadow of war manifests when the couple starts expecting a baby daughter. This event brings more hope and responsibilities for Serhiy. Nadiia, Serhiy’s wife, expects support from the husband. And Serhiy doesn’t have the emotional capacity for that. That’s how the family gets on a slippery slope of arguments. It’s also quite challenging for the veteran to find an understanding with children after 3 years of separation and come to terms with their behavior. Sasha and Artem are growing up as troubled kids. Serhiy escapes his parental duties into time alone with the cigarette in the dark. In these short moments of peace from family tension he shares with the director how war memories and losses are still hunting him. Veteran struggles a lot with maintaining the relationship with the wife and sons but right after the baby daughter is born Serhiy cracks and leaves the family. After a large-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia Serhiy was forced to return to war and now he is defending Ukraine on a frontline.
Second Session 14:30-16:00
SOHEL RAHMAN (DN1, Bangladesh)
Project title: Autopsy of a Genocide
Synopsis: The film is a revisit to the camp and looks for the little siblings who were selling ice creams five years ago to get released their father from prison in Myanmar. The film searches for them and explores what happened to the Rohingya people, the most persecuted communities in the world after five years of genocide. On one hand, it is a human story of the inhuman and insane living in an open-air prison called Kutupalong refugee camp. On the other hand, the film asks questions to the decisionmakers, leaders, and politicians about the present and future of this community and attempts to analyze the massacre and bloodshed as a genocide. Is this community going to be disappeared into a dark camp forever or they will be back in their homeland someday?
EDUARDO SARAIVA (DN8, Brazil)
Project title: Whale’s Dormitory
Synopsis: In the driest region of Brazil, in each village, there's a sleeping whale. If awakened, the whale would inundate the place with fury. In 1983, São Rafael was flooded in the name of progress. Whales' Dormitory recollects the memories of an entire population that remain, to this day, underwater.
ANNA ARTEMYEVA (DN8, Russia)
Project title: Girls Sometimes
Synopsis: Before the school reunion party, Anna finds out about the abuse her classmates experienced. What had seemed a carefree time turned out to be a nightmare. This is how her personal investigation into the witness trauma began, launching a young woman on a journey full of disgusting discoveries and pain. More than 20 years ago Anna Artemyeva graduated from the public secondary school for gifted children “League of School” in Moscow. It seemed a great privilege to be a źminded people – both children and teachers, the level of education was high, many students felt exceptional – many of them got into the best universities afterwards. Just years later it turned out that every second girl had been harassed by the headmaster and his deputy. What had seemed a carefree time full of happiness turned out to be a nightmare for many.
Girls Sometimes is an author-driven personal documentary about witness trauma. This trauma has been experienced more than 20 years ago, but it still haunts those who suffered and those who, like the director of the film, were oblivious witnesses.
HANNA HOVITIE & BAKAR CHERKEZISHVILI (DN3, DN7, Finland, Georgia)
Project title: How to Sit in a Circle
Synopsis: How to Sit in a Circle is a multidisciplinary audiovisual documentary project about young people located in Tbilisi, Georgia, who are affected by the war in Ukraine and Putin’s regime, and in search of communal healing and connection. The project is a Finnish-Georgian collaboration that promotes peace and multicultural dialogue.
The project consists of three parts:
- A feature-length documentary film (75-90 min)
- A web series featuring 12 x 5-15 min episodes
- A web-based interactive 360/VR experience
All three parts revolve around one concept of a circle, that brings together people from different nationalities and backgrounds to share their story and to listen to others’ stories. The circle will consist of 12 participants who sit together in a circle formation. Participants are Tbilisi-based multinational young adults (18-35) who are staying in the city for various reasons relating to current and past bordering conflicts. Be it Ukrainian refugees, anti-mobilization Russians or Georgians who had to flee from Abkhazia in 1992, everyone’s story deserves to be told – and heard by others.
16:30-18:00 - Screening and discussion with Ruslan Fedotov (DN10, Belarus) about his award-winning film Away (2022), a Q&A moderated by Péter Kerekes (member of the Academic Board).
The film had its World premiere at IDFA 2022 – International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam, receiving the IDFA Award for Best Short Documentary.
Synopsis: A heart-breaking portrait of 16-year-old Ukrainian refugees Andrey and Alisa, who help out at a school for refugee children in Budapest. Andrey asks the children to draw pictures of something from back home in Ukraine. What beautiful things can they recall? He offers the example of his own grandfather’s cherry orchard. The children use confrontational, adult vocabulary to describe their experiences of war. A young boy earnestly goes through a number of battle strategies, and a girl provides a vivid account of a rocket attack. After school, the young couple make colorful protest artwork out on the streets of the Hungarian capital, sparking discussions between pro-Russian and pro- Ukrainian passersby. The camera films the pair without commentary, capturing the everyday fun had by two teenagers in love, as well as the difficult phone calls to the home front. Reassuring stories of ripening cherries are welcome, but the sadness of the war, the imminent trauma and the growing awareness of their wrecked youth is unfortunately ever-present.