The ongoing wars and economic recession proved a nurturing ground for the populist rhetoric across Europe. The self-fulfilling prophecy of Brexit, the effects of which are still not fully felt and understood, is undermining European solidarity and the revival of nationalism intensifies the search for an external and internal enemy. The accommodation of refugees escaping from war and terror still lacks a collectively designed strategy. The referendum in Hungary, which took place just a month before Verzio, showed that the citizens are not completely gullible to a hate campaign but at the same time have profound concerns with the new situation in which fear of the other can be activated all too easily. These phenomena are not limited just to Hungary or Europe. The forthcoming US elections put the democratic values to test across the Atlantic as well. How do documentary films respond to these challenges? Our program features over 60 documentary highlights from over 30 countries which demonstrate that the filmmakers are not only visual artists but active citizens striving for social change.
This year’s selection includes masterfully crafted films which are important issuecentered aesthetic and moral statements. How do people across the world react to the walls being built to separate the countries (Walls)? What privacy issues are at stake in the big data regulations passed by the European Parliament (Democracy)? What are the possibilities of political dissent in increasingly illiberal regimes (My Friend Boris Nemtsov, Checkered Revolution)? Who defines the image of the past and what can it teach us today (A German Life, My Own Private War , My Mother’s Letters to Stalin)? To what extent are traditions to be kept or challenged (Where to, Miss? The Land where the Mammoths Slumber)? While the films do not offer final answers to these questions, they provoke the audience to see, think, and talk about these vital matters.
Several thematic sections enrich the festival program this year . The issues of climate change and the indigenous lifestyles of the North are in the focus of this year’s special section “Arctic Rights and Wrongs.” These films look into how the Inuit, Sami, Nenets, and other Nordic cultures both transform and are transformed by the changing environment. Continuing the discussion that we started last year on the refugee crisis, Verzio explores the problems of migration and integration, offering eight films and three panel discussions in cooperation with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. Our take on migration is global and the films range from investigating the function of the asylum system in Sweden and Germany to the daily experiences of a Tajik guest worker in Moscow and the Ta’ang minority fleeing from Myanmar to China. Another thematic block this year focuses on Ukraine and comprises releases by filmmakers from various countries which focus on the everyday experiences of the ongoing war , and spotlights the plight and experiences of civilians, which for the most part stay off record.
The anniversary of the Hungarian revolution offers a fitting occasion to revisit the events of 1956. Our panel looks at 1956 through the prism of media representation and features a selection of contemporary newsreels produced in the socialist countries at the time. What are the subtle yet significant differences in the ways the same footage is reframed in various national contexts which are seemingly professing the same ideological principles? How is media shaping our perception of a historical event? These questions will be addressed by the panel discussion following the screening of this rare archival selection.
Along with established filmmakers, Verzio presents 11 powerful student films, selected from over 80 nominations for the Student Competition and features works from Hungary, Egypt, Myanmar , Germany, Poland, Russia, Israel, and other countries that demonstrate that the young generation is equipped with craft and ideas to creatively explore the social reality and the varieties of visual language. Another tradition that Verzio continues this year is DocLab production workshop, which invites filmmakers and all engaged citizens to make short films addressing issues of migration and integration. The films will be produced with the help of an international team of tutors and will be presented at a public screening.
The festival program is diverse and rich and seeks to inspire critical thinking and change. Every day we wake up in a different world. Making it a better place starts with under standing the multiplicity and origins of different versions of reality.
Oksana Sarkisova, Festival Director