Burning Issues at the 19th Verzió Film Festival

As an individual, what can you do about climate change, an oppressive regime, or discrimination? What are journalists doing about censorship? What is happening in the rainforests of Brazil? How do people survive wars or blockades day after day? The more than 70 creative documentaries shown at Verzió, most of which will be screened for the first time in Hungary, seek answers to the countless current and burning issues around the globe. The festival will take place 8–20 November, in Budapest and five towns in the countryside, as well as online nationwide. 

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with headlines — news of wars and catastrophes, activists’ rallies, protests, uplifting stories, successful movements — most of which we see only for a split second, giving us less and less chance for an in-depth understanding of the issues. For its 19th edition, Verzió invites us on a journey to explore different layers of reality, and through global and personal stories, to get closer to our world. This year’s line-up is once again full of brave protagonists and dedicated directors, many of whom you can meet during the festival. With their help, as well as with the participation of journalists, activists and academic guests, we can immerse ourselves in the most recent international and national human rights topics. Oksana Sarkisova, director of the Verzió film festival, has summed up Verzió’s mission as follows: “Documentary filmmakers are dedicated and often reckless chroniclers, sometimes paying dearly for the viewers’ right to know, connect, and empathize. Their subjective, immersive works are precious testimonies to our troubled times, testimonies that can open hearts and minds”.

This year’s selection of films includes many burning issues, from freedom of the press to women’s rights, to the everyday lives of those living through war and under oppression. This year’s Hungarian Competition will feature ten recent documentaries.

While the detailed program will be available from mid-October, here is a teaser of what to expect.

The Killing of a Journalist (d.: Matt Sarnecki, 2022), which will be screened in Hungary for the first time, examines the brutal murder of Ján Kuciak, a Slovak journalist, and his fiancée, in their home in 2018. Their deaths inspired the biggest protests in Slovakia since the fall of communism. The story takes an unexpected turn when the secret murder case file is leaked to Kuciak’s former colleagues.

F@ck this job (d.: Vera Krichevskaya, 2021) will also be screened in Hungary for the first time. Natasha is a successful, fame-seeking nouveau-riche woman who wants to make her dreams come true. She decides to launch an independent TV station in Russia. She employs opposition reporters, and her "child", Dozhd TV, soon becomes a lonely island of political and sexual freedom, and the only independent news channel to survive Putin's crackdown on free media.

Following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban took control and radically suppressed freedoms much faster than anyone could have imagined. Academy Award-winning director Matthew Heineman's latest documentary, Retrograde (d.: Matthew Heineman, 2022) is set in the brief period between the US evacuation and the overthrow of the Afghan government. It follows the path of Major General Sadat and the 215th Corps as they evaluate the aftermath of the “endless war”.

Each year the Anthropocene Section presents films concerning our environment. This year, The Territory (d.: Alex Pritz, 2022), with breathtaking images, shows how the Uru-eu-wau-wau indigenous people are fighting the destruction of rainforests. They're arming themselves with new technologies: drones monitor the felling of the rainforest and a special media team broadcasts their honest reports to the world. This proves crucial as Covid-19 rapidly starts to spread in Brazil, and the Uru-eu-wau-wau must isolate from the surrounding world to avoid the virus.

All That Breathes (d.: Shaunak Sen, 2022) has won countless awards, including Best International Documentary at Sundance and the Golden Eye at Cannes. Shaunak Sen’s film tells the story of two brothers who, amidst the apocalyptic air of New Delhi and  ever-growing violence, dedicate their lives to protecting black kite, one of the victims of our turbulent times.

In cooperation with the DocuDays UA Film Festival, Verzió’s “Solidarity UA” Section will screen recent Ukrainian documentaries that go beyond the horrors of war to highlight outstanding human stories. With In Memoriam Mantas Kvedaravičius, Verzió pays tribute to the work of a brave man, the Lithuanian director who worked in Mariupol for many years. His first film about the city under fire was screened at Verzió in 2016. He continued filming this spring, visiting the people who appeared in his film to document life in the Ukrainian city during the bombing, but in April, the 46-year-old director was killed by Russian invaders. Verzió will screen the previously released Mariupolis and Mariupolis 2, powerful documentaries of everyday survival during the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Verzió will also look into new forms of documentary approaches, works that stretch the boundaries of different cinematic genres. The Vector VR Section will again appear in the program, exhibiting recent international VR works that offer new perspectives on various issues. Viewers/experiencers will gain insight into the inner world of human emotions and motivations, as well as rarely seen places and real-life situations. AniDoc, a joint animation film section of Verzió and Primanima, will debut this year, and the Young Critics film critic workshop will be held for the first time. For more details on industry programs, please visit the festival website.

The films will be screened 9–16 November in cinemas in Budapest. Outside of Budapest, in partnership with Free Spaces, a selection of festival films will be screened in Debrecen, Szombathely, Pécs, Szeged and Kecskemét. The festival's online film library, Verziótéka, will be open between 14 and 20 November for those who want to join the 19th edition of Verzió online.

More program and ticket details will be available soon!