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News - MEDIAWAVE Foundation

2016-04-16 14:15

Happiness without electricity - an interview with Zimu Zhang, director of Once upon a time in Hungary

Amidst the picturesque mountainscape of Hungary is a place called Boldogszer. It’s home for a family of seven whose way of life is more akin to the 18th rather than the 21st century. István and Réka and their children are cut off from the rest of the world, a “matrix” they would say and lack all modern comforts. The children play on meadows and in the woods just like storybooks intended. Life takes its beat from nature and the changing of the seasons. The film tries to bring viewers to experience a daily revolution with a family so brave but also as vulnerably as everyone of us. Interview with Zimu Zhang, co-director of the film Once upon a time in Hungary.


- Two directors from China and Mexico... What is your story, what is the connection with Hungary?


Zimu Zhang: Oliver and me were classmates that time, studying in the SZFE (University of Theatre and Film Arts Budapest) in a documentary program called Docnomads. It's an Erasmus Mundus master program, and we studied in film schools in Lisbon, Budapest and Brussels. It's a very international, interesting program, we were 23 students from 21 countries...and we were the very first generation of it. Budapest is our second semester, and we were paired that time to do a documentary exercise. The film came out from that exercise.


- How has come, that you have found this family and this story in Hungary?


ZZ: As we were looking for subjects to do the exercise, we were first interested in the social political happenings in Budapest that time. As there's this big students strike in 2013 in Elte university, we went there to see how's the situation. In the "strike" classroom, we saw a man (later to be the father character in our film, István) in traditional hungarian clothes, the long white shirts, very different from the students, and though he's very quiet, he had a very strong presence. We were curious about him, so we tried to speak to him, and later we learned that his wife and 5 kids were also in Budapest. They were there to support the students, István was cleaning the classroom, as it was often quite messy... We learned that they lived in tents among hills and woods outside Budapest, in a very special lifestyle, and were returning home soon. So we decided to follow them home, to see for ourselves how they were living differently. The family warmly welcomed us, so that marked the beginning of the film.



- How did you enjoy the film environment and the family's story?


ZZ: The family lived on a little hill, in a Mongolian tent, surrounding by woods, really beautiful nature. They did not have electricity, internet, machines, most household goods they made themselves. They built their own kitchen house, oven, grew and made their own food... all were very different and impressive for us, who used to live in city with all the facilities. But still they had a computer, to constantly update their blog about their life, and they used radio program to give kids classes, so they are not extremist, this balance and reflection of nature and technology was very interesting for us. It was a very nice time we spent with them, experiencing their daily life, observing how they constructed a "Boldogszer" (happy time/village), how the kids growing up with intimate relations with mud, trees, animals, insects... But still we also witnessed difficulties in their devotion, which was always part of "happiness". The only "trouble" would be we had to run to nearby village time to time to charge our camera battery, and every night we were so tired to look at our footage as we've been running around and played with the kids all day long :D



- What was the most surprising event, what has happened with you during the filmmaking?


ZZ: The most surprising event actually happened two years later after we filmed, and we added that in the end of the film, you will know after watching it. But if we looked back the whole film, there were some traces hinting the happening...it's in a way really says how camera could capture and reveal things, that's very powerful. During the filmmaking, maybe to see how the kids reacted with "death", even with a small insect, they made a big effort to rescue it. This empathy with nature creatures could be our instinct when we are kids, but we tend to forget that when we grow up...


- How did you feel when you heard that you got an award from Mediawave? Will we meet on the 26. Mediawave in Komárom, Fort Monostori?


ZZ: We are really really happy, and especially it's an audience award, and we won in the category" the most beautiful road". The film is made with very detailed textures of a different time and space, really gentle, so to be able to connect and transmit this experience to audience is the most rewarding thing. We received a letter from a young hungarian girl who watched the film from the online platform, she was really touched by the film and would show it to her family and friends, that was really beautiful. I will come on 30th when the film will be shown in Mediawave, and the family in the film will also come also. This is the first time we show the whole film together with the family, I'm really curious and looking forward to it.  


Once upon a time in Hungary

30th April 15.30 Kazamata Cinema Hall

Fort Monostori

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2024-03-12 22:12

Passport Controll'24 - Workshops and Application

Application is now open to this year's Passport Controll Summer Workshop and Gathering, at the Kund Castle, Somogyfajsz! You can choose from a range of visual, music, family and gastronomy workshops. Click here for details!














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