Change Is In The Wind
Hungarian filmmaker Benedek Fliegauf is shining a spotlight on entrenched racism in his new film 'Just the Wind', and now has Australia in his sights.
There are more than two reasons for Australian audiences to see Just the Wind, the film that changed Hungarian filmmaker Benedek Fliegauf's life. The second is that Fliegauf will be coming here to make his next film, if all goes well this Monday on his location shoot in Tasmania and his meeting with Nick Cave goes according to plan. But let's start with the first - Just the Wind is all the best things about arthouse cinema: it started with a dream, a man's outrage, financing issues and a personal crusade to tell an important story; it ends in a beautifully crafted film that links audiences across class and ethnicity, through empathy.
Fliegauf's previous films have been lavished with awards, including the FIPRESCI prize in 2004 for Dealer, and high acclaim for Womb with Eva Green and Matt Smith. But today, sitting in Melbourne as a guest of the Melbourne International Film Festival, which is screening Just the Wind, the talented filmmaker admits he had become disillusioned with the industry. "Since I became a sort of participant in this rat race called [the] arthouse film festivals circus, therefore I totally lost my connection with real people," says Fliegauf. However, in 2008 and 2009, the director decided to return to filmmaking after a series of hate crimes saw six Romanian Gypsies killed and over sixty wounded in his home country, Hungary. The crimes left him with a nightmare that wouldn't let up, which became the idea behind Just the Wind. He told his wife they had to pack their bags for home. "I was really shocked with the nightmares. I saw the flashlights of the shotguns and how they screamed. It went deep into my heart, which is not that common," says Fliegauf. "It was a good occasion for me to go back."
Just the Wind follows the taut, traumatic lives of one family in the aftermath of the shootings, over one day. A slow burning realist piece, Fliegauf's no-holds-barred fingerprints are all over the film. Fliegauf wrote, cast (handpicking amateur actors after a nationwide search), and directed the film, as well as taking on production and sound design. Using minimal dialogue, Fliegauf delves deep into the lives of a people for whom humility in the face of horrid racism is a way of life.
"But this is a little bit related to Australia what I'm telling you now," says the filmmaker. After losing funding, Fliegauf wanted to throw in the towel, and become a restaurateur. An industry friend talked him around. "I said, ‘I definitely don't give a shit about the film industry anymore,' But I picked up my most extreme ideas, and gave them to him. One of them was about the Tasmanian genocide, and Truganini."
Truganini was a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman belonging to the Parvelar tribe, the last Aboriginal woman left after the British invasion devastated her entire people through disease and violence; some commentators classifying the catastrophe as fitting the UN definition of genocide. After being persuaded to make the film, Fliegauf made the journey to Australia.
Fliegauf is hoping to secure Nick Cave for scriptwriting collaboration (Cave wrote The Proposition and the upcoming Lawless), but is hesitant to approach him, as Cave was his hero growing up.
"I need his name to finance the film in Australia, and also in Europe. In the UK, they said that immediately we can start the financing with Nick Cave on board. But he was my idol when I was a teenager... you should never [work with] your idols," he laughs.
Fliegauf expects to run into problems in making the film.
"Yesterday I read the protocol of how you can make a deal with the Aboriginals here. It's 126 pages of intellectual bullshit - very well written, but for me it feels like white people wrote down this to scare the other white people to tell these stories," says Fliegauf, who realises that questions will also be asked about why a Hungarian would make a film about Tasmanians. "I consider myself as not a Hungarian, but more like an earthling. Just because it's not my nationality doesn't mean it's not my problem."
Winning the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Amnesty International award for best film, if Just The Wind is an indication of what happens when Fliegauf turns his microscope on injustice, Australia can look forward to more than a little truth-telling in the years to come.
Just the Wind will be showing at the Melbourne International Film Festival which runs until August 19. For more information visit http://miff.com.au.
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