– Hungarian Emerging Producer 2022 talks about current and future challenges facing documentary filmmakers
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you consider documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Borbala Csukas: I fell in love with making documentaries because I think it’s a great way to experience different perspectives. It is a tool for understanding people and the world around us. In a way, it’s living a hundred different lives. For me, it is very important to find a real connection with the subject and also the person who wants to tell the story. I believe that all documentaries can be an instrument of social and political change. Even the most intimate, smallest personal story can make a huge change, an impact. Producing documentaries is also a very creative job, overcoming different kinds of challenges day to day, keeps me awake all the time. I feel like I learn something new every day, about myself, about my work, about the world.
The pandemic has had an impact on the entire sector. How did this influence your work as a producer? Have the projects you are working on changed?
The pandemic has profoundly influenced my work. As a producer, I believe in personal interactions, in persuasion and living this “zoom life” is very difficult. We have finished and after a long time we have created Diva [+see also:
film profile], my latest feature documentary, at the Sarajevo Film Festival (available on HBO GO). Even though the festival was held on-site, the audience was limited and the international industry stayed away from the festival, only attending the online events. This made the long-awaited premiere look different than expected.
Take part in our ongoing documentary Narrow path to happiness, at the Thessaloniki Film Festival was also a very different experience than it normally would have been. There were fewer people on site, most meetings were held online, there were no offline gatherings. This has changed the possibilities for networking, which is an important part of our production work.
We also encountered particular difficulties during the filming of our documentary on Agnès Keleti, who is 100 years old. We were forced to constantly apply different measures to protect it. She spent decades of her life in Israel, and despite our original plan to take her back, traveling with her during the pandemic was out of the question. Under these circumstances, even the storytelling needed more creativity, which of course can also be a trigger.
What do you think is the future of documentary film distribution?
Even with the boom in streaming culture, I’d like to believe that the future of documentary film won’t just be online. I like to see the change brought by streaming platforms as something positive: more people are watching documentaries.
But I still believe in cinema distribution and I think I’m not the only one. The audience we have today, who go to the cinema to watch documentaries on the big screen, will remain interested. I think it’s a big challenge for all of us filmmakers to always find new and alternative ways to present our films to the public. I also think film festivals need to play a bigger role in distributing documentaries outside of their festival week. They must be active all year round. I know it’s also a financial issue, but it’s in the interest of the whole industry to find targeted audiences throughout the year.
What projects do you have in progress (including in the field of fiction film and other projects)?
I am currently working on three projects. Two feature documentaries and a short fiction. Narrow path to happiness is about Gergo and Lenard, a couple living in an isolated Roma community where being gay is considered an unforgivable sin; and they have a dream so absurd it seems impossible: to make a musical film based on their lives.
conquer time is about Agnes Keletia warrior, feminist, superhuman: the world’s oldest living Olympic champion, the most decorated Jewish Olympian of all time, and the most accomplished living Hungarian athlete. lost fiance is a short film set in the 80s, based on a true story. I also recently moved to Barcelona and joined the DocsBarcelona team, and I’m super excited and motivated to work with them.
EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, bringing together talented European documentary filmmakers. The program is organized and organized by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
The deadline to apply for the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2023 edition is March 31, 2022.