It’s never too late to review an important documentary. I had for years known about “Judgement in Hungary”, seen clips, some very rough cuts, always in doubt whether it would be possible to make a feature length documentary (primarily) located in a court room. I hesitated but a day during the Jihlava festival, at the videotheque, I watched it, I saw no more films on that day deeply impressedby what I saw. Hajdu and her team has succeeded to make a film, shot over several years, into a drama that will stay as an artistically formulated document over xenophobia in our times in a European country. A story about horrific attacks on an ethnic minority.
Content – taken from the One World Festival catalogue:
For three years, a film crew followed the trial of four members of a Hungarian criminal gang accused of a series of racially motivated murders of six Roma, including children. It took more than a year just to apprehend the culprits, and the case dragged on, mainly because of a lack of evidence and gross police misconduct. Thanks to the constant presence of cameras in the courtroom, director Eszter Hajdú succeeded in capturing the dramatic progress of the closely watched trial, which created a media frenzy. Will the trial conclude with a verdict that brings the survivors of three Roma families some measure of closure? Can they trust in the fairness of the Hungarian state?”
The verdict is given on Day 167 of the trial! For those who have not seen the film, I will not reveal what the judge states in this final scene. Watching the film you wonder, what will be the final result. What I can say is that the building of the film is unique. You get to know the 4 accused of killing six people, including one child, you see the relatives being questioned in the court room, and first of all you have a main character, the judge, who presides over it all like a conductor of an orchestra or like the director of a play on good and evil. He shouts at both parties, the accused and the witnesses, making them understand that they should behave according to his codex. The judge is ”a mental sadist”, one of the accused says! Sometimes it is like a performance of an absurd theatre piece followed by a constant sound of a typewriter/computer, where every word being said is put down. In and out the court room the accused are being led by guards with covered faces. In and out the stage. Step by step the drama is built. Accompanied by music here and there. Sentimental, no, but bringing the tough images of the crimes to the eyes of the viewer.
No wonder that this film has got so many awards and after its international premiere at idfa 2013 still travels.