Klára Trencsényi: Train to Adulthood

This film was awarded as the best in the ”Next Masters” section of the DOKLeipzig festival this autumn. Very well deserved as Klára Trencsényi already before (primarily with ”Bird’s Way”) has shown how masterful cinematography looks, when she is behind the camera. With ”Train to Adulthood” she adds to the skills by getting close to two families with kids – and huge social problems. She has made an emotionally strong documentary that is telling us about a social reality in Hungary, that could have taken place in other Eastern European countries. In one family: Mum and Dad work abroad, the kids live with their grandparents. In the other family: Mum lives with her three children but is forced out of her home as she can not pay rent and electricity.

Klára Trencsényi, however, frames her story about kids journey to leave childhood with a bitter-sweet story about them being part of

the so-called “Budapest Children’s Railway”. I quote from the description of the film: “This small-gauge railway system has been in continuous use since it was created for the “Pioneers”, Hungary’s communist youth organization in 1948. Nearly seventy years on, hundreds of thousands of passengers a year travel along the winding tracks of the Buda Hills in the same old carriages. The railway’s antiquated switches, levers, and telephones are operated by children between the ages of 10 and 14, who run all the stations and accompany passengers on their journey…”

So this is where Viktor and his sister Carmen go as well as Gergo. Their stay there, have fun, learn how to work together, dress up in nice train uniforms – I understand that they go “on biweekly shifts”, away from the harsh reality at home.

Viktor and Gergo get a voice in the film. You see their worry, especially Viktor, whose mother has to move into a single mother’s place, Viktor and Carmen come home, if you can call it a home, after time at the camp of the Children’s Railway. And Gergo argues with his parents that he does want to go to Germany as they think he should, to study. He wants to stay in Hungary, gets accepted to a school and can help the grandparents.

It’s not a bright picture that Klára Trencsényi paints of Hungary today through the description of the living conditions of the two families, a description, which is, I am sure, quite representative. Yet, you leave the film in the mood that they – against all odds – will make it, these kids, when they grow up. Or is this wishful thinking…?

Loved to watch that film. Let’s get more well built stories about what happens in Hungary. We have had enough of journalistic reports from a country that has fine filmmakers. Klára Trencsényi is one of them.

Hungary, 2015, 79 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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