László Csuja: Nine Month War

The film, that has its world premiere at the Sarajevo Film Festival August 14, is a psychological drama featuring a young man and his mother with the young man’s girlfriend as an important side-character. I wrote man but take a look at the picture, he is a playful boy, happy, full of life, in love with the girl, he wants to marry her, he belongs to the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, gets drafted and chooses to go with the Ukrainian army. Much against his mother’s wish. She is the one, who suffers, wants him to stay at home, is happy but worried, when he is home for leave and relieved, when he finally finishes his military duty. After nine months, a reborn child.

The playful boy becomes a disillusioned young man. And the film shows that, indeed it does show, what damage on the soul a war can do. Letting us viewers look at his face. Built up in a very simple way, the film is based on shootings from the family’s house in a village, and the cell phone material that Jani, the son, shoots, when sent to the war between Ukraine and Russia. A lot is the soldier’s life – fun, shooting his pals, and other’s is deadly serious footage from the combat zone in Eastern Ukraine. The story he tells about the pal who is killed next to him is what changes him completely. It sent him to hospital and made him strongly wanting to go home “missing mum”.

At home he is lying on the sofa watching the material he shot, he is bored and does not know, what to do with his life. It seems like he does not want to marry the girlfriend he proposed to nine months earlier – on camera.

The return of a soldier to normal life, there are loads of films dealing with this topic, fiction and documentary, however this one has an interesting character approach – mother and son/girlfriend – and a clever set-up with the two very different cinematic takes, with the calm observation of the family life in the village contrasting the nervous, hectic soldier life shot by the young boy turned man – that shifts from being just a funny boy-game to a question of life and death, leaving scars on the soul.

Hungary, 2018, 73 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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