‘Vortex’ screening and discussion

Around thirty people joined us on 7 March to watch ‘Vortex’ (Örvény), a 2010 documentary (trailer), and discuss the issues the film raises with its creative producer and co-director, John Oates.

‘Vortex’ was shot by John Oates and Csaba Szekeres over a six-month period in the village of Told (population c. 350) in Bihar County, and follows the lives of three Roma families struggling with extreme poverty, substandard housing, acute health problems, intimidation by loan sharks and the threat of children being taken into care. The vortex of the title is described by one of the overworked and under-resourced social workers as a vicious circle whereby all attempts at improvement (or escape) are frustrated by the social environment, habit, and life in general; another villager repeats ‘nincs kiút’ (there’s no way out).

John spoke of the ethical issues involved in making the film, its reception in Hungary and the complex processes of building up trust with the villagers. Discussion turned to the problem of language as barrier rather than bridge, referring to the scene in which communication breaks down between a health worker and the mother of a four-year-old child who had not yet developed speech, family bonds, the art workshops for Roma children run by Nóra L. Ritók, who also appears in the film (Nóra’s blog is here), and the work of Biztos Kezdet, a programme based on Sure Start (UK).

Co-director Csaba Szekeres defines the essence of the film as follows: ‘Faces, human fates, decisions that seem inexplicable and the depths of hopelessness. Through the screen, we come so close to these people whose fates will make all of us think, and compel us to act. Only then does the question arise: but what can we do? What must we do?’ These are the questions the film poses. Further reviews of the film (in Hungarian) are available here and here.

The event was kindly hosted by the UCL-SSEES Centre for the Study of Central Europe.

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