Of the twenty-five documentary films I have made, The Restless Hungarian is by far my largest endeavor. I have interviewed fifty people on three continents and visited twenty buildings that my father engineered. I have worked with Hungarian, German and Spanish translators to mine salient information from my parents’ letters and documents, and visited the graves of my ancestors in a Jewish cemetery outside Budapest. I have gone over thousands of 35mm negatives that my mother made with her Leica camera in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and scanned hundreds of them to piece together a visual record of my family in those decades. I have found archive film footage of the Holocaust and the Cold War, as well as footage of Budapest, Paris, and London in the 1930s, and La Paz, Chicago, and New York in the 1940s.
In the final stage of production I worked with sixteen talented Hungarian actors and a brilliant Hungarian crew to recreate dramatic, psychologically pivotal scenes from my own and my father’s childhoods. (Dispatches from the Hungarian film production are found in this blog.)
It pleases me greatly that Hungarian members of my family have made creative contributions to the film. My cousin Pál Valentiny provided photographs, letters, and other documentation of my father’s early life. His three sons also participated. Gabor, a concert pianist, performed music by Chopin and Satie on the soundtrack. Andor, who looks exactly like me when I was eighteen, is an actor in the film, and was the assistant cameraman in Budapest. Tamás created the animation for “The Joy of Space” sequence in the film.
This project has taken me places I could never have imagined, both inside myself and out in the world.
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