THE CITIZEN Opens July 6 in NYC at The Metrograph! : NYADIFF


THE CITIZEN Opens July 6 in NYC at The Metrograph!

Directed by Rolad Vranik, Hungary, 2017, Drama, 109 min, Hungarian

THE CITIZEN, A Poignant and Rigorous Portrait of 21st Century Immigration, Opens Friday July 6 at Metrograph

The story follows Wilson, a political refugee from Guinea Bissau, as he attempts to find his place in Hungarian society. He decides to acquire the Hungarian citizenship and meets history teacher Mary. Their interaction takes an unexpected turn…

2018 Chicago European Film Festival
Audience Award for Best Film
“In the midst of the current refugee crisis and Hungary’s prominent role in it, Roland Vranik’s new film is more than brave to touch upon this issue that both divides and dominates the contemporary European landscape of politics. The Citizen not only portrays one’s vulnerable and impossible position in the post-Socialist, white discourse but equally sheds light on the quotidian, micro-level experience of what it means to be Hungarian. Why do people want to belong to an economically less prosperous and often xenophobic country? Is language key to Hungarian identity? And most importantly, are Hungarians hostile towards refugees or is that perception only a propagandistic creation of media and politics?

While meditating on the above-mentioned questions, The Citizen creates a poignant melodrama that portrays the lives of refugees from a first person perspective. Its protagonist, Wilson (Dr. Cake-Baly Marcelo), has been dreaming about and working on acquiring Hungarian citizenship but constantly fails the exams that would allow him to edge towards that goal. Because of the impossible questions that constitute the exam, which, among many others, cover topics of the Hungarian Renaissance, the constitution and structure of the country, Wilson is forced to seek help during the preparations for his next appointment with the jury. Mari (Ágnes Máhr), a Hungarian teacher and the sister of Wilson’s boss, comes to the man’s aid and the two sexagenarians soon start to develop a strong friendship. While we learn surprising facts about the country that would even flabbergast Hungarians – it turns out the swallow is a Hungarian bird, for instance – the relationship between Mari and Wilson slowly evolves into love. Making things more complicated than they already are, Wilson risks his status and bond with Mari by hiding refugee Shirin (Arghavan Shekari) at his place. Not only does the Iranian woman have no valid papers to reside in the country, but she also gives birth to a baby, which deeply affects the life of Wilson. Empathizing with the vulnerable position of his new flat mate, Wilson decides to take care of the woman and marry her once he gains Hungarian citizenship. His shared love life with Mari, however, exacerbates the already difficult situation, especially after the teacher decides to leave her husband and sons behind to live with Wilson. What this yields is a love-like triangle built on the refugee status and fluid future of the two foreigners that, as melodramatic obstacles, procrastinate the outcome of the story.

Borrowing the well-known concept of interracial difference, Vrabuj builds a melodrama to the core. What makes The Citizen different from Rainer Werner Fassinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf, 1974), Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven (2002), Hermine Huntgeburth’s The White Masai (Der weisse Massai, 2005) that – like many more films – all base their respective stories on such a conflict, is that Vranik places The Citizen into a hyperrealistic post-Socialist context. The seemingly central conflict, the impossible affection between Mari and Wilson, is embedded into the quotidian, micro-bureaucratic level of Hungarianness that gives the story a much deeper, second layer that slowly swallows the love thread. The relationship of the couple thus moves to the background, while Shirin’s refugee status and her struggle with not revealing herself to the public, overshadow the brimming emotions of Mari and Wilson.” ~  ANNA BATORI – East European Film Bulletin


Comments are closed.