NYU Abu Dhabi alumnus Máté Bede-Fazekas (Class of 2014) is making a feature-length documentary that explores the life and career of his father, a famous Hungarian opera singer. The film is concerned with the way political shifts in a country can affect the personal lives and careers of its citizens.
Bede-Fazekas developed his skills by working on a number of film projects during his time at NYUAD. In New York last year, he took the well-known Sight and Sound course offered at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In the course, he created an 18-minute film with a classmate called "The Invitation."
"The main character is tormented by guilt, and is obsessed with his girlfriend's death," Bede-Fazekas explained. "He decides there must be a way to bring her back, and he sets out to find a way." Bede-Fazekas has also worked on a movie shoot in the UAE's Liwa desert. And for his Capstone project, under the guidance of his mentor Visiting Professor of Film and New Media Scandar Copti, and in collaboration with fellow NYUAD alumnus Nolan Funk, he made an interactive movie that has eight possible endings: "There will be a decision moment when the audience as a group has to make a collective choice." He has also collaborated with NYUAD students and Professor of Music Carlos Guedes on an interactive film installation that has been shown in Dubai.
But the biggest and most personal project he has undertaken is the documentary about his father. In the summer of 2013, Bede-Fazekas traveled to his home country of Hungary to compile footage of his father, who was born in 1933 and grew up during World War II and the subsequent communist era. Bede-Fazekas believes that his father's life story and career in the arts provides a fascinating example of how the war, and the subsequent communist regime, affected the lives of Hungarians.
My father's been an actor for 40 years, and in front of the camera he becomes someone else — a performer. That's something I'm trying to break down a bit; to get past it.
Csaba Bede-Fazekas was discriminated against during the communist period, but now, 25 years after the fall of communism, he is being recognized for his many artistic achievements. "I want to document the process of his receiving these awards, how he reflects on the past, how he journeys through this whole thing, the decisions he made, and whether he regrets them or not," Bede-Fazekas said.
While in Hungary, Bede-Fazekas followed his father with a camera wherever he went. "We went back to his hometown, where he was born, in Sellye, down in the south of Hungary. The house is still standing and there were people that he knew from childhood there. To record these conversations between these people who haven't spent much time together since they were kids was fascinating."
But it is not always easy to get his father to speak naturally about his experiences. "My father's been an actor for 40 years, and in front of the camera he becomes someone else — a performer. That's something I'm trying to break down a bit; to get past it. I want him to be himself in front of the camera…So, I try to have the camera all the time, to the point that he forgets about it."
Though the film focuses on his father's life in particular, Bede-Fazekas believes that the appeal of the story is more general and "can tell about something that a lot of post-communist and postsocialist European countries still deal with, which is the dilemma of how when World War II was over, countries like Hungary became part of the Eastern block and changed, becoming socially oppressed. That process is probably still affecting people, as they never got a chance to speak about it."
What's next? Bede-Fazekas hopes to show the film on Hungarian television and plans to submit it to festivals. He is also considering pursuing a graduate degree in film, even if he doesn't do so immediately. "Part of me wants to start working first. I have some friends that I want to collaborate with, so I want to get in touch with them and see where that takes us," he said.