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Indybay Feature

The Unofficial Histories of Peter Forgacs, Part 1 of 3

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
Pacific Film Archive @ UC Berkeley
2575 Bancroft Way
Between College and Telegraph
Berkeley, CA 94720

History is typically brought to us in its official form—the sponsored version, validated by power and assembled by authorized agents. But the visual evidence of history has its unsanctioned and overlooked sources, troves of images from elsewhere. The exacting Hungarian artist Peter Forgacs has plundered one such trove, that of home movies shot primarily in the thirties and forties by Hungarian Jews. “The films became more than evidence, more than fact,” Forgacs has said. “They became a complex cultural and archaeological site for me.” Forgacs shapes the footage into elegiac “family sagas” that have the specificity of particular people yet bear, through poetic resonance, an unofficial history of a time-bound culture. Forgacs’s minimalism is a vital attribute: subtle cues, a word placed in the frame identifying a notable person or poignant moment, ride gently upon restrained waves of image manipulation. Composer Tibor Szemzˆ’s haunting soundscapes further accentuate both visual detail and emotional strains. Private Hungary, a series initiated in the late eighties, now includes a dozen works; in the mid-nineties, Forgacs began resurrecting home movies from other countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Greece, adding breadth to his “private” world. These three programs offer an official look at an unauthorized history that demands our recognition.
-Steve Seid
1st Program: Wedneday, November 2
7:30 Father and His Three Sons: The Bartos Family and Dusi and Jenˆ
Peter Forgacs (Hungary, 1988/1989)

These compelling works look at the vanished Hungarian bourgeois culture of the thirties and forties. Father and His Three Sons (60 mins) follows Zolt·n Bartos and his family across a span of thirty years. Here, the little ceremonies of family life are enveloped by a wistful calm, denying the political upheaval occurring throughout Europe. In Dusi and Jenˆ (45 mins) the focus is more expansive. Jenˆ, a bank clerk with a filmmaker’s eye, brings Budapest into sharp focus. While he and his wife Dusi cavort, the city stands mutely by, splendid one year, ravaged by war the next.—Steve Seid (Total running time: 105 mins, B&W/Tinted, 3/4” video, PFA Collection, permission of the artist)

[This series is presented in conjunction with the Judah L. Magnes Museum exhibition The Danube Exodus: The Rippling Currents of the River, coproduced by Peter Forgacs and the Labyrinth Project, on view through January 22, 2006. For information, visit]
Added to the calendar on Mon, Oct 17, 2005 5:29PM
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