The bigger problem is that it’s too rotten

Rewrite this contentWhen I only knew about Püsök Botond’s film, that it was the story of a little girl who suffered sexual abuse and her mother, I was prepared to watch a film about molestation, the natural history of sexual abuse within the family. I calculated that the subject was horrible, of course, but after many years of crime journalism, I can cope with the knowledge that yes, there are horrible scumbags who molest vulnerable children, far more than we would like to believe. Even with the horror, this is still an acceptable worldview: there are us, the good, the normal, and there are them, the evil, the child abusers – and we, the good, reassuringly, are much more numerous.Even in its horror, Too Close destroys this relatively comfortable basic position.It shows the situation when the evil ones are indeed in the majority, and they are also stronger. That the evil ones are really the nice aunts from the street, the women with headscarves coming home from the church, our traveling companions on the bus and the customers in the alphabet. And we have no means, no weapons against them, they are in the majority, down and unconvinced.Too close, presented in the Be Brave category of the Budapest Documentary Film Festival, is set in a Romanian village. Andrea, a single mother of two children, got what she could get: she sent her partner, the father of her younger child, to prison after her daughter said that he had molested her. Andrea played a huge role in the criminal justice system taking action against the man: she got him to admit what he had done, and the confession was recorded – so there was something to present as evidence in court.At the time of the filming of Too Close, the man had just been released, he was released early due to good behavior. He served roughly three years of the sentence that Andrea had accurately imposed many years later: instead of 5 years, 1 month and 10 days. She returns to the village, and Andrea prepares with anxiety and a camera installed on her house for her new life almost next door to her daughter’s abuser.The moving eye of the new camera watches the street in front of their gate, but the line-up is uneven. Not one, but many dozens of pairs of eyes are fixed on the family, they have to try to live with it, these eyes are reflected in the creepy drawings of the little girl. And just as the eyes of the village, which watch but are unable to see the truth, are clearly hostile, the mouth of the village also spits venom.In the face of Andreá’s trauma, the neighborhood chooses complete denial based on two simple parameters: one is that the mother is an actress by profession, and the other is that the man sent to prison for the molestation is a member of a well-respected, priestly family. Although Andrea provided the perfect proof with the recorded confession, the village operates according to different rules.Neither heart nor reason will put anyone here on the side of the little girl. In Püsök’s first full-length documentary, one of the women says it clearly, in black and white: they can bring him up to ten witnesses to the contrary, even then he will not believe that that person could have committed such a thing. Like conspiracy theorists, they operate just like that. Thus, the Andreas have nothing else to do – and somewhere in here is the Be brave! the limit of the slogan’s validity – how to organize an escape.The village choir singsTúl was shot for nearly five years and cut from nearly 100 hours of recorded material (interview with Püsök Botond on Transtelex, here), who came to the film’s Hungarian premiere on Sunday evening at the BIDF together with Andrea and his daughter Pirko, and afterwards they sat down in the to talk in front of an audience. They were also joined by Viola Szlankó, UNICEF’s head of child protection. They received a standing ovation that lasted for minutes.Andrea and Pirkó talked about how it was not easy to open up their lives so much, the mother had a lot of doubts, butthey finally took it on because they felt that if they helped even one person with it, it was already worth it. “I’m not Don Quixote, but every journey begins with a small step,” said Andrea.Watching the film again is not easy for them either, according to Andrea it is actually part of the therapy. The first time he watched it all the way through, he was also shocked when he was faced with “the village choir” in the concentration shown in the film. According to the director, at the same time, there were actually even more rude manifestations, also by young people, which were not even included in the film, because he did not want to expose Andrea’s behavior to them.Püsök said that the filming took place for a long time so that the village would not know what they were working on: he did not want to expose the Andreas to further hostility even because of this. It was only after the Andreas had already moved that he started to make the villagers speak, and then he went from house to house until he found people who really wanted to express their opinion – it was “shocking to hear them” for him too. Püsök said that while he himself never doubted Pirkó’s truth, there were also two members of his own staff (who had not known the family before, but only got involved during the period of questioning the villagers) who found the neighbors’ denial so convincing that they caught themselves and left the shoot.Productive painBy the way, Andrea admitted to the audience after the screening that at first she didn’t believe her daughter herself, but this only changed when the 9-year-old girl gathered the strength to try to turn to her for help a second time.He also talked about how he went about obtaining the recorded confession: he consulted with the police in advance, because if he had been recording himself without a permit, the recording would not have gone far in court. However, the police themselves recorded the phone conversation, to which Andrea replied that they would record it and that she should try to get the truth out of her partner. Her lawyer started her with the task: now they will take advantage of the fact that she is an actress. Andrea compares this phone call to childbirth: it was also productive pain, and the recording is a trump card in the lawsuit. “There is life after death,” he said, is what he wants to convey to everyone with the film. Source: Budapest International Documentary Film FestivalIn response to a viewer’s question, Andrea said that Pirkó’s abuser did not regret anything, did not go to therapy, did not do anything to change. However, he forced her to see her son, their child with Andrea, through the courts. To this day, the woman is obliged to take the boy to the local child protection service every Tuesday, where he meets with his father under supervision.After the screening, Püsök mentioned that Romania leads the list in the number of abuse cases in Europe. By the way, the inhabitants of the village have not yet been able to see the film, it will be released in cinemas in Romania in the spring.The film will be shown at BIDF twice more, on January 23 and 25, and is available online with an RTL+ subscription. If you are aware of a child in trouble or being abused, or if you are concerned because you suspect this, call the Child Protection Hotline at 06 (80) 212-021! The call is anonymous, free, and the number is live 24 hours a day. The experts who answer the calls forward the signal about the risk to the competent authority. You can find more information about the service operated by the General Directorate of Social and Child Protection here.
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