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Bernadett Tuza-Ritter

OPEN WINDOWS | BY HEERA

April 12th, 2021

 

Bernadett Tuza-Ritter is a Hungarian independent filmmaker of creative documentaries and fiction. The editor of several features and documentaries, Tuza-Ritter studied directing and editing at the University of Theatre and Film Arts Budapest. Tuza-Ritter’s well-constructed, sensitive documentary, A Woman Captured, set in rural Hungary [Central Europe], showcases her protagonist trapped in modern-day domestic servitude. A Woman Captured, Tuza-Ritter’s first documentary, was nominated for Best European Documentary at the European Film Awards 2018 and Best Documentary at Sundance Film Festival 2018 and won multiple awards, including the 2018 Hungarian Film Critics Award (Best Documentary), 2018 Millennium Film Festival Brussels (Objectif de Bronze/Best Film for Human Rights) and Golden Athena Award for Best Documentary.

 

The concept of your five-minute film—a school project—was to show only one face. How did the theme eventually transform into A Woman Captured, a documentary on enslavement in rural Hungary? 

I met Edith by chance a few years before I started shooting and noticed her face [Edith, who went by the name Marish, given by her captors—Eta and her family] was interesting, and I knew she was working somewhere, but I wasn’t sure of the circumstances.  A few years later when I had the school project I asked for permission to shoot only a few days with Edith. After a few days of shooting, Edith told me that she was not only not paid for her services but also sent to work in a factory, and she handed over her salary to the family [Eta’s]. This unpaid labour and handing over wages from another job were the first signs that something was wrong.

When I applied to the Hungarian Film Academy to study documentary directing and had to make a film on a day of a person, my idea was to make a short film on Edith, and since she had mentioned a few things, I wanted to follow up. So this is how the documenting started.

 

What made you want to direct, and how did your time assisting others in direction and scriptwriting prepare you to helm A Woman Captured?

I wanted to direct since I was sixteen. I applied to the Hungarian Film Academy several times, but they never took me as a director, so I decided to study editing first. During ten years of editing and working as a script supervisor, I learnt a lot from other directors and professional filmmakers in many fields.

So when I started this film, I had ten years of experience in the film industry. And though I didn’t feel like a first time director, I heard this a lot (especially from the financiers): “Why should they trust a first-time director?” This negative attitude was annoying after a while, but I kept moving forward on my ideas. Simultaneously, I reapplied to the Film Academy to study Masters in documentary directing, and they accepted me.

 

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