Péter Forgács Doc Talk, 10/27

By | October 19, 2014

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The Graduate Certificate in Documentary Studies and
The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
invite you to attend a DocTalk with

Péter Forgács

Hosted by Deirdre Boyle
October 27 at 1 pm in Kellen Auditorium

The 20th century is replete with cinematic images from diverse sources including amateurs who used the “new media” of their day, 16mm and 8mm film, to record life as it was lived. Working with home movies, Hungarian filmmaker Péter Forgács has been re-presenting the history of Europe. “I’m not a historian,” Forgács insists. “I am interested in the psychoanalysis of history.” For him, the images of amateur filmmakers reveal the complexities and slippages that official history either smoothes over or ignores. Invariably, in all his work, Forgács returns to the central traumas of the 20th century in films that reclaim the life of modern Europe lived in the shadow of Nazism and Stalinism.

Péter Forgács has made more than 30 films and several video installations. In 1983 he established the Private Photo & Film Archives Foundation in Budapest, collecting hundreds of hours of amateur film shot in Hungary from the 1920s through the 1960s. His reputation is based largely on a series of films he made called “Private Hungary,” but his international profile is based on films drawn from other countries. El Perro Negro: Stories from the Spanish Civil War is one of these, and he will screen and discuss it for our Q&A. He will also speak about his video installation, Letters to Afar, which is based on home movies made by New York City’s Jewish immigrants who traveled back to visit Poland during the 1920s to 1930s. It opens at The Museum of the City of New York on October 22.

Letters to Afar documents poignant family reunions and everyday life in small towns during the years before the Second World War, capturing a culture on the brink of annihilation. It was commissioned by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. With a haunting soundtrack by the New York-based band The Klezmatics, these “letters” bring to life a lost world in moving detail. We are grateful to YIVO for their support of Péter Forgács and his participation in this DocTalk.

If you missed Deirdre Boyle’s introduction to Forgacs’ work, you can read her discussion with him of Meanwhile, Somewhere…1940-1943 in Millennium Film Journal.


DocTalk is open to all DocStudies and Media Studies students.