“My research goal is to create a systematic inventory of amateur filmmaking groups, events, periodicals and studies in Hungarian-speaking regions. In the current situation [the pandemic] I have primarily researched online sources and materials. I have tried to contextualize some archives and films that can be found online but little additional information is available. I have also done some theoretical research on the history and historical significance of amateur film. After graduating from an eight-year high school in Galánta, Slovakia, I studied liberal arts and media and communication studies at the Faculty of Arts, ELTE, with additional specialization in editorial skills. I also took courses in English, History of Religion, particularly Buddhism. I am a master’s student at the Department of Media and Communication at ELTE. I also worked in customer service, as a marketing intern and a translator. I also have a diploma in classical piano, learned to play the drums, which is my main instrument, and I am teaching myself to play bass. I also love fixing bikes.”
Film is more than the moving image, as film also involves community and everything that entails: conversations, debates, interpretations, ritual reception and the collective production and sharing of knowledge. In the course of the 20th century, a variety of institutions evolved for the purpose of the communal enjoyment of films, such as film festivals, film clubs, or school education about films. These institutions could often become small circles of freedom. The Hungarian film club movement, which goes back almost 100 years now, has had the support of directors and theorists like István Szőts and Béla Balázs. It is time we researched the role of film clubs in relation to the powers that be and investigated how they could offer space to films about minority communities. Balázs’s research promises to accomplish just that. In his words: “I would like to expand the concept of community film activities in my research. Besides filmmaking, I would like to include communities who view and interpret moving images together within some systematic framework. I will research film clubs after the political transition, particularly film clubs on minority topics. I want to find out within what kinds of communities film clubs are organized, what methods are used, and how the expansion of the internet changes this scene.” Balázs about himself: “I studied media and communications at the Faculty of Arts at ELTE, where I received an MA in 2019. I was a member of the research group “At the Edge of the City” [title of a poem by Attila József], devoted to surveying the history and memory of the notorious slum called Dzsumbuj on Illatos út. This became the basis of my BA thesis, and then I began to study participatory filmmaking and the community film initiative MyStreet. I was also a member of the Ferenc Mérei College for Advanced Studies, and I have been participating in the organization of the Roma Visual Lab for years. In addition to my university studies, I worked for the nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity until 2019, when I began to work for the politics section of Index.”
Balázs önmagáról: “Kommunikáció- és médiatudomány szakon tanultam az ELTE bölcsészkarán, 2019-ben végeztem mesterszakon. Tagja voltam „A város peremén” nevű kutatócsoportnak, amelynek tagjaival a Dzsumbuj néven elhíresült Illatos úti telep történetét és emlékezetét dolgoztuk fel. Ez alapján írtam az alapszakos szakdolgozatomat, később pedig a részvételi filmezést, és a MyStreet nevű közösségi filmes kezdeményezést kutattam. Tagja voltam a Mérei Ferenc Szakkollégiumnak, és évek óta részt veszek a Romakép Műhely szervezésében is. Az egyetem mellett korábban a Habitat for Humanity nevű lakhatási civil szerveznél dolgoztam, 2019 óta pedig az Index.hu politika rovatánál vagyok újságíró.”
One of the works I have analyzed in my research on the contemporary culture of autobiography was British contemporary artist Tracey Emin’s film Top Spot. I argued that the authorial position of Emin, who returned to her hometown and created a form of reportage on the sexual culture of teenage girls there, can be considered a critique (or even parody) of auto-ethnography, insofar as it highlights the paradoxical insider-outsider position of the auto-ethnographer. This is what I would like to keep exploring in this research, examining the authorial position of the filmmakers participating in the project based on a narrative analysis of the films and interviews with the directors. I would like to draw on several types of sources: a long tradition of concepts of authorship in literature, film, as well as current scholarship on video journalism. I will pay particular attention to authors who use the tools of participatory filmmaking to make their own cultural or ethnic communities visible. In their cases, I will take the concepts of autobiography and autoethnography as my starting points. My objective is to shape a conceptual framework that helps describe the distinctive authorial positions of participatory filmmaking and the related authorial dilemmas. Anna graduated from Eötvös Loránd University with degrees in Hungarian and Aesthetics. She received her PhD at the Graduate School of Literary Studies at the same institution with a dissertation on The Author’s Role in Interpretation, Authorial Strategies in Contemporary Hungarian Literature. She was a Hungarian lector at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College of London, in 1999-2000. She was a faculty member of the Department of Media Studies at ELTE from 2000 and joined the faculty of the Department of Sociology and Communication at the Budapest Technical University in 2020. Since her doctoral studies, the focus of her research shifted to the areas of intersection between literature and media, the relationship between digital culture and literary tradition. Most recently, she has been awarded a Bolyai Fellowship grant to explore the medial aspects of contemporary autobiographical narratives in an interdisciplinary framework integrating literary studies, media theory and the history of the public sphere. The resulting volume of studies appeared in 2020. She was the Chair of the Hungarian Society of Authors in 2015-2018.
Sári Haragonics received a BA in media production at the University of Bedfordshire in 2007 and graduated at the University of Theatre and Film Arts, Budapest with an MA in documentary film directing in 2015. Her graduation film, COMING FACE TO FACE won the ZOOM-IN competition at the Verzio International Documentary Festival in 2015. Her first feature-length documentary Her mothers (co-directed with Asia Dér) was completed in the spring of 2020 and premiered at HotDocs Festival in Canada. She has started work on her second feature film, Hello, Sári!, which is about her own family. Besides directing, Sári is an active participatory video facilitator. She has regularly run film workshops and camps in Hungary, mainly for children. Groups of underprivileged and privileged children participate in her workshops in parallel and mixed groups. She was admitted to the Doctoral Program of the University of Theatre and Film Arts in 2018. Her doctoral research project, entitled The Camera as a Catalyst of Group Cohesion and Intergroup Relationships, examines how the process of filmmaking and the use of the camera influence people’s images of one another and how they can diminish or alter intergroup stereotypes and intragroup conflicts. In Sári’s words: Although participatory video has been a widely known method in many parts of the world since the 1960s, the participatory methods used in Hungary have been predominantly non-filmic. My research in the framework of the Minor Media Research Group aims to survey contemporary practices of participatory video in Hungary and to complement available analyses with my own examples in order to analyze and develop a methodology usable in Hungary. This is the second year we have organized “Catalyst” workshops with the Green Spider Media Workshop. Teenagers from Budapest and Hernádszentandrás, or Budapest and Szomolya meet and connect in these workshops through filmmaking. Embedding my research in the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund participatory film research project is an opportunity to put the specifics of the Hungarian situation in an international context and to use participatory methods as a tool of diminishing social differences.” In September 2019, Sári participated in a course of InsightShare, where participants could learn the technique of PV MSC technique of impact analysis. This technique combines the participatory video (PV) and the most significant change (MSC) methods. Participants share what has been the most significant change for them in the course of group work, and the most significant change emerges out of these many important changes (during a participatory selection process). The PVMSC assessment concludes with participants filming the most significant change selected (using interviews, roleplay, drawings, and photos), which thereby becomes shareable with others. This method has benefits for both researchers and participants: it can show obstacles to the successful operation of the program, it fosters constructive dialogue and mutual understanding, and the participants collectively interpret why and how change did or did not happen.
Literary historian, critic, and cultural studies researcher. She graduated from the Faculty of Arts at ELTE with degrees in Hungarian Language and Literature, Comparative Literature, and Communication and received her PhD in the Doctoral Program in Literature at ELTE in 2015. She has been an Assistant Professor at the Department of Media and Communications at ELTE since September 2015. She is an editor of the contemporary art journal Balkon and of Médiakutató. Vera’s primary area of research is the relationship between identity theories and popular culture, including research on participatoriness and interactivity. Her previous research related to participation and collaboration was in the context of museum research (Open Museum), and the approach acquired there has carried over to her current interests. American ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt analyses the characteristic dances and games of black girls, and more recently the social media occurrences of these, as well as the role of everyday practices such as twerking in identity formation. There are patterns in the participatory culture, and primarily in the web 2.0 culture, of vulnerable groups in Hungary too, that functions as a strategy of identification. The codes of the operation of pop culture and of the politics of representations are deployed simultaneously in these practices, and this is something that deserves further analysis.
It was the writing of the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund grant proposal that began to illuminate the broad range of topics potentially linked to participatory film. The latter can be interpreted as minor media, an alternative “minor” media that attempts to resist dominant media practices (national public broadcast, commercial, national or global), or simply exits outside them or on their margins and produces its content in the framework of democratic communal collaboration. This includes, for instance, amateur film communities (where the word amateur is not meant as a term designating quality), media camps, media programs promoting agency and skills, film collectives, thematic film clubs and minority film festivals, or the work of the great precursors of contemporary participatory filmmaking, such as Lionel Rogosin and Sol Worth (Americans), Jean Rouch (French) and Anna Raffay (Hungarian). The perspective and cultural heritage of vulnerable groups is often excluded from the dominant culture, and the experts just mentioned attempted to learn about them. Anna Raffay, for instance, actively promoted the strengthening of the Hungarian amateur film movement from the 1960s onwards in order to record a vanishing ethnographic culture on film. Sol Worth organized a full summer workshop for Navajos in 1966 out of anthropological interest. One of the things that came to light in this process was that the fineness of the patterning of a film (its repetitions, sequences and structure) can at times be related to the fact that someone has practice in some other, possibly ethnically specific, branch of art. Worth claims that certain Navajo women (for instance, one of his students, Susie Benally) are able to learn certain subtle film techniques, such as editing skills, with a nearly undetectable speed, because memorizing the complex patterns of a carpet without a drawn pattern is an everyday need for them. Susie had the recorded footage in her mind and her eyes, and she could juxtapose pieces of the film with what seemed like a preternatural speed to the trainers. These kinds of knowledge invisible to the dominant group can become collective knowledge in the course of film projects – something that also proves the respectable, democratic potential of minor media and expresses the right of research and (self-)knowledge through film. András Müllner (1968) is Associate Professor at the Department of Media and Communication at Eötvös Loránd University and the director of the Research Centre for Minor Media/Culture working at the department. He holds a PhD in Literature, and his dissertation was about the poetry of Miklós Erdély (2001). He researches Hungarian neoavantgarde art, visual culture, and the representation of minorities, the latter being linked to the Roma Visual Lab, a program of documentary film analysis, which he organizes with university students. He has recently edited several volumes of studies, such as the special issue of online journal Apertúra on the visual memory of Tiszaeszlár, the Marshall McLuhan special issue of Replika, and the special issue of Enigma on Allegory. In 2016, he published a short monograph entitled Tükör a sötétséghez (Mirror to Darkness) on Collapse med., a volume by Miklós Erdély. Since December 2019, he has been the principal researcher in a 4-year Hungarian Scientific Research Fund grant within the Research Centre for Minor Media/Culture, where he is director. The title of the research project is “The history and current practices of Hungarian participatory film culture, with an emphasis on the self-representation of vulnerable minority groups.”
How can the tools of art be used for doing participatory research? Actually, how should we do research together (especially in a lockdown)? Due to the way academia has come to function over the past few centuries, not even the sharing of knowledge can be taken for granted, let alone its collective production. In spring 2020 Márton Oblath taught a course at the Department of Media Studies at ELTE, as an invited lecturer of Research Centre for Minor Media/Culture. The twenty student participants were justified in thinking that they were not only acquiring knowledge, but also created knowledge in the form of still and moving images and texts about what art-based participatory research was. Within the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund grant of Minor Media, Marci’s topic is the connection between participatory film and drama and the participatory research process. To this end, he will write a study on how research ambition emerges in artists in contemporary participatory projects, and how participatory action research projects attempt to integrate artistic practice into the process of learning. He will also address how and why these experimental projects go wrong or still work as valid projects of cognition. Márton Oblath is a sociologist, who works on participatory theater and on the methodology of participatory action research. He considers sajatszinhaz.org an important initiative he launched with Roma communities and drama teachers as collaborators, creating participatory theater productions (New Spectator, Missing Desk Mate, The Lost, Long Live Regina!, Debt Trap), always bearing in mind that a production by amateurs successfully invites the audience to think together. Currently he is interested in the methodology of how social scientists and filmmakers can use conventional of participatory art together with the objective of laypeople and experts jointly producing legitimate knowledge about society through invented games He regularly teaches Sociology and Special Education students at ELTE, and he also teaches act-based research to drama instructors at the University of Art and Film Arts. He teaches a two-semester course on art-based participatory action research at the Department of Media and Communications at ELTE within the framework of the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund research project.
Kati’s main research areas are image-text relations in visual culture, particularly the historical and theoretical study of comics, trauma and memory studies, and the transformation of reading in the digital era. Within participatory culture she is interested in issues of appropriation and empowerment, that is how the various forms of collaboration, support and use create relationships of power and ethical relationships between institutions and supporters and members of vulnerable groups and other non-professional creators. She would like to use an international comparative framework to research the theoretical and practical questions raised by the critique of appropriation, the value of cultural autonomy, and the control of context, content and meaning. Katalin Orbán is a literary historian, cultural studies researcher, and Associate Professor (dr. habil.) at the Department of Media and Communication and a researcher at the Centre for Digital Humanities at ELTE. She has degrees in English and Scandinavian Studies from ELTE and received her PhD at Rutgers University (USA) in 1997. Her broad international teaching and research experience includes Harvard University, the honors program of the National University of Singapore and CEU, before she returned to ELTE in 2008. She has been active in several other areas, for instance, as a translator of scholarship, literature and texts about art.
Gábor on his own research topics: “1. Control Studio Film Association has been active in organizing film courses, camps, and film clubs for 15 years. I would like to collect and systematically organize the methodological experience accrued over this time, particularly the pedagogical methods that proved effective and how these evolved over the years. 2. The past decades have seen the emergence of a distinct language of the online moving image, one extremely diverse and rich, yet still distinct, thanks to its numerous common elements. In its early phase of development this language evolved primarily in a milieu of the free and democratic enrichment of creative intentions, in response to natural demands. As years passed, this freedom has been affected by several constraining factors. Unfortunately, like many other areas, this one too has fallen victim to a parasitical consumer culture proclaiming the primacy of market consideration and creating financial profit. Even so a lot has been salvaged from the naïve era of Web 2.0 despite this changed milieu. The contrast is especially sharp between concerns of the market and self-realization, when one examines young people’s moving image participation on various online platforms. The objective of my research is to describe the forms and characteristics of self-representation, and to survey how the form of participatory film contributes to the formation and development of identity in the shadow of market considerations. 3. Ixilon Studio, established by animation director Varga Csaba, operated in the 1970s and 1980s in Pécs. I also plan to survey the history and operations of the studio and creating a database of the films produced in its framework.” Gábor about himself: I was born in Pécs in 1979. I have been fascinated by images and moving images since I was a child. My father originally planned to be a visual artist and then trained as a goldsmith. My mother searched for the possibilities of a nicer and better world as a grade school teacher. I studied at the Faculty of Arts in Pécs, earning degrees in aesthetics, film theory and film history. I am thankful to Vince Zalán for an affectionate understanding of film history and to László Tarnay for the broadening of my theoretical horizons. I am a member of Control Studio Film Association and the of Hungarian Documentary Association. I have been documenting art and cultural events in photos and film and making documentary films and experimental moving images since 2004. In addition, I teach filmmaking and film history to children and adult students. I have organized the film camp AllDayPics (Képköznapok) for 15 years, and I have operated a web tv channel with primary school pupils since 2018. I have lived in Dunaszekcső, a small settlement in southern Hungary, with my family for more than 10 years now.
We planned participatory film actions for the second phase of the four-year Hungarian Scientific Research Fund research project, under the direction of filmmakers who have a great deal of relevant experience. The pandemic has brought lots of changes in our lives; for instance, we began to brainstorm about a participatory film (in this case online) action far earlier than planned. The Participatory Film Working Group was formed, and some films are in progress. All we can say at this point is that Season 1 is entitled The Journey of the Mask. The first half of the season, the title of which recalls a mystical thriller, was made by young people in Tomor, whom we reached through Laci Siroki. The young people of Tomor sent the film to the young people in Dunaszekcső as a kind of challenge, and after producing their part, they passed the challenge on to the young filmmakers of the Hűvösvölgy Children’s Home. Laci Siroki works as a project manager in Tomor and in the larger Cserehát region. He has been organizing cultural activities in the region and writing grants as a staff member of Autonomy Foundation, then Polgár Foundation. It should be mentioned as part of his wide-ranging activities that he is also the representative of Rom Som and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, a media professional, who organizes film camps for young people in the region and makes music in the Dorco Band, which he founded. Our initial contact was in the context of a talent development grant in 2016, and we have asked him to join Minor Media.
Online content created in response to Covid-19 functions as a type of communicational self-healing, and contrary to the opinion of the Hungarian Surgeon General, humor plays an important part in healing. This is what Melinda Vajda, a member of the Minor Media research group, says about her research topic: “In my research I would like to survey the online media content about Covid-19 shared by young and old Roma on Facebook and YouTube. These videos, which began to spread in March, approach the virus in different ways. There are humorous challenges, videos sharing information, raising awareness, and some focusing on faith. It is extremely interesting to observe how Roma communities are taking shape in the online sphere, how certain boundaries are created or erased between users of different genders and ages. Additionally, the roles of space, time, and language need to be considered, since online relationships take on their distinctive meaning in this system of co-ordinates. Videos are often bilingual (Hungarian and Romany), for example. I would like to address language use and switching in my research as well.” Melinda about herself: “My name is Mrs. Melinda Ferkovics Vajda and I currently work for the Roma Education Fund, where I help young people find employment opportunities. Additionally, I teach Romany language at CEU, where I got an MA in Sociology and Social Anthropology in 2019. I wrote my thesis on the Roma returning from Canada and their concept of home, and this is the research I plan to continue. Besides migration research, I have also participated in linguistic (Romany/Gypsy) and media anthropological research projects.”
The precursor to the Research Centre for Minor Media/Culture was the Roma Visual Lab, a special thematic community film club launched in 2011. The audience, which is permanent in the sense of being a group of university students, but also changing year by year, can see documentaries predominantly about Hungarian Roma communities and figures. There are possibly one or two such thematically similar film clubs in the country. Panel discussions following ninety screenings at the Roma Visual Lab have been recorded over the past ten years. Although these recordings are accessible to the public on the Roma Visual Lab YouTube channel, the function of keyword search, which is crucial for research and searching, is still missing. This will be available soon on the revamped Roma Visual Lab website thanks to Beáta Varga, who has carried out the huge work of adding keywords to the videos within the framework of the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund research project. Beáta in her own words: “I am Beáta Varga, a first-year MA student at the Department of Media and Communication at ELTE. I have a BA in Sociology from Károli University. I chose this major as a high school senior, because I was interested in various social phenomena and problems. I applied to the MA program in Media Studies at ELTE, because I though this is how I could best develop what I had learned in Sociology. During my sociology studies I participated in several research projects, including one on intergenerational relationships, an eight-day village research camp in Transylvania, where we examined the everyday life and religiousness of people living in and around Székelyudvarhely. My BA thesis was about Hungarian attitudes to gender relations, and I plan to write my MA thesis about the politicization of Hungarian journalism on the environment.”
This is Kriszti’s summary of her research: Within the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund research project “The history and current practices of Hungarian participatory film culture, with an emphasis on the self-representation of vulnerable minority groups,” and in the context of my own doctoral research, I will examine museum pedagogical programs where participatory film appears as a medium and as a museum pedagogical method in museums, particulararly minority institutions. My question is how participatory filmmaking can dissolve the observer/observed traditions of representation and how it can be integrated into museum pedagogical programs.
The contemporary culture of participatory film is extremely wide-ranging. It is used as a method in action research projects, where researchers with different backgrounds (those affected by the researched issue and professional researchers) create a film together in order to articulate the given problem creatively and communicate it to decision-makers. For example, how does climate change influence children’s access to education in certain areas of Nepal? (Frequent flooding makes them unable to get to school.) Zsófi Varga is doing her internship at the Research Centre for Minor Media/Culture, compiling academic scholarship on participatory film. She has chosen a specific research topic as well: the projects in which women in vulnerable communities learn to make films. This is not always simple, because men reach for the camera more quickly. Trainer Tamara Push writes about the pocket rule adopted in Nepal workshops, which improved this significantly. The trainer told participants to put their hands in their pockets. Only men had pockets (they had things they could keep in their pockets), so they suffered a temporary disadvantage of having their hands in their pockets, which women could use for getting access to the camera. Zsófi in her own words: “I am Zsófia Varga, an MA student at the Department of Media and Communications at ELTE. I graduated from Gáspár Károli University of the Reformed Church with BAs in Liberal Arts and Theater Studies, which I chose out of an interest in the humanities and theater studies. I have worked predominantly as an organizer, communication and project assistant at companies, organizations and agencies so far. These jobs gave me organization skills and strengthened my professional commitment. Fortunately, I have also had an opportunity to observe a filmmaking process closely, when I co-ordinated pre-production work as a casting assistant for Sunset (László Nemes) and On the Quiet (Zoltán Nagy). I have volunteered as a co-ordinator at Service Civil International (Útilapu Hálózat) since 2016. Thanks to this, I could participate in several international projects dealing with theater and social issues.”