How Can Film Catalyze Important Policy Debates in Hungary, and Elsewhere

June 16, 2016

Green Spider media lab founder and film director Laszló Bihari and activist Vera Kovács shared their experiences of working with film and other media in Hungary during SPP's Annual Conference, the view from here: artists // public policy. Polina Georgescu, film producer, moderated the discussion that offered valuable insight on an interesting collaboration between a social movement, The City Is For All (A Város Mindenkié), and the Green Spider media lab (Zöld Pók médiaműhely) that work together to shed light on the homeless situation in Hungary. The panel also addressed the topic of how film and other visual media can be used as an advocacy tool, not just on behalf of homeless people in Hungary, but for other causes and in other parts of the world.

Bihari has extensive experience as a journalist, and has previously written about poverty and Roma communities in Hungary. Kovács is a member of The City is For All, a volunteer-based group of activists, homeless, and middle class, who confront the authorities to defend social justice and solidarity in Hungary. One of their most prominent campaigns advocates for more and fairer access to social housing. The group's main purpose is to help organize and empower homeless people, as Kovács explained, "to give them [the homeless] the tools they need so they can speak up."

Kovács explained that there is a "massive housing crisis in Hungary" today that has left an estimated 30,000 people homeless. She stressed that this was just the "tip of the iceberg," noting that there were also hundreds of thousands of families who were not living in "safe rentals." At the same time, there are as many as 450.000 apartments in Hungary that are unoccupied for various reasons. Georgescu asked Bihari and Kovács whether and how film could be used to address this situation.

Bihari said that one of his goals for the film was "to make them [homeless people] believe that they are more lovable." Kovács said that film was also a way to give those who were most affected by the situation a chance to speak for themselves. Bihari has been working with The City Is For All for over three years and brings a unique perspective on this movement to a feature-length documentary film in-the-making The City Is For All (expected 2017). Bihari and Kovács said that they hope that the film will get people to care about the situation of the homeless in Hungary and elsewhere, and also "to get involved."