ianuarie 2023
Apropierea / Túl közel / Too Close
Citește versiunea în limba română aici.

Silence. A silence you don't usually experience when the credits roll at the end of a screening. In most situations there is a frenzy, which I admit I am not a fan of. The lights come on. Two seats away from me a woman is crying her eyes out. I look around at those with whom I have shared this viewing. We are all teary-eyed. A man speaks and in his voice you can hear the emotion, but also how hard it is for him to contain it. There is a charged atmosphere in the room.

Tears, memories you wish you didn't have - your own or someone else's - outrage at a society and a community that still blames the victim, a society that still doesn't understand that a child is vulnerable and must be protected at all costs, unspoken pain for fear of being judged. But at the same time, you feel a positive energy, an inspiration and a hope for all those who find themselves in this situation.

The story we witnessed shows us that there is always a chance of healing where there is strength to fight, and support from those close to us. This is the reaction that the documentary Too Close / Túl közel (2022, 85 min) arouses. For a moment don't think that it is artificially created or manipulative. It is not. It's a well-crafted documentary created by a young but immensely empathetic director. And this cannot be faked.

Botond Püsök is a graduate of the Sapientia University of Cluj-Napoca, Department of Film, Photography and Media. In 2016, he won the award for best direction in the short film category at the Astra Film Festival with his short film Angela (2015, 33 min).

In 2022, at the same Astra Film Festival, he won the award for best documentary film in the Emerging Voices of Documentary category with his first feature film, Too Close / Túl közel.

The story in short goes like this: Andrea, a single woman with two children, is trying to build a new life after putting her abusive ex-partner in prison. Her efforts are constantly challenged by the conservative community in which she lives. Most of her fellow citizens openly support her ex-partner and his prestigious family. In their eyes, the blame, although admitted by her ex-partner, lies with Andrea and her daughter Pirkó for fabricating false accusations. The man's early release prompts Andrea to take up the fight against the community mentality and the malfunctions of the Romanian justice system. The woman's fight is to protect her children and to heal the traumas of the past.

I would say that this documentary has several layers expertly layered by the director. The first, the strongest, I think, is the one related to the story of sexual abuse in Romanian society. The kind of abuse that, unfortunately, studies show us is extremely present in the society we live in. I am not going to give you numbers. From my perspective it is the people behind it that matter. By the nature of my work I read reports on this issue and it frightens me every time. I think every person who has the strength to go through them experiences the same feeling. World Vision [worldvision.ro] is one of the organizations that draws attention to this phenomenon year after year. I urge you to read them. They are highly uncomfortable, they will make you question many situations in your life and the lives of those close to you. The need for a dialogue on this issue in Romanian society is of vital importance. What this documentary succeeds in doing is that through the story of one woman and her family it extracts the essence from all these reports and opens the door to a potential healing of society. As the filmmaker says in the Note on the documentary, "Andrea could be anyone's mother, and her daughter could be anyone's sister or friend. If we connect to them through the basic feeling of love and empathy, we can join them in the struggle for a new life."

The second layer concerns the society in which we live day by day. A society from which almost every pore oozes its unhealthiness. A society in which stories like the one in Too Close are no exception. If you feel that this state, through its authorities, betrays you when it ignores your needs, your safety or simply your right to have a decent, peaceful life, then do the exercise and think of a mother and daughter, a story that began in love and ended in abuse. Of the eternal anxiety these women will live with. You can think of how they too have been betrayed by the man they loved, by the man who was supposed to be their partner and father, but became an abuser. Betrayed then by the community in which they live, by the state that should offer them support and greater protection, by society in general. A society that still believes that "it's the woman's fault" no matter what, and the man always has excuses. A place where, in the end, you realize that your only support lies in yourself or in your close ones, friends, colleagues, if you are lucky enough to have them. But I wonder how many such women and daughters, even sons, are there in 2022's Romania, and how many of them have friends to lend them a hand to help them out of the darkness.

Look around and ask yourself when this society will be ready and able to speak out about domestic abuse. I know, it's a tough subject, difficult to manage with balance, but absolutely necessary to put on the agenda of anyone who still believes that this society can one day still be a healthy one. A society where we all, women, children, men, feel safe and know that our voice can be heard, that our voice matters. This documentary has achieved a small victory in that regard. It's a start. When silenced voices begin to creep into the public discourse, then we are talking about a society on the road to healing. We are on our way, but I wonder: how long will it take?

Finally, the third layer of this documentary, I think, induces a sense of hope. The story it tells is one of strong women, a mother and a daughter, a family. The journey of this documentary has been a long one. It was produced over several years, 2017-2022. I can't help but draw a parallel with the journey the protagonists of the documentary have taken towards their own healing and overcoming of trauma, a journey that is also long. Empowering those women who are still in abusive relationships, for various reasons - they lack the financial power, they lack the support of friends or loved ones, they lack life alternatives - should be part of a series of policies for which the state should be the main promoter. In this case, I think part of the way to overcoming the trauma was the whole process of producing the documentary. Giving voice to victims without robbing them of their dignity, even showing them as fighters, which they truly are, is not an easy process. Director Botond Püsök successfully achieves that without the slightest slip-up.

I think the biggest challenges people face in life come from within the family. Whether they are aware of it or not. The major imprint in who we are or become is placed by this first existential framework. Whether we become brave or cowardly people, whether we learn to love healthy or sickly, whether we are strong or weak, whether we stand up for our rights or whether we remain silent. All this, Pirkó has experienced in the hardest and most unfair way I think there is. But that's not what the documentary's story highlights. It's the fact that, despite all the obstacles, a mother and daughter manage to overcome the society they live in and teach us a lesson in courage.

Because the Romanian translation of the title with which the documentary circulates internationally is Prea aproape / Too Close - and when I was translating, I had in mind the negative connotation of the phrase - I couldn't help but confirm at the end of the screening that the title Apropierea / Approaching is more appropriate. I was reminded of the power that a well-made documentary can have. That of moving something in people's souls beyond the cinematic experience. And moving something in people's souls is no small thing. Besides, I admit, it took me a few days to get the strength to write these lines.

(text translated by the film team for the facebook page of the film)

Regia: Botond Püsök

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