Film Review: ‘Judgment in Hungary’

Consisting almost entirely of courtroom footage, this cut-and-dry account of an anti-Roma hate-crime trial upsets

With:

Laszlo Miszori, Arpass Kiss, Istvan Kiss, Zsolt Peto, Istvan Csontos, Jena Koka, Janos Lukacs, Eva Nyalka, Magdi Csorba, Csaba Csorba.

Presented such that Court TV looks like an action movie by comparison, “Judgment in Hungary” even-handedly captures a landmark case in Magyar law, as four neo-Nazis stand trial for a series of hate-crime murders (though no such designation exists, legally speaking) against a Roma family. The docu’s cut-and-dry style, which alternates between several cameras set up around a courtroom where the accused sit intimidatingly close to those testifying against them, disguises several deeper issues, most notably the fact that judge Laszlo Miszori permitted such coverage and seems to have engineered the drawn-out three-year trial to support a more spectacular film.

Bland presentation aside, helmer Eszter Hajdu stirs auds by refusing to turn away at the grisly evidence, including photos of a 5-year-old victim whose face was riddled with bullets. Although a more judicious cut might run 30 minutes shorter, pic makes powerful use of the most tumultuous testimony (as when a paramedic fails to explain why he reported the child’s cause of death as “smoke poisoning”), while unsettling smiles exchanged between defendants and authorities chillingly suggest that certain members of the court may sympathize with the racist sentiments on trial.

Film Review: 'Judgment in Hungary'

Reviewed at Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (First Appearance competition), Nov. 24, 2013. Running time: 112 MIN.

Production:

(Documentary — Hungary/Germany) A Miradouru Media presentation in co-production with Perfect Shot Films, in association with TVO, Radio Television Suisse, Ikon, RBB/Arte. Produced by Sandor Mester.

Crew:

Directed, written by Eszter Hajdu. Camera (color), Hajdu; sound, Hajdu.

With:

Laszlo Miszori, Arpass Kiss, Istvan Kiss, Zsolt Peto, Istvan Csontos, Jena Koka, Janos Lukacs, Eva Nyalka, Magdi Csorba, Csaba Csorba.

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