Modern society we don’t ask the question of what it would be like if we didn’t have electricity. Hot water from the tap. Internet. Thoughts like these cross our minds in two situations: when there’s a power blackout or when a pipe bursts.
In the everyday life of the fast-paced metropolis, when we are happy to catch the metro and not wait three minutes for the next one, we simply do not think that there are people who do not live like that, even though we are in the 21st century.
But we don’t have to go so far to slip back into 19th century Hungary, where the stories are still told by the wranglers and the herds, and where they preserve a piece of the past that it would be good to save.
East of Budapest, after a four-and-a-half-hour train journey and a 45-minute walk, the Máta Puszta, one of a barren of the Hortobágy, opens up before our eyes. This is the location of the feature-length documentary film by Róbert V. Bodnár, “Hajszra, and Cselőre” or in English “Gee, Haw”.
First, let’s explain the title. Since the four-wheeled cart has no gas or brakes, the colt drivers control the animals with words. To the left – Hajszra, to the right – Cselőre.
The documentary would pass for a modern anthropological masterpiece. We get a close-up view of the days and nights, of the herdsmen, and of life. Our lead characters are inhabitants of Hortobágy from their childhood, who believe that those who have been taken in by the puszta are not allowed to leave. These intimate, frank interviews give us a peek into the lives of our heroes, a part of their lives invisible to others.
“During the trust established and the time that spend in the field, topics such as time, the relativity of the flow of life, the love of work, dedication, fear of passing, and the relationship of men who live hard lives with their wives were discussed.”
The interviews speak frankly about the hardships of life in the barren and the testing tasks of life, from the scorching sun to the hard rain, and the dedication it takes to become, a herdsman. The documentary brings beautiful landscapes to life. We see a side of Hortobágy that we don’t see from typical tourist sites.
The drone footage makes the film’s visual world special as if we were looking at the plain from a bird’s eye view, and the still and moving images, the extreme long shots, extreme close-ups, and the point of view shot all show the plain as a moving and picturesque landscape. One more thing that we would like to mention is the soundtrack by Róbert Hrutka.
It has a typical Hungarian folk song feeling, yet it has a modern twist to it, when the music is cut in at the right moment, surely gives you goosebumps. The theme song is sung by Kátya Tompos and one of the main characters, Ádám Bordás. The harmony between the two of them beautifully underpins the landscape images and the words of the interviewees.
The film will have its Budapest premiere at the Pushkin Cinema on July 6th, 2021 at 20:00, and the national premiere will take place on July 8th, 2021. “Hajszra and Cselőre” will be self-distributed in art cinemas, Cinema City cinemas, and other cinemas. The filmmakers are also organizing another screening in the region of the filming location, so there will be a premiere in Debrecen, at the Apollo cinema, also on the 8th.
The film will be available with English, German, and Chinese subtitles, and after its Hungarian premiere, Stardust Films will launch it abroad.