In today’s world, films dealing with pressing societal issues create a mirror for audiences to reflect upon and react to the world around them. They offer viewers insights into realities they may not otherwise encounter, and in doing so, stimulate conversation, promote empathy, and even inspire action towards change.
One such advocate for this form of storytelling is Flóra Chilton, a director who began her journey behind the camera lens as a cinematographer, but has since found her true calling in directing films that address sensitive social issues. We asked Chilton about the the importance of her mission, her latest projects, and what she has in mind for the future:
BPR – Have you always wanted to be a director?
F. Chilton – I have always wanted to work in filmmaking, but I was initially interested in visual implementation, which is why I graduated with a degree in cinematography. Then I met Bálint Tóth at a film festival, who is the president of an NGO called Északi Támpont Egyesület (Northern Point Association). Their goal is to initiate dialogue on societal issues by showcasing specific stories in collaboration with other civil organizations and institutions.
He asked me if I would like to participate in the organization’s work and direct films for them. As part of our first collaboration, we made a film within a film therapy program about children living under state care. Initially, we worked with a very small crew, with several roles falling on one person, which required me to work as a director, cinematographer, and editor in these projects. It was an exciting learning process and challenge for me to have to coordinate the creation process as a director. This is when I made up my mind that I would like to direct films in the long term as well.
From the very first films, we tackled important sensitive topics affecting young people. Despite their low budget, the films touched the viewers and gained recognition at various film festivals. As a result of the success, more and more people joined our team, and our technical and financial capabilities also expanded year by year.
BPR – How many films did you direct since then?
F. Chilton – Our first short film was ‘Crossroads’, which provided an inside look into the operations of child prostitution and sex trafficking. Following this, at the request of the ‘Itt és Most’ Foundation, we made an animated film, in collaboration with high school students, titled ‘I Still Remember’, which portrays the tragic events of World War II on the streets of 21st-century Budapest.
Then, in 2021, at the request of the Vertebra Foundation, we made the documentary ‘My Back Story’, which presents the story of a 15-year-old girl’s spinal surgery. Finally, I was able to concurrently produce two short films – ‘Forget Me Not’ about dementia, and ‘Against the Wind’, about how children living in foster homes yearn for their homes and families.
BPR – How come that you mainly work with children on these projects?
F. Chilton – At the association, youth-related topics are very important, although they are not our exclusive focus. Beyond the fact that young people can be educated in the most effective way, this is the area where we have the most civil connections.
As soon as we embark on a new project, we have extensive conversations with those affected and with experts, starting from the writing of the script. As a filmmaker, I believe I have a responsibility in shaping how people perceive the world around them. Therefore, an authentic representation of reality is more important to me than any form of artistic self-realization.
BPR – Can you tell us a bit about the filming of Against the Wind? What was your main goal with the twins’ story?
F. Chilton – The situation of children living in institutions is far more vulnerable than that of middle-class children, and we wanted to make this visible to the audience. If we can show the audience the problems these children have to deal with, it can also strengthen their empathy towards them. This film is about two twin sisters, whose mother doesn’t visit them on their birthday, so they decide to set out in the middle of the night to visit their mother. We wanted to make a film about this selfless child love, about motherly care, and about how these children have to grow up so suddenly, even if they don’t want to.
The two protagonists of the film are Niki and Noémi, and although this was their first film, I think their acting was fantastic, they totally immersed themselves in the situations. I am very, very happy, that I was be able to make this film with them. On the other hand, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the crew, who used all their skill to make this production possible. The financial backing needed to make the film was provided by the National Film Institute and Film Office of Hungary, among many other companies and individuals, and since 2022, the ORIGO Studios Budapest has also been an important professional partner of ours.
BPR – Are you entering these films to film festivals?
F. Chilton – Yes, we submit all of our films. Against the Wind was recently at the Friss Hús Budapest International Short Film Festival.
Since we aim to achieve social change with our work, it’s important that as many people as possible get to see these films. Therefore, beyond participating in festivals, numerous domestic and international organizations use our films as educational materials. For example, with ‘Crossroads,’ civil organizations regularly organize screenings and related preventive discussions in Hungarian children’s homes and educational institutions.
BPR – What are your plans for the future? Do you aim to direct a feature film, while working on your NGO projects as well?
F. Chilton – In the meantime, I became the artistic director of the organization. We frequently work together now, and we always have plans for what we want to do next. Currently, we have several projects in the pipeline. At the moment, I feel most at home with directing documentaries, but I also enjoy making fictional short films, and perhaps one day, I will dive into the preparation of a feature film.