“The days of films propagating the lie of untouched nature are over” – Once Upon a Time in a Wild Water Country (Volt egyszer egy vadvízország) by Balázs Szendőfi premiered at MOME

Date: 2023.06.14
Ichthyologist, nature film maker, jazz bassists turned composer – looking at Balázs Szendőfi’s unusual background, it comes as no surprise that his latest film Once Upon a Time in a Wild Water Country (Volt egyszer egy vadvízország) is an intriguing documentary. The screening took place on 30 May at MOME’s cinema room, followed by a discussion between the director and the university’s deputy rector Dániel Barcza.

To leave nature alone, or to interfere and optimise it for our own convenience – that is one of the main questions posed by Balázs Szendőfi’s Once Upon a Time in a Wild Water Country (Volt egyszer egy vadvízország), of which he was not only director, but in part cinematographer, as well as composer, producer, and editor. The starting point of the 87-minute-long film presenting the wildlife of the Kőrös rivers is the fact that since István Széchenyi initiated river regulations, the rivers have shrunk 546 kilometres in length, suggesting that “unspoiled nature” has long been nothing but a myth. Yet, Balázs Szendőfi’s film, shot over a period of 22 months, shows it in the most naturalistic way possible – the native noises of the camera make up over half of the sounds in the film, and he shot some of the scenes submerged up to the neck in river water. At the same time, the musical score, also created by the director himself, is a central component of the film. Music was also the guiding principle for editing (just like for David Lynch). 

The cinematographically intriguing film raises awareness of current and important environmental issues such as mistaken water management decisions (using river water for irrigation) or short-term thinking in agriculture.  

During the discussion following the screening, Balázs Szendőfi said in reply to Dániel Barcza’s question that he believes ecological decision-making processes need radical change. Another question with relevance for students asked by the deputy rector was how difficult it was to switch between the different professions for the director, who believes that career journeys can evolve organically. According to Dániel Barcza, “Hungarian public education plays a central role in educating students to protect nature, and it is also a priority for MOME to teach its students to think in complex systems and to take ownership.” 

Once Upon a Time in a Wild Water Country (Volt egyszer egy vadvízország) will be available on YouTube from June. 

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