HCLU Wins Award, Declines Acceptance

A few days ago, the HCLU was notified about winning an award at the 5th Roma Life –Central European Documentary Festival from the Foundation for Democracy and Political Culture for our film, Gyöngyöspata 2011. However, we declined to accept the award.

In order to find out how the HCLU came to this decision, please read the below letter written to János Simon, Festival Director.

Foundation for Democracy and Political Culture
5th Roma Life –Central European Documentary Festival
János Simon Festival Director

Dear Director,

we are thankful for the letter sent by Zita Csurgai, Secretary of the Documentary Festival, informing our organization, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) that we have won a prize in the contest of documentaries on the Roma with our film Gyöngyöspata 2011. I hereby inform you that the HCLU does not wish to attend the awards ceremony on March 24th, and we hereby decline to accept the award.

The HCLU has previously won a number of awards in the documentary film contest held by the Foundation in 2011, and we were happy and honored to accept the awards. According to your letter and our telephone conversation, Hír TV’s program Célpont – renamed Gyöngyöspata 2012 presumably by either organizers of the festival, the jury or the applicant HírTV - broadcast on March 9th, 2012 was also among the programs awarded this year. The selection of Hír TV’s program to be among the awarded, questions the seriousness and integrity of the selection process in a way, that the HCLU has decided to act as stated above.

Aside from the fact that the above mentioned Célpont’s topic is not Gyöngyöspata, but in fact the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (the opening sentence summarizing the program ends with this: ‘HCLU in Célpont’**) and that the deadline for applications was March 1st, 2012 (Célpont was broadcast on March 9th, and to our knowledge was under production, thus only the topic of the program could have been registered), we believe that Hír TV’s program Célpont did not meet requirements of the call for entries.

According to the call for entries ‘the jury evaluates realistic depiction, capturing of everyday life, seeking for factual evidence, spontaneity and overall impact’*. The HCLU’s objection lies with realistic depiction. It is our firm belief that Célpont‘s program denying segregation at the school in Gyöngyöspata is not realistic depiction, but something entirely different. According to the HCLU’s standpoint, segregation and unequal treatment of Roma children is still in effect at the Nekcsei Demeter Elementary School in Gyöngyöspata. The fact of segregation has been found to be an existing one, and had been treated as fact by two minority ombudsman’s reports in the past year. Currently, there is a lawsuits pending before the courts against the local municipality because of the segregation. In addition, Károly Molnár Jr., Principal of the school, who denied segregation in Hír TV’s program, stated the following on October 14th, 2011, during a session at the Gyöngyöspata municipality: ‘there is segregation, these students are placed on the ground floor’.

The HCLU firmly believes that the above mentioned program was not produced in order to depict reality, but because a previous film of the HCLU called the public’s attention to Hír TV’s program – produced in reaction to an article written on segregation by a journalist of the Guardian – which misrepresents reality in a manipulative way and denies segregation at the school. The awarding of the program Célpont is a decision, which does not allow for our organization to accept the award.

We kindly ask that you relay our decision to members of the international jury.

Budapest, March 23rd, 2012.

Sincerely,

Balázs Dénes, Executive Director
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

*Inconsistency in the translation of the criteria for entries results from inconsistencies found in the Hungarian and English versions of the call for entries on the Festival’s homepage.

**Célpont (title of the Hír TV program) in Hungarian means Target. We believe this to be a significant factor in fully understanding the contents of our letter.

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