The mere existence of a film like Just the Wind is a political statement. It comes from a country whose film industry is in a rather precarious state, and whose political drift has been singled out with concern by European and American politician; and it tackles head on demanding subject matter - the equally precarious state of the Roma community in modern-day Hungary, taking its lead from a true event that took place a few years ago. Viewed this way, it's no wonder Just the Wind won the Jury Grand Prix in the 2012 Berlin festival - it's the exact sort of social-problem picture the Berlinale usually heartily defends.

     But it becomes clear from the get-go that writer/director Bence Fliegauf is not making your usual social-realist pamphlet for his fifth feature. Instead, he creates what is mostly a sensory moodpiece about a day in the life of a Gypsy family living in the Hungarian countryside, following them as they go about their daily routines under the shadow of a series of violent and apparently random murders in their community. As a caucasian Hungarian police officer says at some point, the victims are all "good gypsies" - those who struggle to accomodate a society that still mistrusts and mistreats them - and so is the family Mr. Fliegauf follows, portrayed by non-professional actors. Mother Birdy (Katalin Toldi) works two jobs to support her two school-going teenage children Anna and Río (Gyöngy Lendvai and Lajos Sárkány), while trying to save up to join the father in Canada. Even so, they are constantly seen as second-rate citizens, as the director makes clear by creating through purely cinematic tropes an ominous, disquieting atmosphere, ensuring the viewer never knows more than the characters themselves do about what's going on.

     Despite his assured handling and visual flair, extended to Zoltán Lovasi's cinematography and the evocative sound and music design (by the director with Tamás Beke), there's a sense, though, that Mr. Fliegauf never really trusts his skills enough to convey the message, and that he lays on the oppressive claustrophobia far too thickly. While the script takes great pains to equally denounce the casual, inbred racism of the Hungarians and the Roms' prickly, proud outbursts, most every other character seems to fit an archetype rather than a personality. And the decision to physically incorporate the awkward encounters Birdy and her children have with the locals, meant no doubt as part of a cycle of buildup and release, turns out to be too conventional and predictable for the film's intended loose, free-form structure - making Just the Wind one of those films that you admire from a distance for their stylistic know-how but fail to connect with emotionally. The exception is the shockingly powerful finale, whose elliptical suggestions perfectly fit most of the film that came before.

Cast: Katalin Toldi, Gyöngy Lendvai, Lajos Sárkány, György Toldi
Director, writer and art director: Bence Fliegauf
Cinematography: Zoltán Lovasi  (colour)
Music and sound design: Mr. Fliegauf, Tamás Beke
Costumes: Sosa Juristovszky
Producers: Mónika Mecs, András Muhi, Erno Mesterházy  (Inforg M&M Film, The Post Republic and Paprika Films)
Hungary/Germany/France, 2012, 98 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Medeia King 3 (Lisbon), August 26th 2013


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