Interview with Bernadett Tuza-Ritter

Sophie Charlotte Rieger
Sophie Charlotte Rieger

A Woman Captured by Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, an intense film on modern day slavery

Hungarian director and editor Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, is on a festival run with her first feature-length documentary A Woman Captured—an intense film on modern day slavery. It shows the life of Marish, a maid—or rather slave, in a Hungarian family who suffered from imprisonment, emotional and physical abuse.

Just a few days after having won the prize for best director at GoEast Filmfestival in Wiesbaden, Tuza-Ritter presented her film at the International Women's Film festival Dortmund | Köln. Sophie Charlotte Rieger met her for an interview.


How did you meet Marish?

I had to make a five-minute documentary to enter Hungarian Film University, where I had already studied editing. I wanted to study directing as well. I had the idea to show only one face in my film. A few years earlier, I met Eta's family and noticed that they had servants, among them Marish. I knew that Marish was only around 50, though she looked so much older. At the time, I was not aware of her situation. So I asked Eta's family if I could feature Marish in my film and work with her for a few days.

Did you think  she was a regular employee?

Yes. I mean there are some people who have maids. It's a job. As Marish lived in Eta's house—I had to respect various rules. Eta told me, I was not allowed to call Marish directly, nor allowed to shoot without Eta's presence or knowledge.

Did that not strike you as odd? 

It was strange, but we all know that there are strange and crazy people out there. And she was really friendly to me. I promised not so show her face because she didn't want to participate. I just sensed she was overly proud of having servants—but that was all. It was only during the days of shooting, that Marish told me she was not paid.

About the aesthetic concept: You only wanted to show one face but in the end you open up. 

I know that the format I chose, feels like torture for the audience. In the first hour, it's really long and slow. At the end, I wanted to open the frame so to make the audience feel the freedom that Marish felt.

Why did you choose to work with music?

Although I like raw storytelling, I wanted to make the film more audience friendly. I told the composer, the music should never feel more important than Marish's emotions. He should never push the audience to pay real attention to the music. They should always observe Marish in the first place. And I think the music works exactly that way. I'm really happy with it.

Do you remember a specific moment during the shooting when you decided it was not a short film project anymore? 

It was kind of a gradual process. You start to be more and morebecoming increasingly interested into in the protagonist and into theand topic—, havingaccessing more and more material., You try to figure it out. I can remember, every time I went there, I had something in my headhad a new idea of what I wanted to get from shooting. And once that was done, I wanted to go back there again.At least one shot, why I wanted to go back again.

Altogether, how much time did you spend shooting? 

I spent one and a half years shooting in the house. And After Marish' escape, another year of filming took place. We are still in daily contact. We are also going to start a crowdfunding campaign for Marish. She rents a flat which is difficult to pay. Then we will raise more money to help organisations fight modern slavery.

Are you and Marish friends?

Yeah, kind of. What happened between us, is for a whole life. You can't forget it. And she really needs me. She says, I'm her best friend.

In the film Marish says „You are the only person I can trust“. Can you talk about the process that you went through from just being a filmmaker to being involved in her story?

Of course I started as a filmmaker and tried to keep my distance, but it was so obvious after a while that I couldn't do that. Above all, we are human beings. There wasn't any logic not to intervene considering what she was going through. I would have felt guilty if I hadn't helped. I knew when to draw the line though: I could not take her home, nor give her money.

Did Marish ever draw a line and asked you not to film something?

I felt sensitive to her needs and privacy. For example, there is a scene when she cries—I only shot her hands. I put the camera on the table, because I felt that it wasn't right to observe someone being sad.

The way you are filming Marish gives her dignity. 

She is a human being, she can do what she wants. I feel respect for her and I don't want to enter her privacy. I never asked her questions until she started talking to me.

Originally planned as a student project to apply for university, did you have a team or any kind of funding?

No. I got my producers, the Hungarian producers, only after the shooting. And the German co-producers one year later.

Where has the movie been screened? 

We had the premier at IDFA in Amsterdam and then at Sundance, in the US. Since then we are running the film in various festivals in Europe.

Will the movie come to theaters?

It will come to theatres in Germany in autumn, because we have German co-producers. Some other countries will release the film. We will also be part of a huge campaign called „White slavery“ which will start at the end of this year.

What's next for you?

I still have to make a 50 minutes cut for that campaign. Which will be a pain because the movie is currently 90 minutes. But the reason I didn't start a new project, is that I need to spend at least two days with a potential protagonist before I can make the decision to shoot with him or her. Because for me the most important thing is, even in other films, the relationship with my protagonist. I cannot enter anyone's life unless I feel comfortable. And unless they feel comfortable.