16 Oct 2017

Weinsteinian skeletons in Hungarian closets

The Hollywood scandal has set off a domino effect in Hungary. The local film industry can hardly be compared to that of Los Angeles but the silence that protects powerful figures apparently can.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Weinsteinian skeletons in Hungarian closets - NewsMavens
Harvey Weinstein. David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Why this story matters:

The Harvey Weinstein 'situation' has caused a domino effect across the world. In the last two weeks, the American film mogul has been accused of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape oficially in 34 cases, but unofficially in many, many more. Women in America and in Europe have felt empowered by the courage of other victims to tell their own stories on social media tagged MeToo  stories that never should have happened.

The Hollywood scandal has set off a domino effect in Hungary.

The local film industry can hardly be compared to that of Los Angeles but the silence that protects powerful figures apparently can.

There have always been rumors about the casting couch but very few actors have felt they could come out and share their experiences without having to say goodbye to their careers.

One of the few was Erzsi Sandor, who turned down an "offer" from a then-famous director at the beginning of the 1980s. She's shared her story several times over the last 20 years and she told it again after the Weinstein case came into light.

Lilla Sarosdi, another Hungarian actress, opened up for the first time. In a Facebook post, she claimed that she felt the need to share her own story from 20 years ago after the Weinstein issue popped up in Hollywood.

Sarosdi claims that her rage has not faded in the last two decades. She hopes that Hungarian "Weinsteins" will not be protected by silence anymore.

These stories started a public debate, including on social media. Many people showed their support, and more cases of verbal abuse and naked rehearsals were revealed in the comments sections. As more dominos fall, let's hope the last one to topple is rape culture itself.

Hungarian actresses speak up -- these are their stories

  • Erzsi Sandor talked to Nepszava about an incident that happened in 1983. She was a young actress at the Theatre of Kecskemet. One day, the head of the theatre asked her to bring him some food. After she entered his apartment he closed the door, put a gun on the table and took off his pants. She managed to run away. A couple of hours later she lost her role in a play. She never made any official complaints.
  • Another actress, Athina Papadimitriu shared the story of her daughter who was sexually abused by a woman during the entrance exam to the University of Theatre and Film Arts. She made a complaint after which she found out that it was not the first case that happened in the institution.
  • Lilla Sarosdi was also sexually harassed. She posted her story on Facebook, detailing how an influential director and his friend tried to persuade her to perform oral sex 20 years ago. The actress refused the "offer" and recalled how ashamed she felt. It is very alarming -- she said -- that the director still works in the film industry and teaches young actors.
  • Lilla Sarosdi’s husband, Arpad Schilling is a director. He defended his wife and shared his own experience: abuse of power is widespread among the elite. The director said that humiliating actors was common practice during auditions. Directors often claim it is needed in order to see how much pressure an actor can deal with. That is why many of the young professionals are not even aware of the fact that they are abused.

Even if the victims are aware of what happened to them, they have thus far prefered to remain silent because of the predominance of blame culture.

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