László Csuja was the Hungarian finalist at Daazo’s Visegrád Shorts on Tour contest with his film Phosphorus. His new short film premiered in Budapest last month. Dugulás (Clogging) is the story of an ill-fated love triangle. One of the main characters, just like in the director’s previous film Phosphorus, is a mentally disabled man.

This is not the first time you’ve worked with disabled characters. Why are you so interested in them?

I have been thinking about this, too. These characters come to me intuitively first. It must be my childhood memories: my father was an activist for the National Federation of Disabled Persons’ Association in the 80s and my mother is a special education teacher. My first Santa Claus episode was related, too: I was 4 or 5 and waiting for Santa together with 40 disabled persons. This is a very strong memory I have. I got a lot from disabled persons when I was casting for my previous film, Phosphorus. I believe that when you film with them, it gives you lots of different answers: it makes you understand better what it means to be human, what it means to be yourself. You start watching yourself obsessively: your reactions, and in what way you are different. I hope that the audience gets in a similar state of mind when they watch my films. I haven’t quite figured out why I’m so intrigued by disabled persons but I think this theme is very rich. The producers of my film, Judith Csernai and Iván Márk have helped me with my work enormously and I would like to thank them for their support.

In what way is it different to work with disabled persons and with professional actors?

The relationship of director and actor is primarily a human relationship, where we must understand each other. Everybody works in a different way. As a director, one must figure out how, through what communication channel or on what wavelength one has to talk to get the message through. Often, things have to be explained to actors in a lot of detail – they need that to understand the request. But it is very important to know that Sztyopa (the leading actor in Clogging) acts in this role: in real life, he is not mentally disabled, on the contrary: he works as a leathersmith when his health allows it!

 You told me how you chose the main character in Phosphorus. You said that you had chosen the one with whose face you had dreamt after the long casting process.  Was it the same in Sztyopa’s case?

Yes. So much so, that I met Sztyopa in the three-month casting period in 2009 when I was looking for the character in Phosphorus. After that, for 2 years, I was constantly thinking about how I could work with him. We shot Clogging in 2011.

Why would one want to make shorts film in Hungary today? What can be achieved by it and when is a short film successful?

All films are made so that people would watch them – shorts are no exception. When is a short film successful? I wouldn’t know for sure, but I’m certain that there are several factors to be examined. To me as a filmmaker, the most important thing is that my audience understands the filmic language through which  I communicate.

 You studied scriptwriting and you write and direct your films. Why did you decide to do both? Would you not consider to ask somebody else to direct your script, or write it for you?

The script is not an independent piece of art, writing and developing it  however is a very difficult and trying procedure. There are genres which don’t interest me at all as a director because it is not an intellectual or professional challenge to direct them, but which are extremely challenging for the scriptwriter. A lot of television series are like this – in TV series, the scriptwriter is much more of an author than the director.  I am interested in working with a scriptwriter as a director, in fact, I am currently making a short film with a script written by someone else.

Tell us about your new film Clogging that premiered last month!  What was your personal inspiration to make it? What was the first image you had in mind?

A girl drags a wardrobe in front of the door in order to hide the disabled man she lives with from the other man she is inviting in.  This was the focal point of the story. When I was making this film, I was trying to understand why this situation intrigued me so much. Looking back now, I think my personal inspiration was always the same: I too am stressed, and I suffer and behave weirdly in various situations because there is a monster – whatever that means – behind my own wardrobe, which I cannot, don’t want to, or don’t dare face.

What are you working on at present? What are your days like?

Besides film, I work in the theatre too. We are making a monodrama with Ákos Orosz at the Maladype Theatre.  I have also been asked to direct an episode in a new sketch film about Budapest. It’ll be called In This City.  Its writer and co-director is Erika Kapronczai, and András Pires Muhi also participates in the creative development of the film. Besides these, I am working on a feature film together with Gergő V. Nagy.

text: Anita Libor