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‘I Trust That God Will Forgive Us’: Hungarian director Judit Elek talks animal cruelty accusations

In Judit Elek's film 'Memories of a River', several sheep were burned alive in front of the camera. Brigitte Bardot, the actor and animal rights activist, cursed her because of it.

MARTA BALAGA: Hungarian director Judit Elek addressed the biggest controversy of her career at Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam. Answering Variety’s question during the launch of “The Lady from Budapest,” a new book dedicated to her legacy, Elek opened up about a scene from her film “Memories of a River,” which she still views as “essential” despite accusation of animal cruelty…

In the film, inspired by an actual anti-Semitic incident back in the 1880s, as well as a trial for “ritual murder,” several sheep were burnt alive in front of the camera. “The beginning of the film is extremely brutal, because we are talking about a pogrom. The scene [depicting] sheep in flames, burning, is a representation of several millions of Jews perishing,” she noted.

“When the day came when we had to shoot the scene of Jákob’s [a shepherd played by Zoltán Mucsi] house being set on fire, it had to be done in one take. You couldn’t film it twice. The previous day, we took the sheep from the slaughterhouse. They were bare, naked. They were waiting to be slaughtered, so they were sheared already.”

“I said to myself: ‘These sheep are destined to die. No matter what.’ That was their fate. If we film this scene, they will die. And it will be painful for them. But it was also painful for the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Second World War.” Elek admitted that Brigitte Bardot, the actor and animal rights activist, “cursed her” because of the film.

In the book, obtained by Variety, Elek makes claims that if the animals hadn’t been sheared, “nothing would have happened” as she has been doing tests with sheep hair and intended to “impregnate the sheep with a certain liquid.” The final outcome was different, however. “The sheep were roasted alive, and at the end they were roasted in a pan, and we ate them,” she states in the publication.

“There is a predecessor who also had animals killed in his film: Andrzej Wajda,” continued Elek during the conversation. The Polish director, who died in 2016, received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. He allegedly killed a horse on the set of his controversial 1965 drama “The Ashes.” “I think that both of us had to do this: we did it for a purpose. I knew him well and I know it was painful for him too. I trust that God will forgive us both”. SOURCE…


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