“I’m not sure there was a moment I realised my film was uncovering modern slavery,” says filmmaker Bernadett Tuza-Ritter.
Her documentary about domestic slavery, “A Woman Captured”, tells the story of Marish, a 52 year old Hungarian woman who is a factory worker by day and a domestic worker by night. Tuza-Ritter asked if she could film her life for a few days to make a five minute film.
Yet she says those few days turned into 18 months as she began to realize the dark reality she was uncovering.
Thomson Reuters Foundation explains:
The documentary closely follows the life of Marish, a single mother who has been trapped for more than a decade as an unpaid domestic worker in Hungary by an abusive employer called Eta.
One of millions of women worldwide enslaved in domestic servitude – through physical or psychological coercion – Marish sleeps on a sofa, only eats leftovers, and is forced to take out loans for her boss and hand over her wages from the factory.
In the film, Marish yearns to be reunited with her teenage daughter who had been driven from the house by Eta years before.
“Happiness is not for me,” she tells Tuza-Ritter on camera, which remains almost entirely fixed on Marish during the film.
Eta – who has two other maids employed in similar conditions – allows the filmmaker into her home in exchange for payment and in the belief that she has nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
Eta even claims “It’s not like she’s under control.” While her face never appears in the film, she says off camera that she gives Marish cigarettes, food, and a roof over her head.
Yet viewers also hear Eta yell at Marish “Don’t make my coffee too sweet!” When Marish quietly replies, “I don’t,” Eta screams back “Shut your face!”
Through her bond with Tuza-Ritter, Marish grows in confidence and finally plans to escape at night to reunite with the daughter.
“I felt responsible for her and I felt guilty,” recalled Tuza-Ritter. “I know documentary filmmakers talk of observational filming, but that was impossible.”