By Heather Bronge
As of 2019, for a second year in a row Temple has kept its reputation as one of the top schools producing Fulbright scholars. I had the chance to correspond with one of them who is a Temple Film and Media MFA Alumni, Kay Hannahan.
Currently working on a documentary in Budapest, Hungary, she explores the ways that citizens of today’s Hungary uniquely build their lives in uniform structures. Each unit telling a unique story despite being an exact replica among the mass.
Q: What inspired you to really get into filmmaking as a career and passion?
I didn’t consider filmmaking as a possibility until I saw Jonathan Caouette’s documentary Tarnation in 2003. The film is comprised of home movies, family photos, and answering machine recordings and was edited by Caouette using iMovie. I read somewhere that the budget was $218.00. After I saw this film, I thought that maybe I could also make a film, but it took me 8 more years to finally realize this dream.
Q: With an anthropological undergrad, that must have encourage your love for documentary filmmaking, correct?
Studying anthropology as an undergraduate was a great foundation for documentary filmmaking. It inspired me to travel the world in a more determined way that was different than being a tourist.
I didn’t actually start making films though until I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to a small village in the Rhodope mountains of Bulgaria. It is there that I first fell in love with the camera as a tool for exploring everyday life and the various ways history and politics affect it. With my small camera always in hand, I constantly filmed over my two years as an English teacher in the small mountain village of Gorno Dryanovo, collaborating with villagers to document moments big and small. I accepted every invitation to pick tobacco in the fields, jar tomatoes for the winter, and watch season after season of the most beloved Turkish soap operas. The camera became an extension of my body and an excuse to experience intimate encounters, rituals, and daily life alongside villagers who became like family.
What has been the most difficult part of filming in another country where you may not be a local or speak the language?
The most challenging part of the project has been gaining access with subjects which is such an essential part of observational filmmaking. As an American new to Hungary, getting people to allow us into their private apartment spaces to film has been challenging. We have a good group of Hungarian producers helping us with the project, so doors have been opening up and we have been meeting more and more people.
You can follow her film on instagram at The Concrete Connection and find out more about Kay Hannahan’s work at https://www.kayhannahan.com/
And check out one of Kay's films at The Atlantic.com about Life in the World’s Fastest-Shrinking Country: Bulgaria