Vera Gyürey is a pedagogue and film historian, who played a key role in the restoration and preservation of Hungary’s film heritage. She had difficulty gaining admittance to secondary school and, later, university because her father, who was a baker, had had his own shop before the communist takeover, and she was stigmatized as class enemy. She started her career as a high school teacher in Hungarian language and literature, and she worked at the József Attila High School for decades, beginning in the early 1960s. Despite her family history, she was a devoted communist, and she supervised the Communist Youth Movement’s faction in school and was alarmed by nonconformist behaviour. According to the recollections of János Kenedi, who as a student openly sympathized at the time with the 1956 revolution and eventually grew to be one of the most significant members of the democratic opposition, Gyürey organized a politically motivated public trial against him which led to his expulsion from the same high school.
Gyürey was a pathbreaker in introducing film studies in secondary schools. In the mid-1960s, she supported the launch of a film club in József Attila High School, and she struggled to integrate film aesthetics into the curriculum. In 1985, she was invited to work in the Hungarian Film Institute by its director, István Nemeskürty, and to launch a training for secondary school teachers in film aesthetics. Gyürey had support for her lifelong professional interest in film in her husband, director István Szabó.
Before joining the staff of the Film Institute, Gyürey had a career in pedagogy. Responding to a call by literary historian and cultural politician István Király, she started to teach pedagogical methodology for students in the Hungarian Language and Literature program at Eötvös Loránd University. She also became a consultant on this subject at the Ministry of Culture and, later, at the National Pedagogical Institute (OPI). By the late 1970s, she had emerged as one of the most dedicated supporters of innovative schoolbooks in Hungarian literature, when she had to confront orthodox communists, like the aforementioned Király. She endured keen criticism in public debates which lasted for years, and eventually she left OPI and accepted the position at the Film Institute.
At the Institute, she quickly realized that the preservation and restoration of materials was an increasingly pressing task. In the mid-1980s, film archivists worldwide faced the same problem, because celluloid films were beginning to age and erode. She saved many documentary films by donating them to the Collection of Historical Interviews at the National Széchényi Library. In 1987, József Marx became the director of the Institute, and Gyürey was made his deputy.After the regime change in 1990, Gyürey took over the Institute, which was renamed the Hungarian National Film Archive. She served as its director for two decades. During this time, she focused efforts on restoration, and documentaries, old newsreels, and films were restored, including such classics as Zoltán Fábri’s 1955 Körhinta (Merry-Go-Round). She also significantly enlarged the silent film collection.
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- Budapest, Hungary
Author(s) of this page
- Huhák, Heléna
- Scheibner, Tamás