BUDAPEST, , (Pakistan Point News - APP - 25th Jan, 2017 ) - On posters around Budapest right now is the determined face of an African-born tram driver with a doctorate, the star of a poignant new Hungarian film about immigration, integration and xenophobia. "A stranger ran up to me one day after I finished my shift and asked if I wanted to be in a movie about refugees," Marcelo Cake-Baly, a former teenage soldier from Guinea-Bissau, told AFP at a tram stop on the outskirts of Budapest.
"I said 'yes' on the spot." That stranger was Hungarian film director Roland Vranik, whose well-received "The Citizen" tells the story of an African refugee's quest to obtain Hungarian citizenship and premieres on Wednesday. Filmed just before Europe's migration crisis hit in 2015, the movie highlights the plight of non-European migrants trying to settle in the predominantly white country. Cake-Baly, 58, came to Hungary in 1976 after the army in Guinea-Bissau offered him the chance to study in neighbouring Senegal, where he won a scholarship to study in then-communist Hungary.
He only gained Hungarian citizenship in 1994, however, and says the struggles experienced by the film's lead character, Wilson, mirror his own. Wilson encounters casual racism, grapples with bureaucratic hurdles and helps a fellow refugee in trouble, all the while trying to hold down a security guard job and get by in the Magyar language, one of Europe's trickiest tongues. In the opening scene, he is told by an official to "come back in a year" after failing yet another citizenship exam, which included a grilling on the Hungarian constitution and medieval history.
Cake-Baly, who holds a doctorate in economics, lost his job in a bank in 1989 because he did not have citizenship. For years he struggled to find work, in part due to his skin colour, he suspects. "I had so much rejection in the job market I threw away my pride. I couldn't tell you where my economist diploma certificate is, at the back of a drawer probably," he said ruefully.