Personal Belongings

Director: Steven Bognar

Institute History


Personal Belongings is the intimate chronicle of tumultuous change in a family’s life, brought on by one man’s obsession with his nationality and his son’s need to understand the depth of his father’s feelings for his homeland and ethnic identity. Thirty years ago, as a young man, Bela Bognar took up arms against invading Soviet tanks as they rumbled through his beloved Budapest. Although he was joined in his struggle by thousands of other men and women, the revolution failed, and Bela anxiously fled Hungary, walking across the border with only what he could carry.

Now Bela finds himself a middle-class American and married, with two kids, a ranch-style home, and an increasing sense that he made the wrong decision. It is said that you can’t go home again, but Bela isn’t so sure. With the end of the Cold War, Bela decides to return to Hungary for a visit. Filmed over an eight-year period by Bela’s concerned son, Personal Belongings reveals a complex individual at home in neither his native land nor his adopted one. As the tides in Eastern Europe shift, so do those within Bela Bognar’s life. The result is an often humorous, at other times heartbreaking journey into the soul of a man who is still burdened by his psychic baggage and longs to make peace with himself.

— Lawrence Smith

Screening Details

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