‘People just see me as a migrant’ says African-born actor in Hungary “Marcelo Cake-Baly”

Marcelo Cake-Baly came to study in Hungary from wartorn Guinea-Bissau in 1976, and has been working as a tram driver in Budapest for over a decade despite being a trained economist.

Now, at the age of 58, his life has taken a new turn. He has made his acting debut in a Hungarian movie about the life of an African refugee who settles in Budapest to work as a security guard in a shopping center.

The film, “The Citizen”, shows the difficulties of integration in Hungarian society through a tormented love story. The main character, Wilson, applies for citizenship and falls in love with a history and language teacher who tries to prepare him for the tough citizenship exam.

Director Roland Vranik’s feature film will be shown in cinemas on January 26 – at a time when Hungary has barely any refugees left, after its right-wing government raised a fence on the southern border and imposed tough laws to keep out a wave of migrants.

Vranik and Hungarian writer Ivan Szabo crafted their script in 2012, aiming to show how Africans in Budapest put down roots. They started to shoot the movie in 2015, just as Hungary became a transit route for hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

“What we think does not matter for them: they just need a safe place and clean water. They just need days when nobody tries to kill them,” Vranik said.

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