Groundbreaking Online Documentary Proud and Torn Goes Live

by | Sep 30, 2017 | We Proudly Support

Project Director Dr. Bettina Fabos of the University of Iowa has completed her interactive online documentary Proud and Torn: How My Family Survived Hungarian History, with HIF’s support. Proud and Torn brings a highly visual approach to digital storytelling with over 1,200 photographs, maps, graphics and looping film clips together to create a rich tapestry of visual storytelling controlled by the user.

Proud and Torn: How My Family Survived Hungarian History is an animated, digital timeline that has been four years in the making and an ambitious historical narrative adapted to the web. As an online documentary told from the first person (the daughter of a Hungarian emigré now living in the U.S.), the work is setting new standards for what is possible through historical texts in terms of visualization and the reinterpretation of history. The story is controlled by the user through simply scrolling, and with a special web coding technique, the background and foreground images move at different rates, to create a more immersive visual effect.

Beyond being visually unique, Proud and Torn is unique in terms of narrative. The story focuses on one Hungarian farming family and the members of their small rural community while connecting this family’s history to Hungary’s historical narrative. As such, this timeline tells a more intimate and personal story about the national and global events that affect everyday people outside of the capital Budapest. It also pays special attention to Hungarian women, who are largely invisible in most Hungarian historical narratives. In the end, the project expands the general perception of Hungary by placing a greater emphasis on rural and agricultural history and using fresh visual sources from amateur and underutilized archival collections.

The project offers an alternative route towards visualizing history—particularly the many non-profit digital archives generated by librarians and museum archivists that offer an unimaginable treasure of visual resources and can help us tell alternative stories far beyond the “great men of power” narrative. In telling the complicated story of Hungary (20CE‐1956) through animated drawings, etchings, and photographs, I focus on regular people (some of whom are my own relatives), amateur photographs, and ethnographic imagery.

Dr. Fabos uses photographs from her own family collection, along with photos from archives such as FORTEPAN, the National Széchényi Library, the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest, and numerous other sources.

Proud and Torn puts an unassuming personal story at the center of the project and weaves a questioning and consciously subjective voice throughout the story that is both likable and thought-provoking. Everyone’s story, as the narrator suggests, is significant; every history is also full of gaps, subjective, and ripe for interpretation. The innovative visual style and design of Proud and Torn hopes to capture the attention of its readers in a new digital format, to experience narrative non-fiction in a different way.


Proud and Torn: How My Family Survived Hungarian History can be found at:

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