KAWARTHA LAKES-A new documentary explores the struggles of two Lindsay brothers who found themselves in the foster care system in Ontario, the horrific things that happened to them in one of the homes, the death of one and the other’s search for answers and understanding.
Stephen Hosier met Richard and Attila Csanyi in grade two.
The brothers had been moved from a foster home in the Toronto area to a foster home in Lindsay and attended Parkview Public School. Hosier says it was a stroke of luck that helped them form a lifelong friendship.
“The first day of grade two I was sitting at the front of the room with my best friend and the teacher came up and said hey guys one of you has to move to another seat because Richard is new and he’s hard of hearing so he has to sit close to the front,” Stephen Hosier, Producer and Director of the film told Kawartha 411 news. “Obviously, we were pretty pissed off that we couldn’t sit beside each other but my friend moved and Richard sat down beside me and from that moment on we’ve been great friends and looking back I am thankful the teacher sat us beside each other”
Over the years Richard, his brother Attila and Hosier went to each other’s birthday parties, joined Cubs and Scouts, played baseball and ran track together. By all accounts, Attila was a promising athlete. When Hosier became interested in filmmaking the trio would record their boyhood shenanigans including multiple rounds of Nicky Nicky Nine Doors.
It was at a sleepover in Grade 5 that the brothers first told Hosier they had been sexually abused in their former foster home in Toronto.
“They shared something that was pretty bad, something that had happened to them in a previous foster home but at the time I couldn’t wrap my head around it, I had never heard anything like that before and I ended up going home that night because I couldn’t sleep. I had to call my parents in the middle of the night because it was disturbing,” Hosier says “I always felt really bad about that because here Richard and Attila were telling me this probably as a cry for help in a way but my grade five mind couldn’t understand what they were describing to me.”
Hosier says around the same time the boys had also told social workers in Lindsay what had happened to them although no charges were laid and it’s unclear if the brothers ever received therapy.
Hosier went on to earn a Degree from the Film School at Ryerson now known as Toronto Metropolitan University. Attila left high school around grade ten and moved back to Toronto to live with his biological parents. Richard was missing his brother and followed a few years later. Through it all the three of them remained friends.
The abuse was never mentioned again until Hosier received a call from Richard in May 2020 telling him Attila had died of a fentanyl overdose at 28 years old. He was found alone on the roof of Jackson’s Square in Hamilton.
“My heart sank, I couldn’t believe it, it never crossed my mind that he would be found dead. We talked for a couple of hours that day and Richard said “Steve, I feel Like I lost Attila a long time ago. It all goes back to our childhood, we were sexually, physically and mentally abused in our first foster home”. It took several years for him to get the help he needed and even once he got help it wasn’t a completely stable situation.”
Thus began Richard and Hosier’s search for answers and the quest for closure. Hosier says Richard gave him more than 200 pages of documents from the Children’s Aid Society and other officials who were involved with the boys over the years. Together they used their skills first honed as kids with a video camera to document the difficult journey.
The documentary called “Attila” follows Richard as he investigates the life and death of his brother and tries to understand how the system could fail them both. For Richard, there were many unanswered questions around the events leading up to Attila’s death. There was an investigation by police but Richard felt like there was more to the story given Attila had been missing for weeks. Hosier says Richard really wanted to understand what Attila was doing in the time he was missing.
Attila had been expelled from a residential facility in Hamilton right before he went missing and that was literally the nail in the coffin.
“Richard had worked so hard to get Attila stable living conditions and it was ripped out from under him,” says Hosier. “I think Richard truly believes that the abuse they suffered in childhood had lifelong effects and could have led to Attila’s declining mental health and his death,” explains Hosier. “There are so many things going on in Richard and Attila’s story, abuse, homelessness, drug addiction and schizophrenia.”
Cameras follow Richard as he tries to decide if he will confront his abuser or move past it. He tracks down the one person who was with Attila the day he died. A man whom police didn’t interview.
A major theme of the film is retribution versus forgiveness. Does Richard find what he’s looking for?
ATTILA the documentary will make its World Premiere on Oct. 10 as part of opening night for Rendezvous with Madness – the world’s first and largest mental health arts festival.
The screening will take place at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema at 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale now on a Pay-What-You-Can system with 100% of proceeds going towards Workman Arts.
Following the screening, a panel will take place to discuss the film as well as the social issues that it covers. The panel will be moderated by Aisha Jamal and will be joined by Richard Csanyi, director Stephen Hosier, Chris Summerville, Naheed Dosani and Diana Chan McNally.
Tickets can be purchased here: https://workmanarts.com/rwm-