Graduate Level

Hungarian short films and animations are traditionally successful at film festivals, and thanks to the new digital platforms, these formats are getting more and more popular among wider audiences as well.

text by Dániel Deák

For Some Inexplicable Reason by Gábor Reisz

For Some Inexplicable Reason by Gábor Reisz

The presence of talented makers of short film within a film culture is one of the most invaluable indicators of its present state. In order to continue offering Hungarian productions at the most important festivals, such as – It’s Not the Best Day of My Life and Kills on Wheels presently at Karlovy Vary, young filmmakers must be supported in many ways.

The Hungarian National Film Fund started its Incubator Programme in 2015 to help filmmakers launch their debut features.

Graduate film support, however, remains one of the most significant ways of helping young talent obtain experience and present themselves to the film industry. The University  of Theatre and Film Arts Budapest (SZFE), Moholy-Nagy University (MOME), and Eötvös Lórand University (ELTE) are partner institutes of Hungarian National Film Fund. Students of these schools may be able to find support for the creation of their productions, which can then be distributed at film festivals. The following is a selection of the most successful graduate films.

Provincia by György Mór Kárpáti

Provincia by György Mór Kárpáti

Let’s start with an exception. For Some Inexplicable Reason (VAN valami furcsa és megmagyarázhatatlan) was a very ambitious project by Gábor Reisz at SZFE to create a low-budget feature length film. There were a few sceptical voices around the project, but the final result convinced everybody – both audiences and the industry adored it. ‘For Some Inexplicable Reason’ had its international premiere in Karlovy Vary, and besides its festival successes, it also won the attention of Hungarian as well as German and Polish cinema audiences.. With more than 65,000  admissions, For Some… was one of the most viewed Hungarian films of the year. Not bad for a debut feature made on the budget of a decent short film.

Another SZFE film, György Mór Kárpáti’s Provincia was chosen for the Cannes International Film Festival’s Cinéfondation Selection. With its elaborate film language and unique approach, Kárpáti managed to create a simple story with artistic content. Provincia was screened at Go Short in Nijmegen, in Cairo and in Tel Aviv just to mention a few prestigious festivals during its tour. Kárpáti’s new short, Student Union has just been completed and is looking for its international premiere.

End of Puberty by Fanni Szilágyi

End of Puberty by Fanni Szilágyi

End of Puberty (A kamaszkor vége) is similar to the above mentioned films in several respects. Its director, Fanni Szilágyi, also studied at SZFE. She is able to discuss the daily life of the younger generation without affectation, relying on subtle humour to reveal tiny details, personalities, and both beauty and ugliness at the same time. End of Puberty was  selected for the official competition at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Film Festival Cottbus and won the Audience Award of the Vilnius International Film Festival.

Symphony no. 42 by Réka Bucsi

Symphony no. 42 by Réka Bucsi

The short animations produced at MOME University have been selected for the greatest film festivals around the world. Symphony no. 42 by Réka Bucsi had no lower ambitions than to address the meaning of life – in a very visual way. The film had its world premiere at the Berlinale and had more than 100 other festival appearances,including those at Sundance, Valladolid, Vienna, Melbourne and Hiroshima. Moreover, the 10-minute- long animation has also had around 150,000 viewers on Vimeo.

MOME’s most recent success is Nadja Andrasev’s The Noise of Licking which won the Cinéfondation’s 3rd Prize at Cannes and was screened in the student film competition at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival. This animation concentrates on the strange relationship between a woman, her cat, and her flowers. Their story is told with a very rich visuality which may be familiar to visitors of the Hungarian Pavilion in Cannes – the design of which was based on the film’s atmosphere.

Gangsters in Wheelchairs Set to Open the East of the West Competition

Kills on Wheels, the second feature film by Attila Till, will have its international premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. A unique blend of genres and moods, the movie is funnier and more heartfelt than you would expect from a film packed full of hitmen and killer dogs.

text and interview by Bori Bujdosó

Hungarian films have found a great introductory platform in the East of the West selection of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival over the past couple of years. In 2014 two dark comedies – both first features – premiered at the festival: Afterlife and For Some Inexplicable Reason. In 2015 Hungary was again represented by two films: the whimsically playful ‘Zero’ and Lili Horváth’s debut The Wednesday Child, a social drama about a young mother fighting to keep her son,  which won the East of the West Award. This year Hungary returns with Attila Till’s Kills on Wheels which was chosen as the opening film of the selection.

Zoltán Fenyvesi in 'Kills on Wheels'

Zoltán Fenyvesi in ‘Kills on Wheels’

The 44 year old director, who graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, has been a well-known media personality in Hungary for over ten years, hosting popular TV shows. But he seems to be able to switch from the role of TV personality to film director (and back) effortlessly. His first feature film, Panic, a comedy focusing on the hang-ups and neuroses of its various characters, was released in 2008. In 2011 he stepped out onto the international stage with Beast which premiered at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes. The 20 minute film provided a harrowing portrayal of modern day slavery and went on to a  very successful international festival tour, winning awards in Tampere and Krakow among others.

Kills on Wheels once again represents a complete shift in gears. It is a darkly funny, emotional and sometimes violent story about a disabled youngster, Zolika (Zoltán Fenyvesi), who together with his best friend (Ádám Fekete) becomes involved in the dangerous and exciting life of an ex-fireman (Szabolcs Thuróczy), who now earns his living as a hitman for hire. It was important for the director to cast disabled people for the roles of the two friends and his decision paid off as Fenyvesi and Fekete (the former new to acting, the latter a part- time theatre actor) hold their own partnering up with Thuróczy, one of the most talented and popular actors in Hungary.

Szabolcs Thuróczy and the director Attila Till

Szabolcs Thuróczy and the director Attila Till

While the film is an original blend of the buddy comedy and the gangster movie, it also has a strong emotional hook about a boy in search of a father figure and a grown man trying to rebuild his life after having lost everything. Till also plays with reality versus fantasy as the events of the film unfold in the form of a comic strip created by Zolika and his friend. While some of the humorous exchanges between the various worn-down hitmen in the film might invoke Guy Ritchie, the director credits the not-so-evident influence of  Pedro Almodóvar who also weaves absurdist tales out of the everyday.

the Hungarian poster of 'Kills on Wheels'

the Hungarian poster of ‘Kills on Wheels’

As the two members of the cast with physical impairments, did you and Ádám double as experts to make the film more authentic?

There wasn’t much need for that as the script was already well- researched and pretty accurate as far as the physical aspects go, but we sneaked some small stuff in from our real lives. For example Ádám does have to have a short drinking straw when he drinks shots. Szabolcs sometimes asked me if he placed his legs right or if it was okay to move from the wheelchair to the bed in a certain way, but that was all. When I watched the movie I paid special attention to whether he seemed authentic and I have to say that if I didn’t know that he could walk, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell that he is not really disabled.

The movie parallels your real life in some aspects, most importantly that both you and your character grew up without a father. Is this a total coincidence or was this added to the script after you were cast in the role?

It’s a coincidence, it was already in the script when I went to audition for the role. But I have to say that this is not an uncommon scenario as many families just don’t survive the fact that the child is born with a disability and one of the parents leaves. However, in my case it was a bit different as my parents’ marriage was already on the rocks before I was born. When my mum became pregnant they decided to give their relationship another go but it just didn’t work out for them. My disability played a part in my father leaving but it wasn’t the only factor. It might sound strange but 23 years ago the attitude of people in Hungary towards disabilities was quite different. I’m no expert but my impression is that the bond between parent and child is stronger now in most cases. When I go to races with the Suhanj! Foundation for disabled people I see many parents who bring their child, not so that their disabled kid can spend time with other disabled kids, but to be part of a communal experience with kids and parents together. That’s a huge difference.

You haven’t really acted before taking on this role. Was there a moment of panic when you realized what you got yourself into?

Yes, in the very beginning when Szabolcs slaps me twice. The first surprise was when Attila told me that we were going to do that on camera for real and the second when I realized that Szabolcs was not going to hit me two times but about a hundred and two times during the different takes. What can I say? Life is hard for an actor. There was also an emotional scene when I really give it to my mum, telling her how she messed up and that was hard for me to do, especially when Móni Balsai, who played my mum, started crying during the scene. I thought of my real mum who always stood by me and I just couldn’t go on being a jerk to her.

With actress Móni Balsai

With actress Móni Balsai

You’re about to graduate from the Budapest Metropolitan University where you study PR and Marketing. What is your diploma thesis on and what are your plans for the future?

It’s kind of funny because my thesis was supposed to focus on the representation of people with  disabilities in the media, but since ‘Kills on Wheels’ came out in Hungary, Ádám and I have been all over the media, so the topic of my thesis became too self-centred by accident. I think I will alter the original idea slightly so it’s not all about me. I realized that communication is my forte after I started my Instagram page in 2013 and it became quite popular, so I want to do something creative with people. It would also be great to get a job with a multinational company because I’d like to spend some time abroad too.

 

Do you get strange fan requests through your Instagram and because of the movie? And how about offers from girls?

People are usually nice. The weirdest so far was somebody who expected me to know exactly when and where he can watch the movie in a theatre with wheelchair access. Girls, not so much. I recently talked to a non-  disabled friend who used to date a girl in a wheelchair, and for him it was a turn-on that the girl was a kind of “damsel in distress” he could help. But the reverse doesn’t work that well: if you are a guy in a wheelchair you can’t do many chivalrous things, on the contrary you are the one who needs help in certain situations, for example entering a restaurant with stairs up front. But I really don’t mind that I don’t have a girlfriend at the moment, my life is so incredibly busy.I’m doing great on my own for now.

Is there anything you haven’t tried before but would love to?

I lead a pretty active life. I recently tried scuba-diving, but I would love to try skydiving! I saw a guy in a wheelchair doing it in Dubai, so it’s definitely possible for disabled people too.

Irregular Genres

Szabolcs Hajdu is another auteur of the legendary generation of Hungarian directors who began their careers around the millennium. His impressive talent lies in the individual freedom of storytelling, the consequent method of instructing actors, and playful experiments with genres.

words by Janka Barkóczi

It's Not the Time of My Life

It’s Not the Time of My Life

Stepping into the spotlight at the same time as György Pálfi, Ferenc Török and Kornél Mundruczó, Szabolcs Hajdu became a promising new voice of Hungarian film in the 2000s. Although the members of this group of young cinema artists are connected in many ways, all of them placed emphasis on keeping their own voice. Hajdu’s works are best known for their irregular style and deeply personal tone which depict not only the grim issues of everyday life, but also reflect the harsh and sometimes absurd realities of Eastern Europe. He is a writer and film director in one, often inspired by his own life and experiences. His repertoire includes family drama, sport, and western films executed with equal facility yet he never stays within the well-known routine of these film genres.

He graduated from the University of Theatre and Film Arts Budapest, where he had already made several award-winning shorts (Necropolis, Kicsimarapagoda) during his studies. His feature debut, Sticky Matters (Macerás ügyek, 2001), was dedicated to the surroundings in which he grew up – the people, apartment blocks, and spaces in the typical Hungarian town of Debrecen. The cinematographer of this spectacular coming-of- age movie was Mátyás Erdély (later known for Son of Saul) and audiences could also recognize the well- known director Miklós Jancsó, who made a cameo appearance in some of the scenes. Jancsó’s influence, through personal friendship and his cinematic heritage, can be detected mainly in the smooth and diverse ways of storytelling in Hajdu’s works. The best example of this extraordinary freedom in story-telling was Hajdu’s next film, Tamara (2004), which is a surreal tale of a couple with talking animals painted in vibrant colours. The 75 minute film captures the audience’s imagination and remains in mind for a long time.

Bibliotheque Pascal

Bibliotheque Pascal

Looking back on childhood memories, White Palms (Fehér tenyér) was a poignant sports  film made in 2006. Hajdu, who was himself involved in sports as a child, wrote the story about his brother who suffered under the pressure of a sadistic athletics coach during the depressing era of Communism. The movie was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight programme of the Cannes Film Festival, bringing broader international recognition to the filmmaker, as part of a big comeback for Hungarian film at the Boulevard de la Croisette. Hajdu’s next and most gloomy film, Bibliothèque Pascal (2010), sheds light on the experience of those from the lowest levels of Eastern European society finding themselves in Western European countries. The dreamlike sequences of the movie were based on the wild adventures of many sex workers exported to the West, but portrayed from a sophisticated philosophical perspective. At this point, the mesmerizing visuality, captured this time by cinematographer, András Nagy, has since become a special individual characteristic of Hajdu’s films, functioning in tight union with the scripts.

Hajdu’s portrait would not be complete if we did not mention his long time creative partner and leading actress, the Transylvanian born, Orsolya Török-Illyés. She featured in Sticky Matters,  Tamara, Bibliothèque Pascal, as well as in Mirage (Délibáb, 2014) and in an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s, The Gambler (2015). Her on-screen presence and acting style originates from the strong tradition of Romanian theatre and has a great impact on the authenticity of the stories. Hajdu, who also started off as a child actor, has built strong connections with the best artists of the contemporary Romanian acting  scene and invited such actors as Razvan Vasilescu, Oana Pellea and Dragos Bucur to work with him.

Mirage

Mirage

‘Mirage’, reviving the special genre of the so- called ‘Eastern’, an Eastern European take on the classic Western’, is a perfect example in which the actors are put in touch with each other and their own cultures.

The film tells a story of an African football player (Isaach De Bankolé) who has to flee and look for shelter in Hungary’s prairie countryside. He soon realizes that his rescuers are owners of a modern-day slave camp which operates outside the law but is known to many people living in the midst of the „puszta”. The fate of the football player and his fellow slaves at the camp reveals the xenophobia and misery of a community, one in desperate need of external help and depicted in a perpetual state of hating ‘otherness’.

It's Not the Time of My Life

It’s Not the Time of My Life

It’s Not the Time of My Life

The original play, providing a source for the movie adaptation with the same title, premiered in April 2015. The drama, written and directed by Szabolcs Hajdu, was performed by the Maladype Theater, known as one of the most progressive independent companies of Hungary. Maladype’s concept of intensive acting workshops and vivid communication between the performers and audiences had a great effect on the final form of the story. The play was performed at the Euroregional Theatre Festival of Timișoara and at „DESZKA” – The Contemporary Hungarian Drama Festival.

Hajdu says the following about this work: „We talk about ourselves, our wishes, doubts and anxieties. We talk about our everyday lives, families, children and parents. We’re not special; our problems are similar. Things are all around us, we just need to reach out to them and somehow tell the story – on film or in writing, standing at the bus stop or on the phone − it doesn’t matter. Now to the theatre, let’s forget about formalities, let’s just talk, let’s tell the story while we can, while we know, let’s give news to each other about ourselves.”

It's Not the Time of My Life

It’s Not the Time of My Life

The film adaptation is a sarcastic family drama following the encounter of two sisters, Ernella and Eszter, and their families. Ernella, her husband, and their 10 year old daughter return from Scotland following an unsuccessful try to start a new life there. One night, they knock on Eszter’s door and ask for temporary accommodation. The forced cohabitation of the relatives gradually reveals the suppressed feelings and tensions in the background of a polite surface.

The personal element involved in the adaptation was strengthened by the unique creative process. It’s Not the Time of My Life was shot in the director’s home with his own family and many of the crew members were students from Hajdu’s university film course. The most daring choice was to form a team of 13 cinematographers who were (with the exception of Csaba Bántó) Cinematography MA program majors of the Budapest Metropolitan University. Hajdu had been teaching them directing during the previous semester and wanted to produce evidence of the time they spent together.

When the idea came about developing the original play into a movie, the director decided to invite the whole class to work on it. Since he didn’t want to favour any individual, the script was divided into separate parts, each assigned to a student. A chief cameraman and assistant cameraman worked together during the shooting of one part, while the rest of the class helped the process in other ways. There were always 5-6 students,working on the film at the same,time. Although the visual style of,the movie is standardized, smaller,differences can be detected in the scenes. Working together was a unique experience for both tutor and students, and perfectly complemented what they had learned about story telling beforehand.

 

East of the Best: Hungarian Successes in Karlovy Vary

Hungary has always been a welcome guest at the Karlovy Vary festival, since the beginning of the 1950s. Crystal Globes have been awarded for best film, best director and lifetime achievement, film students and first-feature directors have premiered their latest work here, and legends in the business have taken part in the jury process, year after year. Let’s take a look at the most important awards and achievements earned by Hungary, during the history of Karlovy Vary festival.

words by Janka Pozsonyi

Károly Makk

Károly Makk

Even though the historical and political situation of Eastern- Europe in the 1950’s was complex and complicated, Hungary began its most critical year of 1956 with a double win at the festival: László Ranódy’s Discord (Szakadék) and Félix Máriássy’s A Half Pint of Beer (Egy pikoló világos) shared the jury’s Grand Prix. Hungary had to wait almost 40 years for its next big achievement. With the change in regime, the festival’s revival in the 1990’s brought attention back to the country once more. In 1996, Péter Gothár won the Best Director Award for his satirical comedy Letgohand Vászka (Hagyjállógva Vászka). The millennium started with the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Károly Makk, the legendary director of Love (Szerelem),  Another Way (Egymásra nézve) and Catsplay (Macskajáték). In addition to the award, he also premiered his feature  The Gambler, while the festival paid its respects with a retrospective screening of his most prestigious films.

Freefall by György Pálfi

Freefall by György Pálfi

In 2001, Ibolya Fekete received the Best Director Award for her multinational war film, Chico. This German-Croatian-Chilean- Hungarian film is set in the hard times of Communism, with an idealistic main character who becomes slowly disillusioned with his beloved regime. The director returned to the festival the following year as a jury member in the official competition and was followed by two more prominent Hungarians as jury members in subsequent years. In 2008, the world-famous cinematographer Zsigmond Vilmos accepted the honour of being a member of the jury, while the Academy Award winning director István Szabó (Mephisto, 1982) became head of the official jury in 2011. Szabó’s film Taking Sides was also selected into the festival’s programme in 2001 in the Horizons section.

The Wednesday Child by Lili Horváth

The Wednesday Child by Lili Horváth

In recent years, many directors have had the opportunity to present their first or second feature films in the festival’s East of the West section. Bence Fliegauf’s second feature film Dealer, Nimród Antal’s debut Control (Kontroll), Áron Mátyássy’s Lost Times (Utolsó idők), Virág Zomborácz‘s Afterlife (Utóélet), and Gábor Reisz’s For Some Inexplicable Reason (VAN Valami furcsa és megmagyarázhatatlan) also had the chance to shine in this selection. Róbert Lakatos’s debut film Bahrtalo! (Bahrtalo! Jó szerencsét!) was awarded the Europa Cinemas Label Prize in 2008, and last year Lili Horváth’s first feature The Wednesday Child (Szerdai gyerek) was awarded the Grand Prix of the East of the West selection, in addition to the FEDEORA award.

There is a saying that some festivals have their favourite Hungarian directors: Kornél Mundruczó is a regular at Cannes, while Bence Fliegauf is Berlinale’s favourite. At Karlovy Vary, the mix of films is always special and colourful. The festival organizers assemble all kinds of genres and are open to the styles and voices of many both new and experienced directors: artistic ones like Béla Tarr, Kornél Mundruczó, Bence Fliegauf and György Pálfi, and experimentals like Gyula Nemes. Moreover, they are always inviting directors who are open to combining genres, like Nimród Antal, Attila Gigor, Szabolcs Hajdu and this year – Attila Till.

The Notebook by János Szász

The Notebook by János Szász

In recent years, Hungary has returned from the festival having won some of the most important awards. János Szász’s The Notebook (A nagy füzet), the first film funded by the HNFF – Hungarian National Film Fund, won the Crystal Globe for Best Film, and continued its way to the Toronto Film Festival, and even got short listed for the Oscars the following February. In 2014, György Pálfi, director of Taxidermia, received three prestigious awards for his feature  Free Fall (Szabadesés) including Best Director and Special Prize of the Jury, as well as the Europa Cinemas Label award. Looking back upon the successful path Hungary has taken at Karlovy Vary over the last decades, Attila Till’s Kills on Wheels, opening the East of the West section, and Szabolcs Hajdu’s It’s Not the Time of My Life in the Official Competition, are both in line for a fresh set of awards.

 

Life after Saul: New Directions in Hungarian Cinema

Hungary received the Academy Award this year, but where is the next big thing? We found some potential candidates.

by Bori Bujdosó

György Pálfi

György Pálfi

We recently witnessed the great critical acclaim and audience success of László Nemes’s Son of Saul (Saul fia), which went onto win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Over the last couple of years there have been quite a few niche films, made mostly by young Hungarian directors, that have also managed to reach their audience e.g.: Liza, the Fox-Fairy (Liza, a rókatündér) and For Some Inexplicable Reason (Van valami furcsa és megmagyarázhatatlan), but Hungarian films that combine artistic vision with a truly wide audience appeal have mostly eluded us so far.

However, this could change in the near future, as several big-shot Hungarian directors gear up for their new projects. If we look at the films currently in production or pre-production, we see a number of promising projects that seem to represent a somewhat different approach to genre filmmaking than most of the output offered in recent years. A wider array of genres is being tackled and more emphasis is being placed on reaching a wide audience, while still maintaining the artistic integrity of the projects.

Heavy hitters try sci-fi 

A good example of this new approach is Kornél Mundruczó’s, who in 2014 won the Un Certain Regard Prize and whose two previous feature films were in competition in Cannes. Mundruczó starts shooting his 7th full-length film in May. Entitled Superfluous Man (Felesleges ember), the Hungarian-German co-production aims to continue towards more mainstream appeal, a change of direction that began with White God (Fehér isten), a story about a pubescent girl and her dog. Superfluous Man is about a boy with superpowers who befriends a doctor, and while this might sound like the log line for a Marvel Studio production, Mundruczó deals with topics of faith and the lack thereof, and his film is markedly set during the current migration crisis.

Another example of going in another direction are the pronounced sci-fi elements in György Pálfi’s new project, His Master’s Voice (A hang), which rather than being an adaptation is inspired by Stanislaw Lem’s novel. Funded by the Hungarian National Film Fund, the film follows a Hungarian man in the United States searching for his long-lost father who was part of a secret team of scientists looking for proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Pálfi won the Best Director Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2014 with his previous feature film, Free Fall (Szabadesés), and has made several low-budget films over the past few years. His biggest endeavour yet, though, will be His Master’s Voice. We can rest assured that Pálfi will bring his unique vision – previously evidenced by his films Hukkle and Taxidermia – to the project which, combined with a bigger budget and a more relatable story, will bring us a film that speaks to audiences both in Hungary and abroad.

Budapest Noir

Budapest Noir

Costumes, love and blood

As difficult as sci-fi movies may be from a production point of view, period films may in fact be even more challenging. Nevertheless, two recent high-profile Hungarian productionswere not afraid to take on the task. Budapest Noir, based on Vilmos Kondor’s successful novel of the same name, has just wrapped production. A crime story set in the seedy underbelly of Budapest in the 1930s, it focuses on a battered journalist who takes it upon himself to uncover the murder of a Jewish prostitute. Helmed by Éva Gárdos – who directed the autobiographical ‘An American Rhapsody’ starring a young Scarlett Johansson – and shot by Elemér Ragályi, it promises an enjoyable and exciting, albeit somewhat dark, ride into the past. The popularity of Kondor’s book in Hungary makes it a very likely national success, but the film, boasting high production values, might very well find its way to noir fans abroad as well.

The second period piece, The Invincible (Kincsem), received the highest ever support from the Hungarian National Film Fund: roughly EUR 6.7 million. Set in 19th-century Hungary, the film gets its title from the famous unbeaten racehorse and focuses on the rivalry between the horse’s owner, a Hungarian nobleman, and an Austrian aristocrat, with a love story tucked in there too. Directed by Gábor Herendi, who made popular hits A Kind of America (Valami Amerika) and Hungarian Vagabond (Magyar vándor), and featuring well-known actors Ervin Nagy and Andrea Petrik in the main roles, as well as its spectacular horserace scenes, the film will undoubtedly deliver the kind of entertainment that can be appreciated by a wide range of audiences.

Nimród Antal

Nimród Antal

A 13-year wait

Last but definitely not least, Nimród Antal, who returns to Hungarian filmmaking 13 years after his debut feature Control (Kontroll). The darkly humorous film about ticket controllers working in the Budapest metro was very popular in Hungary and even gathered a cult following in the United States. Following this success, the young filmmaker went on to direct Hollywood movies such as Vacancy, a thriller with Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson, and Predators, under the guidance of Robert Rodriguez, who produced the 2010 installment in the franchise.

Antal returns to the fold this summer with The Whiskey Robber. Said to be a mixture of genres, the film is about the notorious Hungarian criminal, Attila Ambrus, who before getting caught robbed several dozen banks in Budapest in the 1990s. And after serving a 10-year prison sentence he became a pottery maker. Partially due to the fact that he never harmed anyone during his robberies, he became somewhat of a Hungarian folk hero and continues to fascinate people. Antal aims to portray not only the robberies but also the whole arc of Ambrus’s life, from his humble origins in Romania until the present day. Ever since Control, Hungarian audiences have been waiting for another Antal movie in the same vein, mixing human drama and thriller elements, as well as more light- hearted comic moments.

You can read this article, and the complete Hungarian Film Magazine – Cannes 2016 issue here: https://issuu.com/hungarianfilm/docs/hf_cannes_2016

A Film that Does not Age: Károly Makk’s ‘Love’ in Cannes Classics

45 years after the first showing in competition at Cannes, Love (Szerelem) is back on the big screen. The audience at the 69th Festival de Cannes will get the chance to see Károly Makk’s masterpiece selected for the Cannes Classics section, which pays particular attention to restored versions of classic films.

by Nóra Kinga Forgács

Lili Darvas and Mari Törőcsik in 'Love'

Lili Darvas and Mari Törőcsik in ‘Love’

Károly Makk, who celebrated his 90th birthday last year, was born in the Hungarian town of Berettyóújfalu. He grew up in a family of film enthusiasts, so already at a young age his fate was irreversibly bound to the calling he would later choose for himself. He went on to create one of the richest and most significant films in the history of Hungarian cinema. After having trained as an associate director alongside the country’s greats at the time, Zoltán Fábri and Zoltán Várkonyi, Makk debuted in the Cannes competition in 1955 with his very own comedy, Liliomfi.

A good 15 years and several directions later, Love became the work of a creator who by that stage was highly esteemed. The film is based on the contemporary Hungarian author Tibor Déry’s two short stories, Love and Two Women and remains almost entirely faithful to its sources. The first is about the politically motivated government show trials whose outcomes were decided upon even before the trials. The second is about the consequences of the events of the Hungarian uprising and the fight for freedom against the Soviet forces, which broke out in 1956. Makk presents the two in a straightforward and realistic way. In Love, the reader finds out about how B., a convicted politician, got from Pest to Buda, first by tram and then by taxi, from a world of inhumane workings of authority and constant tension to home: his wife, his son, solidarity and compassion. The most iconic scene in the novel also finds its way into the final minutes of the future full-length feature film, when the woman washes the man, at once raising him to a Christ-like pedestal and giving back to him the intimacy worthy of humans. Two Women takes the reader through the days spent by a mother and her daughter-in- law, which form the core of Makk’s film. One is waiting for her husband who has been convicted for political reasons, while telling the other that her son has gone to America to direct films. She does everything in her power to make sure that everything should at least go as well as it can for him, as the mother will most probably not make it to see him return home. Everything aims towards this until the very last moment, the very last gesture.

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Károly Makk

While Károly Makk and his cinematographer János Tóth prepared their film Cats’ Play, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category, they started working on an association montage technique, which they had in fact already used in their earlier collaborative work, Love. This is how the latter film became the story of two women. The older woman has obstinately lived almost a century waiting for her son, but she’s about to give up. The younger woman remains faithful to her husband and as she wants to live her whole life with him, she cannot give up. The life shared by these two women is about love and dignity. But if there were also powerful connections in the sensitive relationship between the two, it wouldn’t be love and dignity, but rather devotion. Just as the mother hands over her son to the younger woman, the latter shows respect to the former until the very end. Until the final third of the film, B. of Love and János of Two Women are only alluded to and appear only as memories. Károly Makk’s technique of realisation enables him to form an emotional and sensitive bond with his audience. He is also able to make a particular historical moment last to encompass a century worth of history and of people’s life stories, memories and desires.

Whoever sees Love and then reads Déry’s writings will probably realise that the two female protagonists, who at Cannes received separate recognition for their performance, instinctively come to mind. Over the years the intonation, facial expressions, posture and movements appear in Mari Törőcsik, who was rendered a greatly admired woman by this Hungarian film. In fact, throughout the length of the film, so are the bedridden Lili Darvas’s face, beautiful eyes and gestures. It’s almost as if you can hear their voices in your head. And this strong and memorable impression doesn’t necessarily depend on the individual portrayals, but rather on the unique chemistry that exists between the two actresses. Alongside them is a third great actor, Iván Darvas, whose presence, without the use of any tools but is rendered no less powerful, draws the film to a close. The tight spaces and the sequences of quick montages in the scenes of ‘Love’, which take place in the mother’s flat or at neglected locations around Budapest during a particularly cold spring, create an utterly different, universally felt atmosphere in János Tóth’s cinematography.

At Cannes Film Festival, in 1971

At Cannes Film Festival, in 1971

In Déry’s Love, B. is deprived even of a name. In Makk’s Love, Iván Darvas portrays János. “Have I aged?” “I have aged”. It’s not even the story’s injustice that hurts but the fact that they’ve lost so much of their own life. It’s precisely because of the similarities to real life that Makk’s film hasn’t aged at all since its first screening. It’s about people; in this case the story is sometimes about how bringing someone back is desired and idealised, and sometimes it is about the currently unbreakable and threatening backdrop. The bottom line is people.

In 1971 Love brought home the Jury Prize from Cannes as well as the OCIC prize, the predecessor of the Ecumenical Jury. In 2000 it was selected as one of the New 12 Best of Budapest, which are the 12 best films in the Hungarian history of cinema so far. Following his success with Love, Károly Makk returned to the festival many times. Later on with Cats’ Play (1974), A Very Moral Night (1978), Another Way (1982, FIPRESCI Prize) and another Tibor Déry adaptation, The Last Manuscript (1987), was also in competition to receive a Palme d’Or. Just as Miklós Jancsó’s film The Round-Up last year, the completely restored 4K digital copy of Love is part of this year’s Cannes Classic programme. The digitalisation and renovation were carried out in the Focus-Fox Studio and the Hungarian Filmlab, with the application support of the Hungarian Academy of Arts (MMA), the cooperation of MaNDA and the initiative of the Hungarian National Film Fund.

Read all the articles of Hungarian Film Magazine Cannes 2016 issue, here:

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“We Built a Community” József Fülöp, the Rector of MOME

Numerous Hungarian short animations competed at the most prestigous festivals all around the world in the recent years. Most of these films were produced by the Moholy-Nagy University of Art And Design in Budapest. We talked with József Fülöp, the rector of the school.

interview by Dániel Deák

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József Fülöp

You were previously the head of the Animation Department at MOME. What drove you, as animation film director, to undertake the role of the head of the institution?

In the 1990s digitalisation started knocking louder and louder on our doors – which created a new situation. I was curious as to how young people used it and what changes had been brought on in their way of thinking. I can’t figure out why that is, but just like waterpolo, animation is probably a talent in our genes that rises to the surface with ease.

Thanks to the digital era, we realised that the equipment, which is necessary in animation filmmaking, is more easily variable and accessible, as well as being much more easily adaptable for teaching animation, which didn’t use to be the case.

The accession to the EU saw a lot of new opportunities for European collaboration, for the creation of joint workshops, which opened that perspective up for students. They were able to realise what we’re good at, and we could together realise what we’re not good at and how to improve. We thought as a group. We built a community and organised teamwork between students as well as teamwork between teachers and students.

Réka Bucsi appears in the Berlinale Shorts competition, Nadja Andrasev is competing in Cinéfondation and Luca Tóth is in the Critics Week programme, just to name a few among the several MOME films in festivals. Apart from acquiring both a national and an international reputation, what kind of impact can they have in the long term?

The most direct impact is of course on their own lives, and I hope that they can live off it and launch their creator careers. But if we look a little further down the line, the impact will ideally be that the decision-makers might realise, either in the economic competition domain or in the cultural domain, the potential of a country’s image and creative industry, which is where products of a world standard can emerge. A couple of successes here and there, an Oscar nomination, being present at Cannes or festival successes can be the exclamation marks to build a cultural support system to supply Hungarian- language content to growing Hungarian children  of all times. From that point of view animation is the most adaptable tool for it.

Whoever works in teaching or in assistance should use them wisely by way of a kind of cultural diplomacy. We usually say that the French are extremely proud of their cheese, wine and films. And that they do everything so that these three cultural products really have the representable effects on national economy. And there must be methods to reach that. For us these festival successes are like fireworks.

The Noise of Licking

The Noise of Licking

At the Festival de Cannes, one of the world’s biggest festivals, you go and you think it will all be about you, and of course part of it is, but at the same time you’re only a tiny drop in the ocean. How can you prepare them to assert themselves in this kind of situation?

The eternal question is where to put the limit so that a school doesn’t think beyond its own role. When do you let the creators go, when do you set them free to run around and not run with them at all costs. Personally I’ve always thought that a school is doing the right thing if it doesn’t set limits too strictly.

From the mid 2000s we were given the opportunity to collaborate with other schools. We were able to establish platforms in the framework of co-productions where we could incubate these situations, where the abovementioned ladies, Luca and Nadja, were also present. That’s what Animation Sans Frontières is about. It has been operating for almost 10 years now.

MOME is smack in the middle of a big renovation project. Its campus is being refurbished and new buildings are growing out of the ground. What will this mean for the Animation Department?

The most important goal is to create a home for ourselves, for teachers and for students. In the last 15-20 years MOME heavily concentrated on knowledge and on interesting people. However, it wasn’t able to establish a physical environment  where ideas are not just defined according to a meeting point of view but are also according to a creation point of view.

I hope that from the animation teaching point of view it will be a significant change. Because in the past few years we experienced a difficulty in pinning creators down because there were no computers that were powerful enough or there were no tables that would be available to the same person for a full year. We would therefore like to improve our course and get an animation studio up and running for our three-year bachelor degree. We’ll establish a workshop that actually follows a studio model, with all kinds of knowledge that doesn’t exist in a studio but does in a university.

Superbia

Superbia

How do you see the past situation of Hungarian animation?

A generation has come about that is able to take its own initiative to seize opportunities after school. I think we’re in a much better place now than we were 10 years ago, for example. And among other things it’s thanks to changes in the support systems. Media Patronage programme and Hungarian National Film Fund took into consideration what hadn’t been possible in the ‘90s, which was that animation couldn’t be sustained, not because we support the art of animation but because we push the animation industry forward. So there can be support for series and also for long-term, sustainable economic projects. The only question is where will they be shown? On thematic TV channels? Theoretically they exist in Hungary, but in practice there hasn’t been any breakthrough yet.

In order for the contents to become available, it would be important for decision-makers to think about how there could be a return on the investment that they are currently pouring into various support programmes.

Another similar systemic issue is, for example, how to support co-productions. How could both young and old Hungarian studios joina Slovakian, Czech, Polish or French project? Because there have been examples of the other way around. Either we’re doing service jobs or we’re able to lure producers of French films into joining Hungarian projects.

We’ll soon find out whether Hungary will deliver long-lasting successful short film directors, successful feature-length animation films or brands like we had in the ’70s and ’80s – TV shows with recognisable characters – to foster the development of the Hungarian industry and culture of animation films.

Read the other articles of Hungarian Film Magazine, here:

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Animation is the Loneliest Genre You’ll Ever Do

2016 has been a great year for Hungarian animation: Sundance had ‘Limbo Limbo Travel’, Berlinale premiered Oscar-shortlisted Réka Bucsi’s brand new piece Love, and now Cannes has announced its choice: Nadja Andrasev and Luca Tóth.

by Anita Libor

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Nadja Andrasev and Luca Tóth

Ten years ago neither of them would have imagined they would be preparing for their Cannes premiere. Animation was not their first choice: Nadja wanted to be an ethologist, and Luca had thought of becoming an actress or a traveller of some kind. “Classic choices for children! When I started acting at the age of 16, it turned out I really hated performing, but at the same time I really enjoyed the empathy in the process. I’ve always liked drawing, so animation felt like the right direction to go in. It all seemed so free to me as there are so many aspects to the work: you can be an actor, an illustrator, a painter or a sound designer.” As a child, Nadja attended the summer camp run by the famous Hungarian animation studio Pannónia Filmstúdió. “I enjoyed it very much, and when I came back to Hungary after living in the United States I began to work in the film industry as an assisant director, almost by accident. It was filmmaking, so it felt pretty close to animation. I had never learned how to draw professionally and working 12 hours a day meant that I didn’t even have the time to, so getting into MOME was not something I thought could ever be possible.”

Directors in animation tend to be afraid of working with large groups of filmmakers. “There are many introverted people among us who want to work alone”, says Luca. “We have big plans, but we also have difficulty communicating our vision. We don’t want to work with everyone in an actual moment, like on a set. We work all the time, by ourselves, secretly and concentrated, so it’s a much more intimate process. The work and the result are too.”

So is animation the loneliest genre you’ll ever do? “Absolutely”, nods Nadja, who has been in the film industry for 14 years. “I would never direct a live action film. Never. I would get nervous in front of a crew waiting for orders. I always loved and still love working on location, but I feel like I somehow have to prove my creativity. Drawing has always been part of my life, and there came a time when I felt I needed more. But as an animator I still use much more cinematic aspects than I should”. Luca, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: “I think in animation, so I can switch from a real place to an imaginary one in a split second. In Superbia there are body parts that a real camera can’t show.”

Superbia

Superbia

Both directors studied at MOME where they enjoyed the greatest artistic freedom in learning their profession. Luca finished her studies at the Royal College in London, which is the closest animation can get to fine arts. “We received a lot of critical advice at MOME. I felt like we had to survive to defend the artist in ourselves or at least the artist we wanted to be. Royal College is the exact opposite, where you just create whatever you like. I don’t know which method is better.”

MOME is a project-oriented school. For her diploma film, Nadja had to adapt a literary work into animation. She chose Ádám Bodor’s short story The Noise of Licking, which is about a woman who is very intimate with flowers and a cat who stalks her through the window. The cat disappears, but a strange man arrives licking an ice cream and watching the woman just as the cat had. “I liked the situation of being watched in your own environment, so I created the whole story around the cat and the woman. The short story is only two pages long.” Nadja created the world around them and around the imagination of the cat trying to understand the basic act of watering. “I have a cat and sometimes I wonder about the world he lives in. Beyond that, there is another cat watching me through my window. Very scary!”

“I don’t have a cat. It’s so sad!” Luca’s Superbia came from a participation at Animation Sans Frontières. “You have to pitch an idea, so I collected my former stories and put them together. I started with the characters, the symbols and the world they live in. I couldn’t really tell you the story, I just used a 15-page long visual board for a film. It takes place in an imaginary world where something very basic changes. There are two nations: men and women. The men live in big caves and the women hunt them. And everybody is naked.” Superbia was hard to pitch. “You have to simplify a complex idea like this. And I think I may have oversimplified my story, because in the end it did not remind me of my own work. So I started working on the animatic because I was 100% sure I wanted to make this film. I just hoped I could finance it somehow, but once we had the animatic it was much easier to find funding.” Superbia was funded by the NMHH helyett Media Council’s Patronage Programme, and a co- production with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, The Noise of Licking is a diploma film funded by the National Film Fund.

The Noise of Licking

The Noise of Licking

The average budget for a short animation is HUF 1 million (EUR 3 000) per minute, but not for a diploma film or even a low-budget animation. “When it comes to dubbing, a short animation cannot afford to pay real money for a real actor.” There are no dialogues in The Noise of Licking, but if you pay attention you can hear human voices. Just like in Superbia, where it was absolutely neccessary to only use sounds (laughter, moaning) because Luca did not want to use any human language.

Festivals and festival audiences prefer short films without dialogue because they don’t need any translation. But this is something a filmmaker should not consider: “Producers and consultants often think that we should do this or that because of a festival’s preference. But it’s a mistake, because then you wash out the good and personal things from your film. You should always concentrate on what you would like to tell with your story and why. It’s the only way you can stay relevant and honest.” Nadja agrees: you have to focus on your story and mood. “For a very long time I thought my title had to be international, but I simply preferred “The Noise of Licking”. And I think it was the right choice, although many people tried to talk me out of it.”

Superbia is definitely R-rated, which may sound surprising as animation is considered to be a genre for all ages. “I can understand if you are surprised to be watching human genitalia in a short animation.” The Noise of Licking is sometimes interpreted as just a cat movie for lonely women or a love story between a cat and a woman. “But it’s great to have so many interpretations. I wanted to present a strange situation, and the story behind it is up to the viewer.”

MOME has had a good run in recent years: Rabbit and Dear, Symphony 42, Limbo Limbo Travel and now ‘Superbia’ and The Noise of Licking. “We are definitely a big group of friends and we work in close connection with each other. We are mainly artists who have recently finished their studies. It’s a very inspiring and creative group. And yes, MOME brought us together.” Zsuzsi Kreif, the director of Sundance guest Limbo Limbo Travel, also worked on The Noise of Licking, and Nadja and Luca are now working together for an upcoming diploma film and both have shared the same crew: Péter Benjámin Lukács as sound designer and Bálint Gelley as composer. They were the first to hear the good news: The Noise of Licking got into Cinefondation and Superbia will be part of the Critics Week as the only animation in the programme. “It is so great that Cannes screens short live action films and short animation together, because you are then forced to watch good quality of both genres. This is a great opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to a new audience and reach as many viewers as possible.” Sure Cannes can give a great head start, but it’s more than that: “It’s good to be among other animation filmmakers, because sometimes we are treated like weirdos. We are filmmakers as well, not cartoon artists. But since I have literally just finished Superbia, I want to enjoy Cannes as much as I can!”

Read all the articles of Hungarian Film Magazine, here:

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The Road to Success of ‘Son of Saul’ Started in Cannes

Director Laszlo Nemes returns to the 69th Cannes Festival as a member of the jury in the main competition, just a year after he himself debuted in the very same section. After the recent outstanding success of Son of Saul, which resulted in an Oscar, a Golden Globe and another 50 prestigious awards and a further 40 nominations, it is safe to say that  the Hungarian film made the greatest impact among last year’s selection.

by András Oláh

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As the audience of the afternoon premiere of Son of Saul was witnessing the ordeal experienced by the Auschwitz Sonderkommando Saul Ausländer, there was a bidding war going on behind the scenes. The representatives of Sony Pictures Classics claimed that they would do everything in their power to get the film to the Oscars. The idea seemed far-fetched for the producers and the first-time director who were still just humbled to have been invited to Cannes. However, the concept became more and more real with the critical acclaim and as the developments over the following weeks unfolded. Son of Saul was sold to more than 50 countries before the festival had even ended and won the Grand Prix as well as the François Chalais and FIPRESCI prizes, while its sound designer Tamás Zányi received the Vulcan Award. Less then three weeks later, along with the film’s Hungarian premiere in June, the Hungarian National Film Fund announced that it would nominate Laszlo Nemes’s directorial debut as Hungary’s entry to the 88th Academy Awards.

The conquest of North America started in September, when critics voted ‘Son of Saul’ the best film of the intimate Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. A week later it received a Special Presentation at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival alongside several other future Academy Award nominees being premiered. It was also screened in the Special Events section of the New York Film Festival. By this time, Laszlo Nemes had signed with United Talent Agency in Hollywood and was already mentioned among the potential favourites of the Academy Awards in Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 24: Director Laszlo Nemes, winner of the Grand Prix for his film 'Saul Fia', attends the Palme D'Or Winners press conference during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 24, 2015 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Franck Robichon - Pool/Getty Images)

Autumn saw a great deal of interest shown towards ‘Son of Saul’ in Europe.  After the film won a special jury prize at the 21st Sarajevo Film Festival it was introduced to the audience of the San Sebastián, London and Hamburg film festivals in September and October 2015. In November it won the Golden Pram for Best Film in Zagreb and Award for Best Director in Stockholm and was chosen as the Best Debut Feature at the UK Jewish Film Festival in London. Mátyás Erdély’s work was awarded at prestigious festivals dedicated to cinematography; he received the Golden Camera 300 at the Manaki Brothers Film Festival in Macedonia and the Bronze Frog at the Camerimage in Poland. In the meantime, the international distribution of Son of Saul had also started in Belgium and the Netherlandsafter the film’s introduction at the Film Fest Gent and the Leiden International Film Festival, respectively. Laszlo Nemes’s directorial debut was particularly successful in France, where in just two weeks it became the most viewed Hungarian film ever to be screened in front of 123 000 moviegoers. Son of Saul also sparked up a debate about whether the Holocaust can be
represented on film between Claude Lanzmann, the director of the epic documentary Shoah, and Georges Didi-Huberman, the renowned philosopher and art historian, who praised Laszlo Nemes’s intellectual approach to the Holocaust in an open letter, which was later published under the title Sortir du noir.

At the end of the year and at the beginning of the film award season overseas, ‘Son of Saul’ was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards as well as for the Golden Globe for Best International Film and Best Foreign Language Film, respectively. It also made it onto the short list of nine films at the Academy Awards in the same category. On December 18, while the whole world was mesmerised by the premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, ‘Son of Saul’ had a limited release at two cinemas in New York and at two in Los Angeles. In their annual summaries, the key cinematic journals all mentioned the Cannes Grand Prix winner; Variety listed Laszlo Nemes among the ten directors to watch in 2015; the Hungarian film made it into the top ten on Sight & Sound’s 20 best films list; while among the daily newspapers The Guardian ranked it No. 1 on its list of best films released in the United States. The press also started to give out its awards, and film critics in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington chose ‘Son of Saul’ as the Best Foreign Language Film, while in New York it was picked as Best First Film.

Laszlo Nemes, of Hungary, accepts the award for best foreign language film for “Son of Saul” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

On its road to success, the Hungarian film’s Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film was also an important landmark, as it was the first time a Hungarian film had ever been acknowledged by the Hollywood Foreign Press. A few days after the ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented their nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, which included Son of Saul, the first Hungarian film since István Szabó’s ‘Hanussen’ 27 years prior. By this time Son of Saul had screened in 180 cinemas in the United States.

The campaign that lasted until the Oscars wasn’t uneventful either, as Laszlo Nemes was nominated for the First-Time Feature Film Award by the Directors Guild of America and Mátyás Erdély won the Spotlight Award of the American Society of Cinematographers, tying with Adam Arkapaw, the cinematographer for Macbeth. Just days before the Oscars, Son of Saul won Best Foreign Language Film at the Satellite Awards and Best International Film at the Independent Spirit Awards, while Tamás Zányi and his colleagues received the Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award in the Foreign Feature Film category. Finally, on February 28, ‘Son of Saul’ won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It was the second time for Hungary to be awarded in this category, 34 years after István Szabó’s Mephisto.

The story of Son of Saul is not over yet though. In its home country, film critics praised not only the film itself, but also Laszlo Nemes, the leading actor Géza Röhrig and the works of Mátyás Erdély and Tamás Zányi. The Hungarian Film Awards also awarded the film a Special Prize. Laszlo Nemes’s work is the first Hungarian film to ever be nominated for a César Award in France, and it won the award for best foreign film inside the European Union at the Italian David di Donatello Award. During the first two months of this year, Son of Saul premiered in more than 20 countries around Europe, Asia and South America before arriving in Germany in March and the United Kingdom and Ireland in April. Meanwhile, Laszlo Nemes has been invited to the Cannes Festival again, but this time as a member of the jury in the main competition.

You can find all the articles of the latest Hungarian Film Magazine, here:

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Lilies for Andersen – Interview with Bence Fliegauf

Silver Bear winner Bence Fliegauf returns to the Berlinale with a movie full of contemporary mystery that reveals the spiritual side of the Hungarian capital and its neighbourhood. The director tells us about his personal connection to the film and relives old memories believed to be lost. ‘Lily Lane’ is compulsory for fans of gloomy fairy tales and delicate family dramas.

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How do you see the role of ‘Lily Lane’ in your work?
B.F.: This is a deeply balladic movie with a lot of water, darkness, thrill and flames in it. I tried to capture the passing and dreamlike moments of my childhood that were beautiful but also terrific. I had this kind of two­faced time back then and I wanted ‘Lily Lane’ to evoke the minutes that slipped away. The story suggests a special nostalgia for the atmosphere of a child’s stormy soul. I don’t think that this attitude is very different to any of my previous artistic concepts, though. I just went through the same process as I always do.

How did you develop the script?
B.F.: I was actually very inspired by the adventures I have had with my own son. Once he pelted me with rotten plums that I tried to hit with a nunchaku, another time we blew rainbow­coloured bubbles in the dark and took photos of them while they were twinkling like surreal planets in endless space. When my son was still quite young he was highly interested in the matter of life and death. He kept asking me the most complex and confusing questions all the time. What will happen to the dead pigeons? Where will grandma’s thoughts go when she dies? I had to think about my answers carefully since I didn’t want him to be deceived. So I finally made this movie that I see as itself being an answer. I would also like to highlight the title, ‘Lily Lane’, which is a real place in the Buda Hills near Budapest and where the story takes place. I like the sound of the words because they somehow have a halo or an aura around them. In my opinion, they perfectly express the surreal character of the movie.

Bálint Sótonyi and Bence Fliegauf

Bálint Sótonyi and Bence Fliegauf

Why is it so important in your work to depict parent­child relationships or oppose adults to child roles?
B.F.: The stakes are raised when you have children and things suddenly become deeper and sharper. Tales spring up, miracles and nightmares happen, sensuality intensifies – the boring reality of the adult is eliminated. You find everything there that is worth living for. Spending time with a child is the best way to improve your character. When certain events happen – like a divorce, a death or moving into a new place – the dullness of everyday life immediately comes crashing down. In these fragile situations roles can easily be mixed up. You try to hold on tight to each other, but you have to keep in mind that the chaos and the spectacular suffering of adulthood can be very harmful to a young person. They see us as a solution, as the path they have to follow. We have to focus on not polluting their dreams because the effects of our acts and of our thoughts are reflected in their eyes, in their touch and in how they lose their beautiful childish smile.

The film has a unique visual style. What was the initial concept?
B.F.: When we fixed the details with our cinematographer, Zoltán Lovasi, we tried to develop an intimate but very diversified visual language. Evaluating the film now as a finished product, I think that we have more or less succeeded in creating what we were seeking.

Who will be able to watch ‘Lily Lane’ once the Berlinale comes to an end?
I’m not good at business and I don’t know how or to whom to sell a movie. I’m just truly honoured when a cinema­goer chooses to buy a ticket to see my film. It would also be great to address people who love the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, The Cure’s album ‘Disintegration’ or Theodor Kittelsen’s illustrations. I think people who fit these categories would certainly understand what ‘Lily Lane’ means.

By Janka Barkóczi