Hungary held its 37th national film festival - Hungarian Film Week - early this month and for the first time, foreign critics were invited to the jury. In another change - music competed as a separate category, and for the first time two quite young directors shared the top prizes.
A side event nearly marred the festival. Just two days before the opening a newspaper article revealed that a Hungarian film icon, Istvan Szabo - until this day the only Academy award winning director, had been a political police informer back in the 1950s and 1960s. A media briefing was held with more than 200 foreign critics attending. This sensational intermezzo could have stolen the show but film critic Gyorgy Baron says, not at all:
"I don't think so. It was a very good festival with a very good atmosphere and a very rich programme, which was much more interesting than last year. Everybody was a little bit afraid that people would talk about the Szabo case and not about the films. At the opening ceremony, Szabo's film was screened, but the films were so powerful and interesting that after the first day everybody went to the theatres to watch the films. There were four hundred of them."
The festival opened with Szabo's latest film based on a classic "Relatives". It did not win a single prize. Did his past play a role in the jury's decision?
"No, I don't think so. The international jury of five members, three of whom were from abroad, gave the prizes to the films they judged to be the best. They focused on the new trends of the young generation and what is really interesting now in the Hungarian film industry."
Do you agree with the main awards given to the two fairly young film directors?
"Yes, completely. Of course, there is a personal reason for that - they both were my students at the film academy, so I love them. I think that Taxidermia, by Gyorgy Palfi, which got the jury's award for Best Picture is a very powerful and excellent picture and I think it will be very successful at international film festivals."
Could you briefly describe the storyline?
"It's the story of three generations of the same family - grandpa, father, and son - about desires, emotions, sex, life, and death."
The other main prize winning film...
"The White Palms by Szabolcs Hajdu. It is his third film and here he stepped out of the low-budget circle made a film partly in Canada and partly in Hungary about a world-famous sportsman (Kyle Shewfelt), a hero of Canada, and his Hungarian trainer, who happens to be the brother of the director. It's about rivalry and competition. It's a very simple story."
Do you think that Hungarian cinema has a chance to make a real comeback to be as famous as it was in the mid-1960s?
"I think hat the competition is much stronger now in the international world of film than it was in the mid-1960s. The political situation is also different. But sometimes miracles can happen."
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