"The Unburied Dead" - a Central European co-production


Slovak cinemas have a new title on the big-screen. Not a Hollywood blockbuster but a Hungarian film shot as a Central European co-production. Hungarian, Slovak and Polish filmmakers got together to film the story of Imre Nagy, the leader of the 1956 Hungarian anti-Soviet revolution. It's been a surprise success since it was released in Budapest last October - being seen by over 100,000 people when the expectation was for only about 10,000. On March 10th it opened in the Slovak capital Bratislava with humble expectations.

"I don't see a problem that a Hungarian hero is being played by a Polish actor. In the context of East Europe, everything that was happening was interconnected. Imre Nagy is our common hero. The best mix of all local personalities. It is a paradox that our Polish hero has 25 honorary doctoral degrees plus the Nobel Prize and the Hungarian was hung."

The actor, Jan Nowiczki, speaking ahead of the Slovak premiere. It was shot in an interlinked central European co-production. The Slovak producer covered 20% of the overall expenses. Twenty percent might seem like a little, nevertheless Marta Meszaros was highly praising this contribution."

"I have praised it because we had wonderful cooperation. There were no conflicts, our partners were very helpful. Even if I wanted to find some negative spot I wouldn't be able to."

After the 1956 revolution in Hungary, its leader Imre Nagy was taken to prison in Romania. Shooting the parts that historically happened in Romania right on the spot would have exceeded the budget. That is why all the exterior scenes were shot in the mountainous region of Zdiar in the High Tatras. The Slovak producer Igor Hudec sees co-productions as the inevitable means of receiving sufficient financial resources for shooting films in this region.

"I have heard about the creation of the Central European even the Visegrad 4 film fund. Unfortunately, nothing has been done yet as far as I know. It might be because of the rise of European funds such as Eurimage or MediaDesk. My experience with them is not very positive. We definitely lack a regional type of fund."

For Igor Hudec, Visegrad is the optimal institution to perform such a role:

"It shouldn't be any financial problem to realise this idea. These are big countries with a lot of common themes to be filmed."

"The film was created under moderate financial conditions. The situation in cinematography is the same in each of our countries. The film industry in a small country cannot survive without co-productions."

A Slovak participant on the project, Gizela Mihalikova, was the assistant to the director. The Slovak and Hungarian filmmakers could see that their mutual cooperation was optimal. That is also why they tend to continue with common projects. Out of the 4 Visegrad countries, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia participated in bringing the story of Imre Nagy to the screen. Why not the Czech Republic?

"Originally, there was a great expectation. I suggested to Marta Meszaros to cast Dagmar Havlova, the wife of former Czech President Vaclav Havel, for the role of the wife of Imre Nagy. Marta was very enthusiastic about it. However, it was at the time when President Havel was leaving his office so the couple was travelling all over the world. It was physically not possible to have Mrs Havel on the spot. That's why the Czech Republic was out."

The picture was premiered in Hungary, is now in Slovak distribution, and aims for Poland. Will it get to the rest of Europe too? Gizela Mihalikova:

"At the premiere in Budapest, there were many representatives of big international film festivals who are interested in this film. We are glad that our picture has been chosen for the main competition of this year's international film festival in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic."

Despite efforts, the film was not included in the competition at the Berlin festival this year. One copy in the Hungarian language will be screened in the south of Slovakia which has a large population of ethnic Hungarians. Marta Meszaros has already shot a film in Slovakia. The effort to welcome the world famous director back was highly supported by the Slovak Culture Ministry. Although a success in co-operation, whether it will record similar success as to the number of viewers in a smaller Slovak market as it recorded in neighbouring Hungary remains unclear.