Hungarian filmmakers reflect the situation in their own country. Whether old masters or young talents, whether documentary, feature or short film – Hungarian cinema presents itself in a multifaceted way. An inventory: from large-scale production to independent.

The remarkable upturn of Hungarian cinema

When, back in 2011, Hollywood producer Andrew Vajna, whose works number RAMBO and TERMINATOR as well as the likes of MUSIC BOX and EVITA, was awarded the top position in Hungarian film promotion by his long-time acquaintance Viktor Orbán many expected the worst. Vajna passed away this January and there's no getting away from the fact that his eight-year tenure proved positive for the most part. There was an Oscar for SON OF SAUL (2016) and a Golden Bear for Ildiko Enyedi's ON BODY AND SOUL (2017), to mention but two main awards received at international film festivals. These speak of Hungarian film's newfound confidence, in no small part the result of the decisions of the Hungarian National Film Fund (MNF).

Indeed, the first film that the MNF promoted, THE NOTEBOOK, saw director János Szász take the main award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in 2013. His ninth, arguably most radical work, the at once sombre and yet remarkably captivating lust-to-kill drama THE BUTCHER, THE WHORE AND THE ONE-EYED MAN features at this year's FFC. And it's not only critics and juries that are full of praise for the qualitative upturn of Hungarian film: audiences are also displaying a renewed interest in their homeland's output. THE WHISKEY BANDIT, the comeback of Hungarian-born Hollywood director Antal Nimród which features in this year's FFC Hits programme section, was watched by a total of 332,196 viewers. The film can be seen as a parable on the “Wild East” period that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain, characterised as it was by corruption as well as undreamt of opportunities. Corruption and abuse of power are likewise thematised in the western COYOTE.

Renowned Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf whose short film, shot within the framework of the Goethe-Institute project Cut it Out, will feature before a screening from the Feature Film Competition takes a somewhat contrary approach, noting that though Hungarian cinema might currently be enjoying a number of success stories, it nevertheless generally fails to challenge the country's increasingly raucous political culture. This task falls to independent productions, including politicised short and documentary films such as THE REFERENDUM, THOSE or BUREAU. The latter due to feature within the framework of the Routes of Escape: Fear and Arrival in Eastern Europe Specials series that forms part of this year's FFC programme. These films broach social conflicts and fault lines such as the urban-rural divide, attitudes towards outsiders and the strains generated by longer working hours, all of which provided the spark for last year's mass protests.

All of the above contrasts with the humorous approach taken towards the attitude to life and general malaise felt by the generation of thirty-somethings by the rising star of a generation of up-and-coming filmmakers Gabor Reisz in BAD POEMS. These were the issues thematised by Reisz in his feature film debut which the director presented at the FFC back in 2014, the title of which succinctly summarises the distinguishing characteristics of new Hungarian cinema: everything has fallen back into place, FOR SOME INEXPLICABLE REASON. JT

Close Up HU series is supported by the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

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