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Hungary announces first wave of investments under Vajna's new Fund

Also, Hungarian Film Week revived by association led by Bela Tarr.

The first production and development investments by the new Hungarian Film Fund under new commissioner (and film sector troubleshooter) Andy Vajna have been confirmed.

In another sign of the Hungarian film industry’s road to recovery, a revitalized Hungarian Film Week organised independently by the Hungarian Filmmaker Association (headed by Bela Tarr) is scheduled for Feb 2-5.

Meanwhile, underlining the continuing attraction of Hungary’s 20% tax rebate for international films coming to the country, Die Hard V starring Bruce Willis is due to shoot in Hungary later this year.

Speaking to ScreenDaily this week, Vajna was striking an upbeat note. Vajna said that the Fund has received more than 100 applications from film productions. It has ruled on 40 of them, 11 of which it is supporting. (See details below.) Further decisions are expected shortly.

“It looks as if we’re off to the races,” Vajna commented of these early investments. “I think we’re moving forward in a positive fashion based on just how many people have applied…there are some fears, of course, because it is a new system. There are some reservations on behalf of the filmmakers but we hope to overcome this.”

In recent weeks, the western European press has been full of alarmist stories about Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s changes to the Hungarian legal system and the economic problems the country currently faces.

Vajna pointed out the Film Fund’s money comes from the National Lottery. “My number one mission was to make this film operation independent of budgetary concerns,” he said. “We have no interference from the Government as far as content is concerned. If there was any, I probably wouldn’t have taken this job. We are very much our own bosses here.”

The commissioner joked that Prime Minister Orbán “ has given me enough rope to hang myself…he has trusted us with this mission. So far, he has not interfered.”

He added that Orbán was “dedicated” to making the Film Fund work. “He has made sure that we’re funded. That says a lot of positive things about this particular government and its approach to culture.”

The Fund has set itself the target of producing between 6 and 10 films this year. The aim is both to secure recognition abroad and to win back the local audience. (The Hungarian share of national box office plummeted to around 3% last year.)

The Filmunió is in charge of festivals and foreign sales. “We’re trying to put together a complete sales unit to exploit the Hungarian inventories,” the Commissioner said of the body, which will handle everything from new films to archive material.

The Fund has also confirmed it will now become the main partner of the Hungarian Film Critics’ Prizes, the national film award ceremony founded in 1962. Previous winners include Bibliotheque Pascal (2011), Delta (2009), Iska’s Journey (2008), Dealer (2005) and Hukkle (2003).

Commenting on the relaunched Film Week, Vajna said that “it was an important tradition.” He added that “this year, they (the organisers) did not ask for any aid (from  the Fund). They want to do it on their own as a movement against us in some fashion.”

However, Vajna pointed out that many of the films screening at the Festival have received Government backing.

Hungarian Film Fund first projects for production support:

Liza, The Fox Fairy (Liza, a rókatündér) [pictured] dir. Károly Ujj Mészáros, prod Istvan Major (150m HUF)

The Notebook (A nagy füzet) dir. János Szász, prod Pal Sandor (150m HUF)

Zero, dir. Gyula Nemes, prod Gabor Dettre (100m HUF)

Development funding has gone to Bence Miklauzic (Car Park), Kornél Mundruczó (The Flying Man), Márk Bodzsár (Godly Shift), György Pálfi (Toldi), Csaba Fazekas (Swing), and Ádám Császi (A Land of Storms).

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