The organisers of the new Budapest International Film Festival and the Hungarian culture minister were in Cannes last month to discuss what is hoped will become a prestigious event in the European calendar

The panel

Adam Nemenyi - HAPA official delegate

Peter Barbalics - HAPA official delegate

Geza Szocs - Hungarian minister of state for culture

Attila Bokor - head of the film department at Hungary’s Ministry of National Resources

Rita Dagher - Wild Bunch head of acquisitions & co-productions

Isabel Davis - BFI Film Fund senior executive

Joelle Levie - president of Online Film Financing (OLFFI)

Giulia Filippelli-Loewy - film industry and market consultant

As the Hungarian film industry gets back on track following a turbulent 12 months with a new national film fund, a commitment to the tax rebate and member status of the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), a new flagship event — the Budapest International Film Festival — has been unveiled.

With the first edition set to run September 22-30, 2012, the festival will operate under the aegis of the Hungarian Audiovisual Producers Association (HAPA) with some support from the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and will have a focus on international co-production. The festival will be open to films with at least one co-producer from an EU member state. The four competition sections will complement a market and a host of forums and panels.

HAPA’s official delegates, Adam Nemenyi and Peter Barbalics, along with the Hungarian minister of state for culture Geza Szocs and the head of the film department at Hungary’s Ministry of National Resources, Attila Bokor, were in Cannes last month to launch the festival and its market.

At an industry roundtable moderated by Screen International editor Mike Goodridge, the delegation met with international experts to discuss the event (see The Panel, above).

Mike Goodridge: I’m sure the industry would like to know how and when you want to position the festival and how the market will operate. We have all read about the difficulties affecting the Hungarian industry and the funding mechanism of late. How can such an ambitious festival come out of the same country now?

Adam Nemenyi: The Hungarian film industry is well known all over the world. Hungarians were instrumental in setting up Fox Studios and Paramount in Hollywood’s early days, its producers continue to be renowned and great actors of Hungarian stock can be found all over the world.

Unfortunately, however, the current government inherited a funding crisis from the previous one. The film funding mechanism has to be renewed and a new strategy brought forward. That’s what we are working hard on now.

By next year the Hungarian film industry will be renewed and a new funding mechanism will be in place. For this, we would like to create a new international platform for Hungarian film and for the Hungarian industry to be showcased to the world again.

For 43 years the Hungarian Film Week showcased local films, but from next year we’ll have an international presence.

Joelle Levie: The film entries must be co-productions with at least one EU country. Can it be between a European and a non-European country?

AN: Yes.

Isabel Davis: So, a US co-production would also work?

AN: Yes.

JL: And what do you define as EU? Because there are more than 40 countries in the European Convention co-production treaty. There are many co-productions made with the likes of Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, etc, who are not officially in the EU.

AN: The co-producers should be one of the 27 members of the EU. But we are reviewing these criteria. There are several countries in Europe that are not part of the EU that are highly developed, such as Switzerland and Norway. We would like to have special relationships with them as well as with [less active] audiovisual countries such as Albania.

We would also like to create a gateway for central Asian films.

That’s why we are here, to listen to ideas. The uniqueness of this event is that the competition line-up is based on co-production material. It doesn’t exclude spotlighting films from other regions. Within the line-up there will be spotlights on Asian cinema, South American cinema etc.

MG: Will there be a spotlight on Hungarian films?

AN: Yes, there will be a section for Hungarian films. They will compete for the main prize, the Golden Chain-bridge, but there will be a separate prize for the best Hungarian film of the year. We have to re-establish Hungarian film on the map, this is why the co-production focus is key. Once that is achieved, the Hungarian independent industry will also benefit.

Giulia Filippelli-Loewy: Can you explain how the trade activities will work? Instead of creating a buyer/seller market, perhaps you should focus on a co-production platform and producer forum?

Peter Barbalics: This is what we want to do, but also to have a market.

Rita Dagher: What exactly will I find in Hungary that I will not find in Berlin or Rotterdam? If I come to Budapest, I would expect to see films from the region. You should showcase local and regional production companies.

AN :Hungary is at the heart of Europe, so the Eastern European countries around us will be highlighted. There will be a prize for a film from the Visegrad countries. We would also like to make a forum about how European films are perceived from the US and Asia, as well as think about how we perceive them.

GFL: It will be important to showcase your facilities. People will want to know how convenient it is to shoot in Hungary and neighbouring countries.

Attila Bokor: Yes, we already thought about taking the professional attendees to visit studios and facilities. Our studios are among the best in Europe, with a very high level of technicians and facilities. And we have a 20% tax rebate. This is very attractive. Budapest is also a very beautiful city, so we want to showcase all these production values.

Geza Szocs: There needs to be greater integration from European countries to challenge the US industry. Economic power is one thing but the real power of Europe is a great cultural integration. There isn’t a strong, unique, independent consciousness at the moment. We have to work on that. Our most important tool is culture. Through festivals such as these, film-making will become more effective and the European identity will also be stronger.

We will also organise a lot of broader cultural events during the festival: concerts, exhibitions, music, etc. It will be the biggest cultural event in Hungary.

AN: Next year will be the 100th anniversary of Michael Curtiz’s first film and 70 years since Casablanca was released, so we’re creating a special Casablanca Club. Another fun section will see films that were awarded a major festival prize 50 years ago compete once again.

MG: Hungary is famous for its great directors. The last 10 years have seen plenty of critically successful young talent coming through, such as Agnes Kocsis, Kornel Mundruczo and Gyorgy Palfi. What access will visitors have to your talent pool and their new films?

AN: There are 3,000 film festivals in the world. We would like this festival to showcase our local talent and for them to meet the international community. And they won’t have to travel anywhere to do it. It’s an even better opportunity than the Hungarian Film Week.

MG: What will the budget be for the event?

AN: Similar to other major European festivals. We are gathering funding from the usual avenues — private investment and major sponsors. The government is backing the idea but it will be run from private sponsorships and public cultural funds.