The rift between the old guard of Hungarian cinema led by auteur Bela Tarr and the new Film Fund headed by Andy Vajna has widened yet further. In his capacity as President of the Hungarian Filmmakers’ Association, Tarr yesterday issued a furious statement, lambasting the Fund’s behaviour as “unacceptable and illegitimate”.
Tarr’s statement came as it was finally confirmed that the Film Fund was to take over the property of the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary (MMKA) – including film studios, buildings, real estates and the Hungarian Film Laboratory.
The Court of Hungary has now approved this measure.
“The approval of this agreement means that the operation of the Motion Picture Foundation established twenty years ago by the Hungarian film professionals, has become impossible and winds up forever the self-governance of our profession,” Tarr stated.
As he made very clear in earlier public statements and interviews, Tarr bitterly resents what he perceives as the monopolistic behaviour of the Fund under Vajna.
“We refuse to accept the idea that a single-channel grant system replace what has so far been a multi-channel system of subsidies or that a mechanism of centralized distribution of funds be exercised instead of the earlier, professional self-governance based on a broad consensus and reflecting a diversity of tastes,” he said today, echoing comments he has made several times in the past.
Vajna himself has again utterly refuted Tarr’s accusations. “Let’s straighten out Bela Tarr’s misstatements. He has been issuing these fantastic statements that make no sense at all and are just rhetoric,” Vajna commented. “He is saying the same thing now that he said a year ago and none of it makes any sense.”
The Film Fund boss added that the Fund had “cleaned up the debts” left by the MMKA as well as “the entire industry’s debts to each other.”
Vajna said that the Fund had paid approximately €25m ($31m) on behalf of the MMKA to “clean up the industry. Therefore, the MMKA owes us this money. We have made an agreement that we would take over its assets, which are the studios and the lab. This was done in a joint agreement with the MMKA a month ago.”
The Court of Hungary approved the agreement yesterday. The Film Fund boss said that these assets were currently loss-making. His aim now is revitalize them.
In an exclusive interview with Screen, Tarr elaborated on what he feels to be the dire current situation of the Hungarian film culture. He also raised the possibility that the Hungarian Filmmakers Association (which has 700 members) may set up an alternative Film Foundation, even if such an organisation has to run without state support. “That’s what I am thinking, how we should find a way to keep alive the Hungarian cinema and surviving these bad times.”
“The problem now, it’s very simple, is that since two years, they (the Film Fund) do not produce any movies. They say always that they are pluralistic but you know what I see now? I do not see Hungarian films,” Tarr said. “Nothing is happening, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
Tarr said that the lack of activity in Hungarian film is leading to huge hardship for everyone involved in the sector. “It’s an industry. They [film workers] have families. Now, they have no jobs and they haven’t done anything for two years. It’s not a question any more of which kind of movies we believe as the [face of] the new Hungarian film culture. The question now is that people have no food. They cannot pay their own bills and they [the Film Fund] do not produce anything.”
Vajna dismissed these charges as “total nonsense,” pointing to the foreign films shooting in Hungary (among them The Borgias and the recent Die Hard movie) as well as local pictures. These include such titles as The Notebook by János Szász and Liza, The Fox Fairy by Károly Ujj Mészáros. There are also over 45 films reportedly in development.
“We have the money to do it. We’re standing by and we are doing it. Suddenly, there is a revitalisation of the film industry. All those people who stood by Bela Tarr a year ago have all applied for grants for our organisation. They’re in total support of what we’re doing. That’s what is happening.”