Event returns in Budapest after being dogged by controversy

The Hungarian Film Week made its return last night more than two years after it was shut down amidst a bitter dispute between former Hungarian Film Fund CEO Andrew Vajna and renowned arthouse director Béla Tarr.

The festival opened with a screening of a digitally restored version of Mihály Kertész’s Hungarian silent classic The Exile (A tolonc/1914). Kertész himself would later move to the US and change his name to Michael Curtiz, where he directed Casablanca.

The Exile, a melodrama of lost parents, stolen honour and passion, was accompanied by a new score composed by Attila Pacsay, performed by a 52-member live orchestra. Held at the Palace of Arts’ Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, attendees at the opening included Oscar-winning Hungarian director István Szabó.

Over the coming days, the Hungarian Film Week - organised by the Hungarian National Film Fund, National Media and Info-communications Authority and the Hungarian Film Academy - will showcase 332 features, shorts and documentaries at the Cinema City MOM Park’s six-screening rooms in Budapest.

Speaking to ScreenDaily, Katalin Vajda the festival manager of Magyar Filmunió, the international divison of the Hungarian National Film Fund said: “For two and half years we didn’t have the Hungarian Film Week, and that’s why this year we decided to present films from the past three years.

“Filmmakers and rights owners all had the right to enter their films. [Different to previous years] we will present more films over a bigger and longer period.”

The past few years have seen something of a resurgence of Hungarian films on the international circuit, with films such as The Notebook winning the Crystal Globe at the 2013 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and Kornél Mundruczó’s White God winning Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Both will screen at the event with other films including the world premiere of ‘modern day fairytale’ No Man’s Island by Ferenc Török.

While the Hungarian Film Week is still chiefly aimed at encouraging Hungarian audiences to discover domestic films, there is still an international industry presence in Budapest including representatives from Karlovy Vary, Edinburgh and New York film festivals.

Vajda adds: “Previously, our foreign guests watched films in separate screening rooms. This year they’ll see the films together with the Hungarian audiences as we thought that having the feeling to see how everyone reacts to the film was really important.”

It is hoped that the revived event will put to rest some of the bitterness that occurred when Tarr’s dispute with Vajna – over the belief that new rules set in place would mean an influx of purely commercial fare – originally shut down the event.

Agnes Havas, current CEO of the Film Fund, told Screen: “I think that the scepticism and the protest that occurred in the beginning is truly going away.

“People who had been protesting now realise that the films we want to make show the diversity of the Hungarian film industry, and show how we live in this country.

“I think they at least appreciate what the Hungarian Film Fund is doing. Maybe there are still issues, misunderstanding and contradictions but we are listening to each other and talk to each other and I hope by the end of next year there will be peace in the Hungarian film industry.”

The Hungarian Film Week continues until Oct 19.