Director-producer: Peter Hegedus.
Topic: A Hungarian fisherman’s struggle for survival and justice after a catastrophic cyanide spill into the Tisza River in 2000.
Financier: Developed with funding from the Pacific Film & Television Commission. Production budget came mostly from the Film Finance Corp. of Australia, with additional support from Australian SBS Independent TV, two Belgian TV stations, the Hungarian Environmental Ministry and the Hungarian Film Commission.
Budget: Approximately $210,000.
Shooting format: Mini-DV (Sony VX-1000) and DV cam (Sony PD-150) with some 16mm.
Why it made the list: Intimate access to compelling central character; rich, complex portrait of the Hungarian fishing community.
Memorable scenes: Balazs Meszaros, embattled head of the local fishing co-op, travels to Australia to confront the mining company responsible for destroying his livelihood. The sequence is intensified by the filmmaker, who has agreed to pay for the trip, expresses his doubts about Meszaros’ unorthodox strategy, which has little support at home. Also: wonderfully absurd comic moments involving the eccentric Meszaros’ efforts to preserve and stuff a dead stork for the local school as well as gut-wrenching arguments between Meszaros and his girlfriend.
Distribution/broadcast status: Ronin Films for Australia; Germany’s Dnet Sales for Europe; negotiating with an American distrib.
Exposure to date: Numerous international festivals, including special jury prize at the Intl. Scientific Festival.
On making the film: Hegedus, an Australian-Hungarian, says he felt shame over the cyanide spill but was also taken by a sense of duty to mourn the death of the river. “I knew that I could have unprecedented access to both sides of the situation, the Australian and Hungarian, and thus show them as they are, as opposed to how they are (seen) through popular media.”
Hegedus decided to focus on Meszaros because “he had lost almost everything because of the disaster. He had a very strong personality and seemed like a person who would fight for his beliefs. Also, Balazs was excellent at expressing himself and he was not camera-shy.”
Hegedus and Meszaros formed an intense bond onscreen over the course of the film. “I think we have a Balazs in all of us,” says the helmer. “We all want to rebel against the system which has so much influence and control over our lives.”