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Helmer defends communist past

Szabo: In retrospect I can be proud of what happened

LONDON — Hungarian helmer Istvan Szabo has walked into controversy following local press reports that he used to be an informer for the communist state’s security service.

Szabo reported on his fellow students and actors while studying at the Budapest film academy from 1957 to November 1961, according to files dug up by film historian Andras Gervai from the archive of the state security service. He was dismissed by the state security service in 1963.

Szabo told Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag that he agreed to write the reports to protect two fellow students who had been involved in the 1956 anti-Soviet Hungarian revolution, and saved one from the gallows.

“In retrospect I can be proud of what happened,” Szabo said. “I had to sound credible to give an alibi to someone who was one of the people who occupied the party headquarters during the revolution. So I just told them all kinds of things to deflect their attention from the person we had to defend.”

Szabo’s pic “Rokonok” (Relatives) is due to open the Hungarian Film Festival on Tuesday. Janos Szeky, one of the editors of the paper Elet Es Irodalom that broke the story, said its publication so close to the premiere of “Rokonok” was coincidental. “Szabo is the father-figure of Hungarian cinema, I think he’ll get over this very quickly,” he said.

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