Worries abound in local arthouse sector

Hungary looks likely to give control of its public financing of locally made films to Hungarian-born producer Andrew Vajna, via his post at the Ministry of National Economy.

With a right-of-center government under Prime Minister Viktor Oban keen to keep the central European country’s budget deficit within 3% of GDP, tightening the public purse is a priority, and a key target for reform is the Motion Picture Public Foundation (MMKA), which has overseen public subsidies for home-grown films since the 1990s.

Media reports suggest that the MMKA could see its annual budget of $15 million cut to $5 million.

However, some $10 million will be provided by a new fund likely to be administered through the Ministry of National Economy plus $4 million for the national cultural institute that provides development support to filmmakers.

Parliament votes on the budget Dec. 7.

The proposals have left Hungarian filmmakers reeling.

“An audit of MMKA earlier this year found that it had debts of around $35 million, and for a time its budget was frozen,” said one industryite. “There was no suggestion of corruption … the money had been spent on supporting local filmmakers, but it is possible now that the MMKA will be restricted to paying off its debts.”

The decision to set up a new funding structure under government control — unlike the MMKA, which was a state-financed independent public foundation — could herald a new era of political influence in Hungarian films.

“Putting a Hollywood producer in charge of funds controlled by a government minister may change the sort of films that are financed — that is one of the fears arthouse directors have,” the source said.

The plans do not, however, affect Hungary’s tax incentive scheme for foreign co-productions.

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