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Hungarian fund nabs studios, labs

Vajna to reform local film funding

MOSCOW — A Budapest court has transferred more than $27 million worth of state-owned film studios and other property to Hungary’s new film fund.

The decision by the Court of the Capital confirms last month’s agreement between the directors of the now defunct Motion Picture Public Foundation (MMKA) and its successor, the National Film Fund.

Andrew Vajna, the locally-born Hollywood producer appointed by prime minister Viktor Orban two years ago to reform film funding, told Variety he can now begin turning around Mafilm Studio and the state film processing labs had been making losses of more than $2 million a year.

“We intend to clean up this mess, which we have already done with banks and producers,” he added.

Vajna’s first task on taking over at the film fund was to broker a deal between Hungarian banks owed $35 million by producers holding MMKA promissory notes that the bankrupt organization could not honor.

Vajna negotiated the release of government funds to cover the debt.

The court decision was condemned by director Bela Tarr, prexy of the Hungarian Filmmakers Assn.

“This agreement means that the operation of the Motion Picture Foundation, established 20 years ago by Hungarian film professionals, has become impossible and winds up forever the self-governance of our profession,” Tarr said.

“We refuse to accept the idea that a single-channel grant system should replace what has so far been a multi-channel system of subsidies.”

Vajna said he respected Tarr as a filmmaker and understood his frustration but dismissed his protest as “empty slogans.”

“What I want to do is to build a successful industry that will build on the talent this country has to offer,” Vajna said.

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