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Hungarian helmers revive local fest

Bela Tarr to head up Hungarian Film Week

MOSCOW — Hungarian filmmakers are to re-establish the country’s national film festival in February after political and financial crises disrupted the event.

The Hungarian Film Week — which had 41 annual February editions in Budapest until last year when a truncated 42nd edition was put on in early May — moves back to its early February slot under the leadership of acclaimed art-house director Bela Tarr.

Tarr, whose last film “The Turin Horse” won a Silver Bear and the Fipresci critics prize at Berlin last year, is hoping to re-establish the festival as a showcase of the best in Hungarian film after two of the hardest years ever for the industry.

Tarr, who was recently elected president of the Hungarian Filmmakers Association, said he and colleagues in the association wanted to “launch a more active and constructive” approach to “strengthen the self-governance and autonomy” of Hungarian cinema.

The Film Week, which until last year was run by the Hungarian Motion Picture Public Foundation (MMKA), will now be hosted by the Filmmakers Association — an independent body that owns the copyright to the Hungarian Film Week.

The MMKA has since been disbanded and a new public film finance body — headed by Hungarian-born U.S. producer Andrew Vajna — put in its place. Vajna has retained the international film promotion brief once fulfilled by Filmunio, but is not responsible for the film festival.

Tarr told Variety that the Film Week would play a key part in renewing the tradition of independent filmmaking in Hungary after two years of crisis.

“We would like to keep this (annual Film Week) tradition all the more because — even without public financing for almost two years now — obstinate and devoted filmmakers have found a way to complete productions, and to put together some new ones.”

The three-day event, which unspools Feb. 3-5, will screen eight feature films, and possibly a number of shorts, and experimental and documentary films.

“We would like to collect as much as possible from the recent period that represent the love of film of the Hungarian filmmakers who have tried the impossible, and finally could come up with some completed works,” Tarr added.

There will also be a one-day conference on the role national cinema plays in European cinematography.

The re-establishment of the Film Week in February comes at a time when Hungary is in the throes of a major political and constitutional crisis after the ruling right-wing party Fidesz pushed a new constitution through parliament.

The constitution, which reduced press freedoms and alters the balance between parliament and the judiciary, has brought hundreds of thousands of Hungarians out on the streets in protest.

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