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Hungarian film org protests funding reforms

Body cancels fest

BUDAPEST

Some 260 Hungarian industryites held a protest conference in Budapest’s Urania Cinema on Saturday in response to film-sector reforms ordered by the government and led by film industry commissioner Andrew G. Vajna.

The five-hour confab was led by auteur and Hungarian Filmmakers’ Assn. prexy Bela Tarr and was held during the week Hungary traditionally unspools its annual film fest, the Magyar Filmszemle.

In a release, Tarr said the fest, launched in 1965, had been nixed because of a dearth of films.

“There is nothing to screen,” Tarr said. “There is nothing to celebrate. Hungarian film production has been at a standstill for two years.”

He blamed Vajna and the Hungarian National Film Fund, created by Vajna in May 2011 to oversee the local industry, for this “standstill.”

However, Vajna told Variety his office’s accomplishments are considerable, and include reforming the state film-funding process and resolving a $35 million debt crisis between the industry and local banks.

He also says his office is making movies. “We’ve greenlit 15 films up until now,” Vajna said. “Eight started shooting this year, five films were shot last year” and 70 productions are in the works.

The first film to be released by the National Film Fund will be Janos Szasz’s “The Notebook,” which Vajna said should hit cinemas in less than two months.

Industryites are concerned about the fund’s structure, which resembles a streamlined Hollywood studio more than the artistic workshop approach that governed the industry in the past.

“Up until now I’ve been against collaborating with this fund,” said Hungarian Directors Guild head Janos Veszi. “Before, decisions were made by filmmakers themselves.”

The previous approach, according to producer Gabor Kovacs, represented “a golden age” for Hungarian film, a period of experimentation and risk-taking, but he admitted it was marred by financial mismanagement, which Vajna was appointed to clean up and reform.

Whether Hungarian cinema retains its creative edge in an era of financial accountability will only be clear when Vajna’s new releases unspool in cinemas this year.

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