Hungary’s Movie Renaissance Continues as Pix Win Laurels, Incentives Rise, and Hungarian Film Week Returns

The Hungarian film biz is on a roll, and keen to maintain its momentum. Variety spoke to Agnes Havas, head of the Hungarian National Film Fund, who is attending the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival this week, about the three Hungarian features playing in Karlovy Vary, the imminent rise of the production incentive to 25%, and the return of the national movie kudofest, the Hungarian Film Week.

The renaissance of Hungary’s film biz continues a year on from the Crystal Globe victory at Karlovy Vary for Janos Szasz’s “The Notebook,” the first film to receive coin from Hungary’s new movie support org, the Hungarian National Film Fund, which launched in late 2011. The film went on to be selected as Hungary’s Oscar entry and reached the Academy’s short-list of nine films. It was acquired in North America by Sony Pictures Classics. At Cannes this year, another Hungarian film, Kornel Mundruczo’s “White God,” won the main prize in the Un Certain Regard section, and was acquired in North American by Magnolia Pictures.

The Magyar movies in major sections at Karlovy Vary this year are Gyorgy Palfi’s “Free Fall,” which is in competition, Virag Zomboracz’s “Afterlife,” which opened the East of the West program, and Gabor Reisz’s diploma film, “For Some Inexplicable Reason,” which will have its world premiere in the East of the West competition.

At the Hungarian reception in Karlovy Vary on Wednesday, Havas will unveil trailers from 10 new Hungarian features, out of the 15 that will be completed this year. Four Hungarian films have finished shooting so far this year, and are being edited, another five are shooting now, and several more are set to go into production by the end of the year.

The local biz has also been lifted by news that Hungary is set to raise its film incentive from 20% to 25%, after receiving European Commission approval in June. The change is due to be voted on by the Hungarian Parliament in the fall. In some circumstances, producers will be able to up the incentive to 30%, if a portion of their film is shot elsewhere in Europe. Among Hollywood pics to shoot in Hungary recently were Paul Feig’s comedy “Spy,” which stars Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy.

Another good piece of news is the imminent return of the Hungarian Film Week, Havas said. After a hiatus, the national film event returns mid-October. The last Hungarian Film Week took place in 2012. The 2013 event was cancelled by filmmaker Bela Tarr, prexy of the Hungarian Filmmakers’ Assn., who claimed that the local industry was in crisis, and there were no Hungarian films to screen.

Havas said the film fund is also backing a marketing campaign to encourage Hungarian audience to watch more local films in movie theaters. The campaign, which has the slogan “Sit beside me and watch Hungarian films,” is being spearheaded by an advertising spot shot by helmer Nimrod Antal (“Kontroll”). The fall will see the release of 10 Hungarian films.

“We feel we have to do something to get Hungarian critics and audiences to fall in love again with Hungarian cinema, because it is gorgeous,” Havas said. “We believe in the power of talent, and we are doing everything in our power to train the young talent, and to cherish and maintain the filmmakers of the older generation.”

The next year will see two big-budget Hungarian historical dramas going into production: Gyorgy Palfi’s “Toldi,” which is based on Janos Arany’s narrative poem, and Gabor Herendi’s “Kincsem,” about Hungary’s best-known race-horse.

Havas attended a meeting on Wednesday in Karlovy Vary with the heads of the film funds of the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Poland to encourage further co-production between those countries.

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