Hungary has selected László Nemes’ “Sunset,” which competed at the Venice Film Festival and was picked up for the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics, as its entry in the race for the foreign-language film Academy Award. Nemes won the Oscar for Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” in 2016.
Russia has also chosen its candidate, “Sobibor,” based on the true story of a successful revolt at a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, the TASS news agency reported. The film is directed by Konstantin Khabensky.
“Sunset,” which was awarded the Fipresci Jury Prize at Venice for best film, is set in Budapest on the brink of World War I, and shows a refined world careening toward chaos. It stars Juli Jakab (“Son of Saul”) as Irisz Leiter, a young woman orphaned at an early age, who arrives in Budapest from Trieste looking for work at the elegant hat store that used to belong to her parents. Rebuffed by the present owner, she is drawn into a mystery surrounding her long-lost brother.
Nemes said in a statement that the film is about “a civilization at its crossroads.” It is also a “personal story” of a young woman who “becomes the reflection of the birth of the 20th century.” The film follows Leiter at “close range,” allowing “a very intimate approach to the drama.” “From the outset, I imagined this movie as a way to plunge the viewer into a personal labyrinth of obstruction along her quest to find her brother and ultimately the meaning of the world she wants to discover,” Nemes said.
The film is produced by Gábor Sipos and Gábor Rajna for Hungary’s Laokoon Filmgroup, and François Yon, Nicolas Brigaud-Robert and Valéry Guibal for France’s Playtime, which is also handling world sales. It was produced with the support of the Hungarian National Film Fund on a budget of €9 million ($10.4 million).
The decision to submit the film for the Academy Awards was made by the Hungarian Oscar Committee, whose members include director Kristóf Deák, Hungarian Film Fund CEO Ágnes Havas, screenwriter Bálint Hegedűs, film distribution expert András Kálmán, university lecturer András Bálint Kovács, cinematographer Gábor Szabó and Andrew G. Vajna, the Hungarian government’s film commissioner.
The film had its North American premiere Saturday at the Toronto Film Festival, and has its U.K. premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in the Official Competition in October. It will be released in Hungary by Mozinet on Sept. 27, and has been sold by Playtime to numerous distributors around the world. Sony Pictures Classics acquired “Sunset” for both North America and Australia.
Russia’s “Sobibor” stars director Khabensky as the imprisoned Red Army officer who spearheaded the uprising in the extermination camp. The Russian Oscar committee chose the film by majority vote, producer and committee member Alexander Rodnyansky (“Leviathan,” “Loveless”) told TASS.