Berlin: Hungary's National Film Fund a Success, Directors Say

Camille Blake
Producers Péter Miskolczi and László Kántor

A panel of the country's top filmmakers says Hungary's state financing body has revitalized the local industry, but distributors argue they need more support.

BERLIN – A panel of leading Hungarian film directors and producers – László KántorMónika MécsIbolya Fekete and Ferenc Török – took part Tuesday in the annual Cinema Total program, a series of events for film professionals focusing on the Eastern European film industry and hosted by Collegium Hungaricum Berlin during the Berlinale. The directors spent much of their time discussing their experiences with Hungary's new film funding system, which they were unanimous in supporting. 

The scheme was created after the Hungarian-born Hollywood producer Andrew G. Vajna (First Blood, Terminator Salvation) was appointed government commissioner for the renewal of the Hungarian film industry on January 15, 2011. There was much initial apprehension after Vajna’s appointment, with many Hungarian auteurs fearing a heavy-handed approach would be taken in support of Hollywood-style commercial projects at the expense of Hungary's intellectual cinema tradition. These fears have largely been allayed, and the filmmakers were all but gushing about the new system in Berlin.

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“We never had so much money as we have now,” said producer Kántor. “It’s a working system.”

“Thank god we have a system that does not depend on Vajna’s taste,” quipped director Fekete, adding that she did largely did not care what the exact mechanics were, as long as she could make films the way she wanted -- albeit lamenting what she described as a recent shift in authority from director to producer.

Péter Bálint, chairman of the Hungarian Distributors Association, voiced a minority report on the sidelines of the event, stating that while filmmakers might be satisfied with the fund’s production support, it needs to do more to assist domestic theatrical distribution in order for films to reach viewers. He added that the DVD market in Hungary is “pretty much dead” and video-on-demand is “non-existent.”

Producer Péter Miskolczi, who works for the fund, said that the average budget of a film financed by the organization is $1.77 million (1.3 million euros). The smallest budget, $545,000 (400,000 euros), went to this year’s gay-themed Berlinale entry, Ádám Császi’s Land of Storms, while the largest budget, $9.54 million (7 million euros) was granted to Toldi, the new project from György Pálfi (Taxidermia).

The Hungarian National Film Fund, backed by the Hungarian government, is led by chief executive Agnes Havas. The financing for the fund is automatically derived from the tax revenue from Hungary’s No. 6 National Lottery. The fund’s budget for 2014 is $23.99 million (17.6 million euros).