Hungarian Fund Denies Backing to Historic Epic

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Andy Vajna, Hungary's Film Commissioner

Award-winning director Gyorgy Palfi's bid for money was voted down

Hungary's national film fund has told one of the country's top young directors that it won't back his new project.

Gyorgy Palfi, who has won international recognition and acclaim for cutting-edge films including Hukkle and Taxidermia, had bid for funding for Toldi, a costume drama based on a Hungarian epic poem known to every schoolchild in the central European country.

Unlike his earlier films, the $6.5 million project was not a relatively small-budget contemporary art house film but one that included a four-minute scene of full armored knights on horseback in combat.

Tensions between Palfi and the fund, headed by Budapest-born Rambo producer Andy Vajna, had been mounting for months. Vajna, appointed government film commissioner three years ago, had clashed with Palfi after insisting a specialist stunt coordinator for second unit work be brought in to shoot the ambitious four-minute single take the director planned.

Hungarian news reports suggested the decision to withhold state money was the result of a personal veto by Vajna. The fund insists no right of veto exists and that decisions are taken by majority vote of a five-person committee.

Palfi declined to comment on the decision. He told The Hollywood Reporter: "I don’t want to say anything. I just wanted to make a movie, and the [fund] made a decision."

He said that he and producers would try to find other sources of money to make the movie.

"It is very difficult. We are trying now, but not in Hungary," he said, adding, "But this is a Hungarian hero's story."

Last week's decision coincided with the resurrection of the Hungarian Film Week in Budapest after two years in which the event did not take place.

The annual review of Hungarian national features, documentaries, animation and shorts ran for many years under the name Magyar Film Szemle, which means "review."

A major shake up in national film funding three years ago, prompted by accusations of mismanagement and overspending by its predecessor body, sparked dissension in the Hungarian film community, and the showcase was closed down.

The new event, which presented local films made in the past two years including some of those backed by the fund, such as Kornel Mundruczo's White God and Adam Csaszi's homosexual coming-of-age drama Land of Storms, aims to begin a new annual tradition.

There are signs that fresh money could be available for more commercially viable projects. In the past two years the fund has made grants worth around $29 million to 36 projects, including art house films, five documentaries and two comedies.

Agnes Havas, CEO of the film fund, told The Hollywood Reporter that she personally would welcome submissions of genre scripts.

"In the 1960s and '70s Hungarian directors shot thrillers, crime drama, film noir and comedies. I think we have directors today capable of doing that. I'd love to be offered scripts for genre films," she said.