Karlovy Vary film festival East of the West competition The Class

By Laszlo Kriston

    The beginning of the €1 million budgeted (HUF250 million) Hungarian-German movie, The Class (Tablo) dates back to 1998, when the Hungarian-born, formerly New York-based Gabor Dettre first applied to the Hungarian MMKA Fund (www.mmka.hu) to get funding for his third feature-length film.

    It eventually turned out to be his fifth film, counting his 1999 American indie movie, The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man, starring Meat Loaf. When The Class premiered at the 2008 Hungarian Film Week to generally favourable notices, its state-funded grants totalled €683,000.

    Matching an ensemble crime story and a serious-minded investigation into the shady layers of contemporary Hungarian society rife with racism, The Class (under the working title of Gypsy Cop) seemed to be a hot property. Following years of preparation, during which Dettre went on to make Cloud Over the Ganges earning him an European Film Award nomination, shooting on The Class was underway at various Budapest locations, mainly run-down buildings and shabby alleys, but producer Laszlo Kantor (The Trap, Dallas Pashamende), head of Uj Budapest Filmstudio (www.ujbudapestfilmstudio.hu) and Dettre came to realize that they did not see eye to eye on the desirable duration of the film.

    When he introduced the film in February 2008, Dettre offered nothing but praise for producer Kantor. "This two-hour movie is my definite version, and the one that'll get released theatrically," the director explained to the press, and rushed to thank Kantor with heartfelt remarks. A 200-minute television mini-series will be created to further exploit the film's commercial potential. It will be aired on the state broadcaster, Magyar Television (www.mtv.hu), which came on board to co-produce the film, along with Cologne-based Tradewind Pictures GmbH (www.tradewind-pictures.de). The National Cultural Fund (www.nka.hu) contributed €40,000 to the budget.

    Based upon a novel by Akos Kertesz and starring a stellar local cast, Dettre's brooding, yet suspenseful urban crime story follows Karcsi (played by popular actor, Zoltan Mucsi, star of Miklos Jancso's recent movies), a Roma policeman. When one day he is called to the scene of the murder of a wealthy trafficker, he embarks on an investigation that leads to unexpected revelations, so complex, that it makes not only him to scratch his head, but the audience as well. World-renown musician, Alexander Balanescu's score enhances the film's brooding mood. The Karlovy Vary programmers have compared this grotesque, dark and disillusioned crime film to last year's Crystal Globe winner, Jar City.