FNE 2010 Year in Review: Chaos in Hungary

By Zsolt Gyenge

    Almost complete stoppage of Hungarian film production, blocking of all public funding for film production and distribution, the uncertain future (and possible postponement or cancellation) of Hungarian Film Week, total uncertainty over the plans of the government for the future system and institutions of the Hungarian film - this is the short list of the major developments of Hungarian film industry in 2010.

    The problems began with the appointment at the beginning of the year of a new president to the head of the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary (MMK), Zoltán Kőrösi. He uncovered huge debts and financial problems within MMK and the whole Hungarian film industry. The new government - due to budgetary issues and problems within MMK - decided in June to stop all public funding toward MMK which in the second half of the year was unable to honour its contracts and declarations of intent. Films which were already in postproduction or had their funds assured from other partners were completed, but since the summer, almost no Hungarian films have been shot.

    The state budget for 2011 shows that only one fifth of the usual budget is allocated to MMK, which does not cover its own administrative costs. The biggest share of public funding will go to the Ministry of National Economy, but there is no information about who (or what procedure) will decide on the distribution of funds to film productions.

    The latest development on the issue was an open letter published on 16 December by the Feature Film Department of the Hungarian Film Association, in which several well known directors ask Kőrösi to step down from the presidency of MMK. They contend that the way he handled the institution, and especially the financial audit (only vague figures were released, not the entire report), harmed the whole film profession and had degraded it in the eyes of the public opinion.

    The major festival successes were linked to three films this year. Ágnes Kocsis' second feature film, Adrienn Pál was presented in the Cannes Un Certain Regard program and toured with huge success worldwide. Kornél Mundruczó's Tender Son - The Frankenstein Project was presented in Competition in Cannes. Szabolcs Hajdu's Bibliotheque Pascal won the main prize of the Hungarian Film Week in February and was also presented in the Forum program of the Berlinale.

    After changing the presidents of all public media institutions, in December major changes will take place also in the structure of the Hungarian public media: the two public TV stations (Hungarian Television and Duna Television), Hungarian Radio and the Hungarian public press agency (MTI) will loose all production capacities and most of its employees as a huge new institution, the Broadcasting Fund, will take over their tasks. All news programs intended for these institutions will be produced centrally by the Broadcasting Fund, and the TV and radio channels will place orders with them.

    A new Media Constitution has also been voted recently which tightens the control over all media. including the internet. Several Hungarian and international institutions fighting for the freedom of the press expressed their concerns regarding the changes.

    Two major commercial TV channels, RTL Klub and TV2 operate in Hungary. A new general manager was appointed to the TV2 (Zsolt Simon), and the sale of 31% of RTL Klub is expected in the future.