The revenue of the Hungarian film industry hit record highs in 2022. Total registered spending exceeded 250 billion forints, making it a 20 per cent increase compared to that of 2021. Csaba Káel, government commissioner for the development of the Hungarian film industry and chairman of the National Film Institute told Hungarian news website Origo that the record sum was mostly made up of foreign currency earnings. He highlighted that ‘Budapest has become Europe’s second biggest base of film production after London’, adding that the revenue of the industry was up 20 per cent compared to last year.
Films about Hungary’s Recent History
Káel said that if those who lived under the former regime do not explain to others what kind of ‘prison state socialism was’, if we do not attempt to show how people felt about that world that Hungarians tried to escape from, younger generations will never understand the essence of the past era. He added that he believes many want to ‘expropriate’ the regime change, which is why the left launched an attack this past autumn on the recently released film Blokád. The film tells the story of the 1990 taxi drivers’ blockade following the drastic increase in the price of petrol that the first democratically elected conservative government was forced to implement, providing new insights into the controversial role that President Árpád Göncz played during the four days when Budapest became virtually paralyzed.
Csaba Káel noted that he is convinced large-scale motion pictures about Hungarian history can make their way onto the international scene. He stressed that Hungarian film-making is living through a renaissance right now and there is a new approach to cinematography in the country. He underscored the importance of motion pictures, reminding that while in the past folklore was the main avenue of storytelling and retelling our history, in our age movies have taken over that role. Films can perfectly relay the experiences and stories of the past. Káel added that films are not only important with regard to telling about the past, but also because they allow the outside world a glimpse into what is going on in Hungary at the present moment. The government commissioner pointed out that the country still needs to make headway regarding historical cinema, however, the industry is now on the right path.
The Blokád Controversy
Káel noted that in his opinion many want to ‘expropriate’ the regime change, which is why the left launched an attack this past autumn on Blokád, taking issue with, among other things, how President Árpád Göncz is portrayed in the film. He said the portrayal of President Göncz, Hungary’s head of state between 1990 and 2000, was not well received by leftist parties, even though his character was written based on historical documents. He said that the question of who can claim to have induced and carried out the regime change is still debated, and many would like to take the credit. The film did not have the ambition to answer that question, it merely tried to bring back the experience of the crisis of a democracy in the making. Árpád Göncz was a part of this process, and he was portrayed accordingly. Films pose questions that viewers need to answer, instead of the creators, he opined.
When asked if there were any films in store about the regime change, he replied that there are still a lot of untapped possibilities and opportunities with regard to the topping, both in terms of documentaries and feature films. Csaba Káel highlighted the ‘Aranybulla’ (Golden Bull) series that started airing on public Duna television last December and was well received by the audience. Blokád also succeeded in achieving its goal of sparking discussion about the topic and it also received high ratings. In fact, it was one of the best performing Hungarian films in domestic cinemas in 2022.
‘We were accustomed to audiences of over 100,000, but it must be realized that the pandemic has altered the way we watch movies: distribution numbers have considerably decreased across Europe.’ In response to this trend, the first Hungarian public streaming service provider, FILMIO, was set up last year. According to the government commissioner, FILMIO is an outstanding success. ‘Hungary is unique in Europe for having a state-funded streaming service’, he underscored. ‘It is very well-liked, we are enhancing continually, and the selection of films available is growing every week. Feature films, documentaries, short films, and cartoons are all accessible on FILMIO. ‘The greater part of the Hungarian motion picture collection of the last 121 years is now available in superb quality on the platform,’ the commissioner highlighted.