“Son of Saul”, the directorial debut of Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film on Sunday and local and international press are already talking about the revival of the Hungarian film industry. The fact is, however, that the hardest is yet to come. Yes, “Son of Saul” is an excellent movie and it will probably be one of the most successful Hungarian ones ever, although it is not a blockbuster of the kind that we see more and more of from other European countries.
But there are three things that could easily change this and the revamped state subsidised support system might actually make it possible for Hungary to produce such a movie sometime in the near future. First, contrary to the earlier buddy-buddy system, the decisions about which screenplays to support are now made by a panel, which votes on every submission and if a script gets majority it will receive funding. Perfect? Far from it, but it’s an advance. Second, the subsidies offered for international movies coming to shoot in Hungary have been such a success story that some films had to be refused, because there is a shortage of skilled crew.
Many Hungarians of the film industry are working on these projects and it’s inevitable that they pick up a lot of stuff on how to make blockbusters. Third, Andy Vajna. In early 2015 I had the chance to interview him – this was months before Cannes and they were still cutting “Son of Saul” – and already then he said they had high hopes for Nemes’ film and it even could be the Hungarian nominee for the 2016 Oscars. I asked him how difficult directors find to accept his advice and he said that when he lived in the US and visited Hungary, lines were queuing in front of his office, but as soon as he became film industry commissioner, a lot of people no longer wanted to hear from him. Yes, he may have close links with the government, but this guy is the producer of “Rambo”, “Terminator”, “Die Hard”, “Total Recall” and “Evita” for heaven’s sake. If there’s anybody who knows how to make a popular movie, it’s him. Not using this advantage as a filmmaker is like me saying no if Larry King offered the chance to pick his brain. Sure, you’re one of the top journalists of the world, but thanks, I think I’m ok.
-from The Budapest Times