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Interview: Szabolcs Hajdu • Director

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"The ocean is there in a single drop of water"


- Szabolcs Hajdu’s third feature was selected at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, following a Best Director win at Hungarian Film Week 2006

Interview: Szabolcs Hajdu • Director

Born in 1972, Szabolcs Hajdu has been working as an actor since the early 90s. He has attended the University of Theatre and Film Art in Budapest alongside with many of the filmmakers of the new generation. His first feature Sticky Matters, in 2000, allowed him to win the Best First Film Director Prize at the Hungarian Film Week in 2001. In 2003 he directs his second feature film Tamara but it is with his third work, White Palms [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
film profile
, that he is selected at the 2006 Director’s Fortnight in Cannes after having won the Best Director Prize at the last Hungarian Film Week.

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White Palms [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
film profile
’ story is quite autobiographical but at the same time it talks about Hungary. Was it your intention from the very beginning that this film should be wider than a character’s story?

My film was not intended to be a direct criticism of society. The most important aspect was to keep very close to our main character, to look at what happens to him, without obscurity, without making it into something aesthetic. Most of this film takes place in the past, but I wanted to make a film set in the present. I wanted the viewer to feel that everything is happening here and now. There was imminent danger of surrendering to the retro-aesthetics so popular these days. (Hungary of the ‘80s would have been a very suitable setting for this.) We did not use any general, stereotypical reliquaries (the communist red star, a Lenin statue, red Pioneer ties, etc.). We didn’t want the given period in time to be presented through these generalities. It is my strong belief that the mechanisms of a social system are projected even in the smallest community: the family. Social criticism is presented in this indirect manner in the film. We see a gymnasium, a family, but the whole of society is there in that family; the dictatorship is unconsciously perpetuated in the manner of behavior. So my answer is yes: the ocean is there in a single drop of water.

You belong to a new generation of Hungarian filmmakers: do you feel there is a “new wave” in Hungarian cinema? What do you think it says about your country?
Film analysts group directors around age 30 as members of the Hungarian “new wave.” I don’t really have an overview of the situation, but I can say that our generation is in the foreground of Hungarian film primarily because of historical reasons and not talent. We are the first generation since the change in regime that is able to make feature films. (In 1990 I turned 18 and began life as an adult. I had to find my way in the world of capitalism, so intimidating to an older generation. But because this was all I had ever really known, it was natural to me.) The members of our generation were children and adolescents during the communist regime; our childhood memories are connected to this age. But we became adults during capitalism. This dualism defines and determines us. We talk about the past in a different aspect than our predecessors; our relationship with the present is different: we have our finger on the pulse of the times we live in.

György Pálos said this generation is turning its back from the “pure aesthetics” of the older generation. Do you agree with this?
I’m not quite sure what Pálos meant, but I think that the difference between generations should never be sought in distinctions of form, but rather in conduct, which then naturally relates back to aesthetics. I think it is very important and characteristic that the new Hungarian filmmakers would like to tell their own stories. Many of us are auteur filmmakers. We try to reveal a subjective, precise private universe: a very risky and fragile undertaking. The generation before us often chose to work with adaptations. We know very little about their personal stories; they themselves remain hidden.


international title: White Palms
original title: Fehér tenyér
country: Hungary
sales agent: Onoma International
year: 2006
directed by: Szabolcs Hajdu
screenplay: Szabolcs Hajdu
cast: Orion Radies, Silas Radies, Zoltán Miklós Hajdu, Gheorghe Dinica

main awards/selection

EFA 2006 selection
Cannes 2006 Directors' Fortnight (selection)
37th Hungarian Film Week 2006 Best Director, Audience Award, Best Producers, Best Editing, Gene Moskowitz Award

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