Gergely Fonyó • Director
by Fabien Lemercier
15/06/2009 - Cineuropa: Why did decide to make a musical with Made in Hungaria? Had you ever thought before to film that kind of genre movie?
Gergely Fonyó: I saw the original stage play seven years ago and I immediately fell in love with it. I had the feeling at the time that despite it being and excellent play, it had the potential to be even better as a movie. Unfortunately, it’s very rare that a musical gets made in Hungary, so I did not treat the idea very seriously, I filed it away in the back of my mind as a wonderful idea whose time has not come yet.
What was your main interest in the story: these Hungarian kids trying to play US music or Communism in Hungary in 1963? How did you manage to balance between those two aspects and between humor and nostalgia?
Rock has always been a rebellion against something and the Budapest of the sixties provides a sharply contrasted historical backdrop. Miki and his mates have to come to grips with the fundamental issues of love, friendship, struggle and surrender, treachery and solidarity, armed with only rock’n’roll in opposition to the Communist dictatorship.
This is the business of youth, to express the truth, unfiltered, without fear. Only the young can do that, with their naiveté. As we age, we become increasingly fearful and easily manipulated, we can easily morph into puppets, not unlike that little man in the movie, the Party functionary. I came of age in the Communist system, so I was very familiar with what that era must have been like. The United States was the forbidden fruit at that time. While it helped create a prosperous and democratic Western Europe, we in the Eastern Bloc countries could only dream of America.
Twenty years after the fall of Communism, the passage of time brought a certain kind of charm to the era. Humor becomes partners with nostalgia when dealing with that period. I think the most important thing in life is a sense of humor. When we can laugh at ourselves, it is because we are able to see ourselves more clearly – we are no longer blind.
Did you expect such great audience success in Hungary?
In my heart, I was hopeful. But I’m also a realist who knows that success in this business is an especially complicated and unpredictable affair, there is simply no guaranteed formula to follow. It’s very gratifying to see the public flock to see the movie, and enjoying it. That is my goal, to entertain, to make them happy, to experience catharsis.
How does the fact that you have lived in Los Angeles for seven years influence your filmmaking approach?
One of my favorite periods in film history is the sixties. There was a great convergence of two influential strains in filmmaking, that of the European New Wave and that of Hollywood. The cross-pollination of that era gave birth to remarkable movies on both sides of the pond. The strength of Hollywood’s filmmaking is in its solid storytelling tradition, while European cinema traditionally favored the individual artistic freedom it allowed its filmmakers. My inclination is to blend these two approaches in my work.
What do you think about the current young generation of Hungarian filmmakers? Was it easy to finance your movie?
There are quite a few talented Hungarian directors working in Hungary today. This despite the fact that, just like everywhere else, it’s extremely difficult because filmmaking is a very expensive proposition. And that applied to us as well. It was very difficult to secure financing, but thanks to our producer Adam Nemenyi, who bravely went out on a limb and took an enormous risk because he believed in the movie. The movie couldn’t have happened without him, and I’m deeply grateful to him.
What directors and films have inspired you as a filmmaker?
Since I did not attend film school, my education as a director mainly consisted of watching a lot of movies. I learned from all those directors that I gravitated towards. If I had to name the biggest influence on me as a filmmaker, then it has to be the influence of the Czech New Wave, and above all Milos Forman.
What do you expect from being at Karlovy Vary?
First and foremost, it is a great honor to be invited. As I mentioned, I am a big fan of Czech films, and to be included in the Variety Critics’ Choice section is a dream come true. Made In Hungaria is my story in so many respects. Just like in the movie, I also emigrated to the United States, where I also started at the bottom, with the goal of creating my own “American dream”. When circumstances there forced me to move back to Hungary, now with two children in tow, I had to start again from scratch. This film is a testament to my pursuit of that dream.