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"Hungarian films are well-liked all over the world"

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Agnes Havas • CEO, Hungarian National Film Fund

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- A week away from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival where Hungary will be screening two titles, we caught up with Agnes Havas, director of the Hungarian National Film Fund

Agnes Havas • CEO, Hungarian National Film Fund
(© Nemeth Andras Peter)

A week away from the 51st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1–9 July 2016) where Hungary will be screening two titles: It’s Not the Time of My Life [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
film profile
]
by Szabolcs Hajdu in competition and Kills on Wheels [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Attila Till, which will open the East of the West section (see article), we caught up with Agnes Havas, who has headed up the Hungarian National Film Fund since it was set up five years ago.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: What are the priorities of the Hungarian National Film Fund?
Agnes Havas: Above all, to preserve the tradition of Hungarian film, which is very diverse and has a strong artistic side, embodied by the work of directors of the likes of György Pálfi and Szabolcs Hajdu. Our aim is to give authors the opportunity to pursue a career on the international market and in theatres at home, but it’s also important to work on producing more genre films so that we can build a solid market for mainstream Hungarian films. Up until now, we have been successful on the whole, apart from where national admissions to Hungarian films in theatres are concerned, although the best recent score came from an arthouse piece:Son of Saul [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
Q&A: László Nemes
interview: László Rajk
film profile
]
. By and large, we need to concentrate more on marketing and supporting distribution. Moreover, since the Film Fund was set up, we’ve placed great emphasis on the development of screenplays with a dedicated team. Filmmakers who bring their projects to us have the final say, but the suggestions of our ‘script doctors’ often prove very useful. 

How are you going to boost the distribution sector?
With a new mechanism for supporting films in theatres. We’re currently finalising the details and it will be activated by the end of 2016, most likely in September. We take the potential of films into consideration, as well as their specific characteristics, for example if they have been successful at festivals, or are commercially promising titles. As the government is going to increase the budget of the Film Fund next year, we’ll have some extra funds to play with. 

What about the incubation programme for young filmmakers which you launched at the end of 2015?
We noticed that there were a lot of young emerging filmmakers, who were doing well on the festival circuit. For example, Land of Storms [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Adam Csaszi
festival scope
film profile
]
by Ádám Császi, which was shown at the Berlinale in 2014, The Wednesday Child [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lili Horváth
film profile
]
by Lili Horváth, which featured at Karlovy Vary last year, Afterlife [+see also:
film review
trailer
making of
interview: Virág Zomborácz
film profile
]
by Virág Zomborácz, and Liza, the Fox-Fairy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Karoly Ujj Mészáros
film profile
]
by Karoly Ujj Mészáros, which did very well in Hungary and sold well internationally. That’s why we started this programme, encouraging filmmakers ready to make the leap into feature films. Five small-budget projects are selected and then supported financially and through a development workshop programme. It worked well this year and we’ll soon be launching the call of projects for the second edition.

The Hungarian Film Fund also sells films, does it not?
For years, our industry was present with Hungarian films at festivals and in the promotional sector, but almost completely absent from the sales sector. These days, Hungarian films are always sold by specialised European companies, such as The Match Factory which sold Kornel Mundruczo’s films, Films Distribution which sold Son of Saul, and Films Boutique which sold Lily Lane [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Benedek Fliegauf, but it’s still us who negotiate the conditions in the contracts with these companies. Then there are other ‘smaller’ Hungarian films and catalogue works that we sell ourselves. The deals we make are more or less important, but it’s good for our industry if all Hungarian productions are given the chance of being sold to theatres, VoD and television.  It worked for Paw by Robert Pejo and Loop by Isti Madarász, for example. The revenue we receive from sales goes to production companies, which boosts their resources and whets their appetite for the international market. 

What do you think of the changes in film consumption?
A few years ago, I heard a line in a debate on the future of the distribution of films that I thought went straight to the point: “if you don’t put your films on the Internet, someone else will do it for you”. Piracy is rife in Hungary, but we’re working on finding solutions. It’s fundamental that we do, as intellectual property isn’t free! And let’s not forget that in Germany, the fine system works and has proven to be very effective against piracy. The distribution of European films via VoD platforms is also a hot topic at the moment, as we must absolutely convey the message that European film is of high quality. Our young people have to realise that Hungarian films are well-liked all over the world and that they have brought home an incredible number of prizes from big international festivals these past few years. But I have confidence in our talent. János Szász, Kornél Mundruczó, László Nemes and Lili Horváth are role models for the generation to come, and promise a great future for the development of Hungarian film.

(Translated from French)

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