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The Budapest Filmweek Prizes

The feature competition winner for Best Picture was a film called “Delta” by a young director, Kornél Mundruczó, which was also awarded the traditional Gene Moskowitz prize by the foreign press delegation. However, due to my unfortunately vast degree of geographical separation from the festival grounds I didn’t get to see it, and therefore am not in a position to comment critically one way or another. This year’s Best Director Prize went to Elemer Ragalyi, for the film “Nincs Kegyelem” (No Mercy) which I was also unable to see, so, again No Comment -- other than to observe that Mr. Ragalyi is, like Lajos Koltai, a highly respected veteran cameraman turned director, dresses very sharply for a man of his age, 68, and looks much younger. The film voted most popular (“Közönség”, or Audience prize) was “Nyomozó”, which translates roughly to “Detective” or ‘Gumshoe’. The director was Gigor Attila. I hope it was as good as the word of mouth, but again, I didn’t see it. There were many other prizes, all for films I didn’t get to see, so there isn’t much point in listing titles no one will ever hear about again.

At the closing party, which was actually quite a bash after the lengthy awards ceremony, I did have the good fortune to strike up a conversation with Lajos Koltai who told me that he is now preparing his third film as director. Like his last outing “Evening”, which starred among others Glen Close and Vanessa Redgrave, this will also be an all English language film set in, fact, in England. The subject matter is a club of people who were badly burned and disfigured during the fire bombings of London in World War II. Some of them, says Lajos, look almost like the “Elephant Man”. But, like his concentration camp opus, “Fateless’, 2005, this will be a drama, not a documentary. He is now looking around for a cast and expects to start shooting in September. The working title of the film is “The Guinea Pig Club”. He will work with the same Hungarian cameraman who shot ‘Fateless’, Gyula Pados. I asked him what is it like, when you are directing, to work with a cameraman after you have yourself been a DOP (Director of Photography ) all these years. Koltai replied that he still actually gets behind the camera to set the shots up himself, and then leaves the rest, the lighting and the mechanics of operation to the DOP working under him. It is interesting to see that Koltai who was Istvan Szabo’s DOP on some of the most famous films in Hungarian film history (among them “Mephisto” which won the foreign languge Oscar in 1982) is now sort of following in Szabo’s footsteps by, late in his career, making “offshore” films in English.

Well, that’s about it for the 39th annual Hungarian Film Review. Hopefully, the viewing (and reviewing) conditions will be a little more favorable next year for Big Number Forty which will be coming up and, in fact, I have been assured that changes will be made in the lack of accommodations situation – however, I’m not exactly holding my breath, for, as the great Hollywood producer, Sam Goldwyn, used to say, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.

Alex Deleon, Budapest, Feb. 7, 2008

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