Hungary has had a prominent cinema industry from the start of the 20th century. The Hungarian film industry initially emerged after the First World War. After the communist nationalization, the only company allowed to produce feature films was the Hungarian National Filmmaking Company. Control over film production was centralized and overviewed by authorities to specify story themes and setting, the script was often rewritten multiple times to secure the transmission of ideological messages.
Alongside this culture of censorship arguably emerged one of the greatest example of Hungarian film making. The Witness or ‘A tanú’ is a Hungarian satire film. It was directed by Péter Bacsó and created in 1969 when a tense political climate pervaded Hungarian Society. The film follows József Pelikán a contented idiot who is the caretaker of the dam on the Danube River at bay. After illegally slaughtering a pig to feed his children he becomes entangled in a web of communist political power games. The film ridicules the Stalinist era. Consequently although The Witness was financed and allowed to be made by the communist government, it was subsequently banned from release. As a result of its screening in foreign countries, the communist authorities eventually relented and allowed it to be released in Hungary in 1989. It was screened at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival and received a very popular response.
Video: A clip from ‘A tanu’ in which Mr Pelikan tries to pass off a lemon as a ‘new Hungarian orange’.
In the 21st Century the Hungarian film industry has continued to flourish. Many other countries were able to watch the film before the Hungarians.
The Hungarian independence (1989) solved the problem of funding. The new government’s resources allowed for technically more complex, big budget movies. A former Soviet missile base has been transformed into the Korda Film Studios, one of several studios and production companies and the introduction of new tax laws in 2004 allows producers to save up to 20% on local costs. According to the Hungarian National Film Office since 2004, revenue from foreign film and co-productions has increased more than tenfold, to €126 million in 2009. Critically appraised films have included ‘The Turin Horse’ and ‘Taxidermia’. The setting up of the Hungarian National Film Fund in 2011 has also brought funding and development into the film industry. The objective of it is to contribute to the production of Hungarian films or co-productions that provide art and entertainment and bring significant success both domestically and on an international level. The Hungarian film industry has evolved into a culturally and domestically profitable industry.