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Andy Vajna’s movie-war

February 19th, 2013

A conservative commentator rejects the charges levelled against the government’s movie commissioner, whom many filmmakers accuse of ruining Hungary’s world famous film industry.

In Heti Válasz, Attila Michnai argues that anyone who casts a glance at the figures will agree with the government commissioner who wants to see a tangible return on the public money invested in film production.

Under the previous governments, the billions devoted to new films every year were distributed by a board representing the profession itself, but in 2011, the Fidesz-led government appointed Hungarian-American film producer Andy Vajna to supervise the industry. Film producers applying for public money now have to submit their scripts and keep the commissioner’s office abreast of any changes and new developments during and after the shooting. Many filmmakers vehemently oppose that system and accuse Mr Vajna of having practically brought film production at a standstill.

In a piece in Magyar Narancs (print edition), Attila Janisch, one of the most talented of the new generation of filmmakers, describes Vajna’s ways as too American, and suggests that even the system in force under communism would be preferable to the present one. In those times, there were six studios where filmmakers could apply for funding, whereas today, Mr Vajna is the only source of money.

Reacting to Janisch’s arguments, Michnai quotes the latest statistics, according to which a mere 200 thousand of the 9.5 million viewers last year spent their money on Hungarian films. The most viewed film attracted no more than 60 thousand viewers. Box office returns from the films subsidised with 5 billion forints of public money last year totalled just 199 million. Under these conditions, Michnai believes it is only fair that the authorities keep an eye on how so much public money is spent.

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