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Filming in Hungary: Blog

Follow our blog to stay up to date in the topics related to the Hungarian film industry, film production in Hungary, and filming in Hungary.

Blossom Valley Gathers Laurels in Karlovy Vary

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Since its inception in 1948, The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic has been seen as a testing ground for marketable art-house films which will have pan-European and North American appeal. It has long been among the most prestigious festivals in Eastern/Central Europe, though its credibility lagged under state control during the Socialist era, when they had to take direction from Moscow. But since the Velvet Revolution, Karlovy Vary has made a strong comeback, and is now a showcase for the world's top established and emerging film-makers.

 Photo via Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Photo via Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

With that in mind, it is gratifying to see a new voice in Hungarian cinema take home a prize from this year's festival.  Young Budapest-based director László Csuja was awarded the East of the West Special Jury Prize last Saturday for his debut feature film, Blossom Valley. The award, which is given to a film from the former Soviet bloc, comes with a 10,000 dollar prize, along with a lot of acclaim and publicity. The film is just one more success to come out of the Hungarian Film Fund, which also helped with Ildikó Enyedi's Oscar nominated On Body and Soul, and the recent Cannes International Critics' Prize winner One Day.

Blossom Valley is being considered a more youth friendly film than previous international film festival Hungarian winners, revolving around the relationship between two damaged young people and a kidnapped baby. Daily Variety was quite taken with the film, saying in its review:  "Thrumming with the woozy, hangover energy of a strung-out, sleepless night, 'Blossom Valley' may sound like a brand of supermarket rosé, but its spirit, as embodied in its female lead, is a lot more punk than that. Hungarian debut director László Csuja finds beauty in his bruised, beer-can aesthetic and gives this small-scale, ostensible social-realist story of restlessness and rootlessness a slightly haunted, fairy-tale edge. It may riff on well-known archetypes — the lovers-on-the-run narrative, the makeshift-family-unit drama, a plotline that is essentially 'Raising Arizona' played without the laughs — but this exceptionally well-performed debut is so bravely loyal to its idiosyncratic, misguided characters that it never feels less than fresh."

Screen Daily says: "Blossom Valley has the verve and passion that comes with a young and enthusiastic crew behind the scenes and a cast or mostly non-professional actors. Csuja especially is a director who should be watched closely over the coming years."

It is an auspicious debut, though general audiences have yet to get a chance to see and react to the film, which only appears in theaters in Hungary later in the summer. Below you can find the trailer to Blossom Valley (in Hungarian with English subtitles) which deserves a look.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

 

  

Secretly Hungarian: Three Singers with Magyar Roots

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With the Sziget – Europe's biggest, and regularly voted 'best' – music festival, on the horizon, we thought it would be an opportune time to have a look at some musicians, specifically ones, that you might not know have Hungarian roots. Much has already been made of the local roots of KISS's Gene Simmons, who sang in Hungarian on the band's last local appearance, and Tommy Ramone of the Ramones, who also used to tour Hungary regularly to revisit the birthplace of his ancestors, before he passed away. But less known are the country's connection to some pop singers who are very much in the news today.  

 Photo by Matthew Straubmuller via Wikipedia Commons

Photo by Matthew Straubmuller via Wikipedia Commons

First, there's Paul Simon, who recently announced his retirement tour. Of course he is best known for being part of the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel, the pair of troubadours whose lyrical and distinctly New York songs took them the the height of fame and chart success. Simon's roots are more humble. His parents were Hungarian-Jewish immigrants who escaped the impending Second World War to settle in Newark New Jersey, where they instilled a love of eclectic music in their son. Unfortunately, Budapest is not on his tour schedule, and the last time he played here it was solo, back in 1991. Interestingly, Garfunkel's roots are also from the neighborhood--his grandparents hail from Iasi, Romania.

 Photo by Justin Higuchi via Wikipedia Commons

Photo by Justin Higuchi via Wikipedia Commons

One-time superstar, Grammy-winning songstress Alanis Morissette, who is also secretly Canadian, is the daughter of one of the many Hungarians who fled in the 1956 diaspora. To honor her Hungarian roots, Morissette named her publishing company Szeretlek, which in Hungarian, means 'I love you.'  She is back in the news lately, as a Broadway musical was recently mounted based on her juggernaut album Jagged Little Pill, which remains the highest selling female debut album of all time. Maybe the musical will make its way here, as Morissette herself has been somewhat absent: she hasn't played in Budapest since 2005, when her Hungarian grandmother was also in attendance.

 Photo by Viv Lynch via Wikipedia Commons

Photo by Viv Lynch via Wikipedia Commons

For a while it looked like Kesha (also spelled Ke$ha) would dethrone Lady Gaga as pop's chart queen. But legal cases with her producer and record company have kept her from capitalizing on her momentum. That said, she has emerged as a strong, outspoken voice of the #metoo movement. Though thoroughly a California gal, her grandparents on her mother's side are from the Hungarian town Szentes. Kesha's ancestors moved to the States way back in 1913, settling in music haven Nashville. Kesha has reportedly sold close to 70 million albums worldwide, an astonishing feat in this day and age of music downloading. She revisited Budapest in 2011, when she proudly proclaimed her Hungarian roots to the appreciative audience.

Do you know any other 'secretly Hungarian' musicians? Let us know in the comments.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

Lángos: A Hungarian Street Food's Rise to World Yum-ination

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 Hungarian lángos via Wikipedia Commons

Hungarian lángos via Wikipedia Commons

If ever there were a Hungarian food poised for a global takeover, it's the poolside, river-side, park, and hangover-curing treat, Hungarian lángos. In case you don't know, the simultaneously humble and decadent lángos is a piece of deep-fried potato dough that is traditionally slathered in such toppings as minced garlic, sour cream, and cheese. While most cultures have a variation of fried dough: you can look to Canada with their Beaver Tail, the lángos is somewhat unique in that it is typically served with savory, not sweet toppings.

In Hungary and its former territories, the lángos is at once retro and contemporary, having never gone out of style, yet still provoking feelings of nostalgia. It is not surprising that in New York City, with the boon of food trucks and diverse population and love of street food, there is now the possibility to get an authentic Hungarian lángos. But there is authentic and there is 'authentic'. The New York lángos can be purchased with a New York twist, with toppings like smoked salmon, and Greek tzatziki.

Moreover, recently the media empire Vice took notice of the lángos when its food channel Munchies called it "the perfect vehicle for, well, pretty much anything." What is interesting here is that the lángos, which shouldn't cost more than a few euro fully loaded, is also being elevated into an upscale dish. This is greatly different than some other modifications, like the lángos burger, created by the Brooklyn hamburger joint Korzo, that deep-fries a ground beef patty inside the lángos, which then serves as a bun. This particular variation was so popular, and received so much press, that local Budapest restaurants picked up on it, bringing this new-fangled lángos back to its homeland, meaning, for better or worse, you can now get the lángos burger in Budapest.

It's just not summer until you've had a hot garlicky lángos by a cool body of water. Now with street food hitting peak trend, the lángos – which we can say is one of the few indigenous street foods in Hungary – is more popular than ever. There is even a newly established annual award for best lángos in Hungary. It may not be as internationally known as the burger, but the lángos is one of those simple irresistible foods that, like a taco, once you've tried, you only want more. (On that note, is it only a matter of time before we see lángos-shelled tacos?)

Have a look at the news clip about the New York lángos food truck below (English subtitles):

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

Gül Baba Named Budapest's Prettiest Street by about Everyone

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 via the Gül Baba Facebook page

via the Gül Baba Facebook page

Since its renovation last year, the tiny but memorable Buda-side street called Gül Baba has gotten it share of press. Perhaps a PR agent lives along its cobblestoned walkway, or maybe the tourism board has taken a liking to its quaint medieval feel, which resembles Prague’s famous Golden Lane on a smaller scale, but it has been suddenly and definitively been dubbed ‘Budapest’s Prettiest Street’ in both local and international press. That’s a tall order for such a short and steep stretch of road, but not undeserved.

 via the Gül Baba Facebook page

via the Gül Baba Facebook page

The street, which is technically a lane, leads from riverside Buda up to the tomb of the Turkish holy man, Dervish poet and visionary it was named after: Gül Baba. Baba’s tomb is one of the rare remaining artifacts of the Ottoman rule that has been maintained and embraced (perhaps this is because it is still considered a property of Turkey), having achieved landmark status. Baba was a favored member of the court of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who undertook the invasion of the Hungarian land. Baba is known as the ‘Father of Roses’ because as legend has it, he introduced the flower to Hungary, though scholars contest this. Though local press describe the street and tomb as an ‘Islamic pilgrimage point’, you are far more likely to be competing with backpackers and tour groups for walking space on the narrow lane.

 Gül Baba via Wikipedia Commons

Gül Baba via Wikipedia Commons

The street and tomb are not unknown as a film location either, being utilized in the Anthony Hopkins’ 2011 supernatural horror feature The Rite. With both Gül Baba’s tomb, and the cobble-stone lane leading up to it renovated (but in the case of the street, not modernized) it is becoming a must-do part of the itinerary of tourists who favor seeing sites on foot (good luck getting a bike up there, much less a Segway). Though the Ottomans are long gone, in terms of beautiful streets, they still exert influence.

 via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

Other very pretty streets in Budapest may include: Benzcúr street, which runs parallel to the more majestic and grand Andrássy Avenue; Pozsony street, loaded with its art deco buildings and, until recently, trees; and Kazinczy street -- if you can get there in the off hours before it is over-run with tourists, it is a curious mix of un-renovated buildings and newer structures, along with a beautiful but hidden synagogue.

Got any favorite hidden Budapest streets? Let us know in the comments section.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

Football Confidential: World Cup Video of Russia Shot in Hungary

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Every four years Europe, and much of the world falls into the grip of football fever in a way that many North Americans, and non-football fans just can’t understand. The World Cup is not just a competition, but a cultural showcase and diplomatic opportunity for the nations involved, a kind of competitive UN of sports. There is a lot of pride at stake for each nation, but also a chance to build bridges with good sportsmanship. This year's World Cup takes place in Russia, but of course, despite not having a qualifying team, Hungary got to play to its strengths and was tipped to host the locations for the official world cup anthem, “Live it Up”. It’s not the first, or the last time Hungary will stand in for Moscow on film, as is well documented on this blog. It’s interesting that while many nations are represented in the clip by way of flags and ethnicities, Hungary does not get a mention. But those with sharp eyes will recognize that while much of the world will be subtly tricked into thinking it is Russia they are seeing (there are a few token shots from inside Russia, including a few stunners of Luzhniki Stadium), it is in fact mostly Hungary.

It’s not for us to comment one why the filming of “Live it Up”, sung by Nicky Jam along with fellow American Will Smith, and Kosovar singer Era Estrefi, took place in locations so far from Russia, except to speculate that as with so many projects, most recently the feature film Atomic Blonde, Budapest and Hungary make for superb stand-ins for Russia. Or perhaps our reputation for excellent craftsmanship and skilled crews had something to do with it. Either way, the result is phenomenal. The reaction to the video has also been awesome, racking up 25 million views in under a week.

Some of the memorable locations chosen for the clip, which to its credit passes over the more tried and true Budapest locations, are the K-Bridge, which Sziget fans will recognize as the path the to decadent summer music festival; the pleasingly green panel houses you can see from the commuter train that runs through Obuda; an abandoned market, and a few choice street scenes. It all communicates a friendly but gritty Eastern European atmosphere. It was a job well done by Hungary, even if our team is staying home. Or, maybe this is all just an audition, and the World Cup will be hosted in Hungary in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy to video.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

A Window to the Past: the Photo Splices of Zoltán Kerényi

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The photographic wonders we are presenting this week are the result of photo research, investigation, modern photography, and crack editing skill, plus a bit of imagination. All that work was the several year passion of Hungarian photographer Zoltán Kerényi, who used pictures from the Hungarian photo archive site Fortepan along with his own original images to create the body of work he calls Ablak a Múltra, or Windows To The Past.

Splicing a photo from the past, sometimes from as far back as 100 years onto the same modern-day setting creates a photographic "time machine". The effect is both whimsical and informative, particularly where war images are spliced onto the Budapest of today, with its fast food restaurants chains and traffic. At times the results conjure up feelings of nostalgia, even if you weren't alive at the time of the older photo.

Thanks to post on Reddit, and coverage in some large news outlets like the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed, the images were something of a viral sensation when they were published several years ago, eventually becoming a book. Kerényi's Facebook page for Window to the Past is still popular, and there you can find some of his more recent photography. Enjoy the photographs below, all used with permission of the artist. You can find his dedicated site here.

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Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

Filmed In Budapest: Atomic Blonde

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Of all the big budget Hollywood movies to be filmed in Budapest over the past few years, the Charlize Theron starring Atomic Blonde was one of the largest and most anticipated. In its filming, much of which occurred in in 2017, it pushed crews and technicians to extremes in its innovations, and once again proved what we already know: Budapest, while remaining very particularly itself, also has the ability to stand in for just about anywhere.

Of course it helps that it is a Cold-War themed action film, and that city is Berlin, as the untrained eye can easily accept the bland color of the buildings and rougher exteriors of winter in Budapest as those of Berlin. But if you have spent anytime in the city, you can see Budapest peeking out from behind the cloak when Theron’s character leaps from a high level of a courtyard terrace. Such courtyards are commonplace in Budapest, due to strict building codes that require a certain amount of space to remain open. Most apartment buildings in the city center have a courtyard; the same cannot be said about Berlin.

Hat’s off to the filmmakers who decided to make a pivotal scene a car chase in a city filled with 80s Socialist-built Trabants, Ladas, and Wartburgs. Over 500 of the cars were needed for the filming. If you click the link here to watch the ‘Making of a Car Chase’ video we tracked down, you can see just how complicated the filming of the Atomic Blonde Trabant (or is it a Lada?) chase scene was. Indeed these few minutes of film took a week to execute. According to KFTV.com, “The sequence was filmed using a specially-designed vehicle camera rig. Stunt drivers drove the vehicles from control pods that could be positioned in different places on the rig depending on where was off-screen for specific camera shots.”

Credit also goes to set designers and builders who constructed a portable Berlin Wall. That’s right. The wall in the film was toted around town and erected where it was needed, then dismantled and moved to the next location. It’s important to note that many exteriors of Atomic Blonde was also filmed in Berlin, so it is not exclusively Budapest undercover. Adaptable, it is, a shape-shifter, it’s not. Still, Atomic Blonde joins the pantheon of spy films shot in Budapest, which we detailed in a post here.

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Below, find the trailer for Atomic Blonde and as well as a 'making of' short.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

The Styles of 1918 Budapest and Beyond

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With Hungarian fashion label Nanushka making news with its increasingly global presence, we thought it might be interesting to look back at the roots of Hungarian fashion. All the photos below are from 100 years ago, in 1918. If anything, this proves that Hungarians were, and still are, a fashionable people. From street kids to country aristocrats, dress was taken seriously.

All the photos below are from the Fortepan collection, which can be found here.

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Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

The International Conspiracy Against Hungarian Gulash (Gulyás)

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Sometimes Hungary gets attention for all the wrong reasons. In this case, it's because somebody who is not Hungarian decided they were going to teach the world how to make gulyás, Hungary's unofficial national dish. Needless to say, it hasn't gone well. The touchingly naive video, on offer below, which has been making the rounds on local media, has been subject to a lot of snark. The reasons for derision are obvious to anybody who has an even passing knowledge of Hungarian cuisine, as the host sets out to teach the expectant home cooks of the Internet how to make Hungarian gulyás (gulash, as it is known internationally). It does not bode well when at the beginning Chef Dave from Dave’s Kitchen claims the main ingredient is hamburger meat. This of course will come as a surprise to cooks all over Hungary, who do use beef, though it comes in the form of cubes that will ideally be cooked until tender in a bogrács, which is a cauldron set over an open fire. His next offense follows soon after, insisting tomato sauce is also a primary component. True, tomatoes go in gulyás, but the bright vibrant red tint comes from the healthy amount of dry paprika the country prides itself on.

 via Lily 15/ Wikipedia Commons

via Lily 15/ Wikipedia Commons

We’d like to say Dave gets on the right track after that, but he continues to maul the recipe of Hungary’s most famous dish by adding soy sauce, and more bizarrely and non-Hungarian, Worcestershire sauce.

We are not here to provide any authoritative recipe or method for cooking gulyás, as both these things vary depending on the region and chef. That said, we did ask a Hungarian food expert to chime in. Judit Szöllősi, who runs food tours in Budapest out of her company Budapest 101 had this to say: “Some key ingredients that you definitely need for a goulash soup: lard, onion, beef, good quality sweet paprika, caraway seed, carrots, parsley root, potatoes. Of course the recipes differ in every family. And to have the best goulash experience you must serve it with excellent sourdough bread made of white flour.”

While the video is not exactly an international incident, it is a misuse of the name gulyás. And who knows why foreign adaptations of the dish translate it into anything but a soup. Maybe they had to compensate for lack of proper paprika that makes the broth so savory and spicy. Or perhaps it is for a more mundane reason: “My first reaction to the video was like,” continues J.Sz, "‘what are they doing? This is disgusting and an abomination!’ Then my second reaction was: ‘You know what? Maybe this dish is closer to the real goulash than we think’. Goulash, or gulyás, as we spell it, means a cowboy, the guys looking after the cows. And these guys, just like people working on the land, were poor as hell, and could never afford beef, therefore they never had a goulash! They probably often cooked some simple ingredients together on the open fire, whatever was available. And the dish in the video looks exactly like that: let's see what's available in the pantry, and let's make something simple but filling and comforting.”

North Americans are not the only offenders. The adaptation of gulyás by Czechs also yields a very un-gulyás-like guylás. But less like the North American casserole, the Czech gulash is stew-like in appearance and texture, and instead of the pasta that may accompany Hungarian gulyás, you will find bready dumplings to soak up the thick gravy. Back to Judit: “Today the word goulash is confusing. What foreigners usually call goulash is a beef stew with paprika in it, and we call it pörkölt. When Hungarians say gulyás, they mean a hearty soup made of beef, paprika, but also some root vegetables, potatoes, and often even a handmade fresh pasta. Many people say it's only good when it's made over open fire in a caldron, and you definitely can't make just one or two portions of it.”

However you stir it, if you want authentic gulyás, we recommend you visit Hungary or one of its former territories. In the meantime, enjoy the video.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungarian "One Day" Premieres at 2018 Cannes Film Festival

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 Zsófia Szamosi in One Day

Zsófia Szamosi in One Day

Much has been made of Hungarian film in recent years, with the huge international success of features like Son of Saul, and On Body and Soul, both of which garnered the top industry awards, with an Oscar for the former and Golden Bear for the later. It appears there may be another huge success on the horizon with the debut of one of On Body and Soul director's former students, Zsófia Szilágyi. The young director is getting lots of positive attention and reviews as her feature Egy Nap, or One Day, premiered this week in the Semaine de la Critique, or the “Critics’s Week” section of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

According to the film’s press material, One Day deals with the mounting stress put on a mother and wife over the course of a single day. “Anna (Zsófia Szamosi) is constantly running around – from work to the nursery, to school, to ballet, to fencing class. As if this wasn’t enough, she suspects that her husband is cheating on her. Her issues are hardly unique, but she has simply no time to stop and think them through. They build up relentlessly, threatening to crush her. Carrying on takes more energy than she has left. Will she be able to save what’s fragile and unique in her life?”

In her director’s notes Szilágyi writes: “Slowly and consistently, the film shows — from her viewpoint — how Anna’s day marches on. It is this very perspective and the handling of time that make up the film’s core. We do not elegantly pass by certain repetitive actions and we do not change our perspective either. We go through them, just like she has to. Neither she, nor we can avoid them. The film tells about everyday time and the forceful nature of routine.”

Astute readers and film fans will recognize the name and face of lead actor Zsófia Szamosi, who also starred as the authoritarian choir teacher in “Sing”, another Hungarian film to achieve success, winning an Oscar in the Best Foreign Short category.

The Hollywood Reporter called One Day “intense”, praising its camerawork and screenplay, as well as Szamosi’s portrayal of a woman at loose ends. Screen Daily called it an “unexpectedly powerful drama…” and said “Szilágyi delivers a sympathetic women’s movie that makes the car chases and shootouts of the classic action genre look like the easy option compared to the challenge of holding down three kids, a job and a wayward husband.”

Only time will tell if One Day has the power and momentum to follow in the footsteps of Son of Saul and On Body and Soul. But a strong showing at Cannes, and positive critical notices are a great indication that this is one Hungarian film to keep an eye on.

Below find the trailer for One Day.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

 

 

 

Budapest Through the Eyes of Guide Book Author András Török

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Below is an interview with guide book author and tour guide András Török, whose book A Critical Guide to Budapest is a cult favorite with travelers and locals alike who want a more in depth and off-beat guidebook to the city. As his answers indicate, he has a textured and authoritative view on Budapest and its culture, one you won't find in more run of the mill sources. We picked his brain a bit about some of the city's secret and not so secret locations.

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Flatpack: We typically see the same locations in Budapest, like the Chain Bridge, the State Opera House and Parliament, being used in films. What are some of the photogenic or otherwise atmospheric locations in Budapest that you have yet to see in international films?

Török: The Ganz-Mávag working-class housing-estate, in Joseph Town, near Népliget, the Wekerle Estate in Kispest, the Napraforgó utca villas. The little that remains of the Slaughterhouse, in District IX.

 Wekerle Estate. Credit: József Rozsnyai via Wikipedia Commons

Wekerle Estate. Credit: József Rozsnyai via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack: Are there any under-recognized, or hidden gems for tourists and locals alike to visit?

Török: The Budapest Music Center, the Liszt Museum, Epreskert, where sculptors are trained in Theresa Town (District 6), Brody Studios (members only club), Károlyi kert (District 5).

Flatpack: How do tourists’ impressions of Budapest differ from your own?

Török: It was too long ago, but Paul Newman was flabbergasted: "How could I overlook that gem of Europe so long?" he asked. He nagged me about the details: How could poor Hungary in the 1950s be preoccupied with the costly rebuilding of the Royal Palace? (In such a cheap manner?)

Flatpack: What is the most romantic spot in the city, for say, a proposal?

Török: Obviously Fisherman’s Bastion, or the stairs of the National Museum.

 Photo by Tamas Thaler via Wikipedia Commons

Photo by Tamas Thaler via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack: If the city were a celebrity, who would it be? And why?

Török: Jeremy Irons. Old, but youthful, trendy, still capable of enticing ladies.

Flatpack: What’s the most vibrant, up-and-coming neighborhood?

Török: Joseph Town (District 8), in and out of the Grand Boulevard (not the rust belt part).

 Joseph Town via Wikipedia Commons

Joseph Town via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack: What’s the top culinary experience for somebody visiting the city?

Török: The gallery part of Hold Utca Market: "street food with a difference”.

Flatpack: Has there been a significant difference in the type of tourist you see in the city these days, as opposed to when the book came out?

Török: Oh yes, wildly different.

a.) city hoppers – affluent couples (often gay – a great market!)

b.) stag party tourists – despicable, but numerous

c.) large families with kids of all ages

d.) conference tourists, getting out of boring lectures, enjoying the city

e.) affluent senior groups, often octogenarians

f.) Viking Tour tourists, sleeping on the ship, their buses are everywhere

g.) travelers, discovering the city by themselves, often off the beaten path.

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Flatpack: Do you have a strong interest in an historical figure the non-Hungarian readers might not be familiar with?

Török: Artur Görgey, commander in chief of the Hungarian rebel troupes in 1849, who actually defeated the Austrians, but was beaten by the troupes of the tsar. He symbolically lay down arms to the Russian troupes. His life was spared, but the rebel leaders blamed him for the defeat. Gullible Hungarians wanted a cheap explanation, and could not take the bitter pill, so they believed populist Lajos Kossuth, the governor, and considered Görgey a traitor for a long long tile. God punished Görgey with a very long life. He died late in 1916. His statue is in Castle Hill, on the western edge, away from the river. (Re-erected in 1998.)

Flatpack: You have a lecture called ‘What Makes Hungarians Tick’. Is there aspect to the Hungarian mindset that might be unique and is easy to put in words here?

Török: Money, power, family, sex. Like other nations, but possibly in another order.

Most Hungarians think they are special… They are never to be blamed for the problems of the country. It’s the Turks, the Austrians, Moscow, Brussels(!) and nowadays Mr. Soros.

They think Hungarian is the most beautiful language, and they are the most hospitable.

Hungarians hate competition, love excessive drinking, and greasy food. They suffer from an unfounded superiority complex.

Sad… As the US President would say.

Flatpack: Is there a film, be it Hungarian or foreign, that captures the essence of the city?

Török: Not yet.

Flatpack: Tell the Budapest-curious readers about your book; how has it evolved with revisions?

Török: Budapest Critical Guide evolved a lot since it was published first in 1989. There are (old) photos in it as well, the modern developments are more emphasized. In the first edition there was a blind lottery ticket lady, where you could leave massages and little parcels for others to pick up. In the pre-mobile-phone times… The cover has changed some seven times.

See my specialized website:

www.budapest-criticalguide.hu

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Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

 

 

Interview with Flatpack Collaborator Lorand Banner Szucs

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Below is an interview with casting director and film director Lorand Banner Szűcs, who in addition to working with Flatpack on numerous projects, recently collaborated with us on the Indian feature length film Raabta, a portion of which was filmed in Hungary. We reprint this interview from Cult Critic magazine with their permission. The interviewer was writer/director Helen Wheels. Much of the interview pertains to Banner Szűcs's film Sandwich, which recently won both the Best Picture and Best Narrative Short awards at the Los Angeles Film Awards.

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Banner Szűcs was born in Hungary at a time when independent filmmaking was “barely tolerated” because it was viewed a “threat to the regime;” however, by the time he started high school, filmmaking was being taught in the classroom.

Cult Critic: According to your biography, you started learning about filmmaking in a series of summer classes, where you produced your first short film. Please tell us about that experience. How old were you at the time?

Szűcs: It was a very exciting time when lots of young people came together to learn about filmmaking and theatre. I’m grateful to fate for putting me on that path. Thinking back, I had a lot of classmates who have gone on to become major theatre actors, directors and set designers. It’s quite likely that we would have been pretty difficult students elsewhere, but the opportunity to express ourselves creatively helped us through our tough teens. The summer camps really were the highlight of our whole year, especially because we got to meet professional filmmakers, whose movies were being shown in cinemas all across the country. It really was a fabulous experience and the films we made here are some of my very best memories. Our first film was a crime story that took place on a bull farm but all done with a very sour humor.

The funny thing was that our head teacher was one of the most well-known comic actors in the country, he played the main character and he brought a lot to the movie. I especially remember the soundtrack that we recorded live during the shoot played on the violin by the world-renowned violinist Félix Lajkó. He was performing locally and staying at the same place as us. We asked him to play and he agreed. It was such an inspiring time.

Cult Critic: How did that series of summer classes lead to your 25-year career with MAFILM? What was your role in the company?

 Szűcs: I wasn’t even 18, and we were just coming to the end of one of our summer school sessions when I was asked if I would like to work on a proper feature film. I couldn’t believe my luck, it was like a dream come true, because, growing up in a small town, I always knew that I wanted to work in film, but I somehow always knew deep down that I didn’t stand the faintest chance. I didn’t really know anyone and it had all seemed like a fun hobby until then. Then, all of a sudden they said, “Come up to Budapest and work with us on a real film!” “What?” Of course, it didn’t take me a minute to pack my things and set off. I didn’t have anywhere to live, I didn’t have any friends in the city – all I knew was that I desperately wanted to work at the film studios. You asked me what happened over the last 25 years. It’s odd that I’ve never really realized that it’s been 25 years because the time has really flown by. I’ve worked on some incredible films and with some incredible people. I worked as a runner on the first two films, and I ran where I was told to. But that’s the way people learned the trade back then. I slowly started to make my way up the ladder, first as the second AD and then as the first AD. I worked on Hungarian and international movies one after the other, with the odd commercial in between. It was great and, even though I’ve not done it for a fair while now as I’ve been working on my own projects, it’s really good to look back on, and, now I think about it, I kind of miss it…

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Cult Critic: You mentioned in your bio that you studied abroad for a year in Australia. Please tell us a bit about your studies there and the effect it had on your sensibilities (if any) as a filmmaker.

Szűcs: I traveled to Australia for a number of reasons and one of them was that I was really tired and I needed to try something new. I was lucky to be working on a screenplay and the producers weren’t at all bothered where I wrote it, they just wanted to see it finished. That meant I could travel and write it “down under”. I really loved Australia, the people there are so friendly and laidback.

 Cult Critic: Upon returning to Hungary, you founded Banner Casting. What influenced that decision? Does your agency cast for commercial as well as narrative work? What are the differences (if any) between casting for commercial use and narrative? How does owning the agency feed into your own work as a filmmaker?

 Szűcs: I set Banner Casting up during a time of new beginnings when a whole lot of things were changing around me. My daughter had just been born, and I was looking for a new challenge in the industry. I think I’ve managed to achieve pretty much all I set out to achieve as we are now one of the leading casting companies in the country with dozens of movies and world campaigns to our name. Only last year we made two Indian films: “Jab Harry met Sejal” and “Raabta”. I can remember preparing to work with the great Shah Rukh Kahn and I sat down to watch “Happy New Year” – I was stunned! I particularly recall a seemingly simple scene when Paduka meets the guy in the bar. It’s an important dramatic moment although not perhaps the most significant, but it was like watching the opening ceremony at the Olympics. I really couldn’t believe my eyes, and the spectacle created would have been enough to make a whole Broadway musical. I adored it!

So, as you see, we work on some great projects and I’m pleased to say that we have been joined by new colleagues who perhaps see things a little differently to me and that’s a good thing because that brings a greater spectrum of color to what we do. This means that we have commissions on which I work as the senior casting director, where I keep a close eye on things and my people can come to me if they need my help, but I don’t interfere with every single decision. A fresh approach is always a good thing. Of course, projects still come along that I wouldn’t dream of letting out of my hands because they are either really close to my heart or the director is a close colleague who has specifically asked that I cast their film.

 From  Sandwich

From Sandwich

Cult Critic: What was the inspiration for your current film, “Sandwich”?

Szűcs: “Sandwich” is a film about love and empathy. It’s about a turning point, the kind of turning point that requires a lot of different factors to come together, and each and every scene encourages the viewer to make change happens in their life. Everything comes together that night to create change and that is a very rare and what I would even call a “blessed” moment. Similar moments occur to us all, and we either notice them or we don’t. If we do, they can bring meaningful change to our lives. The characters in my film choose to seize the opportunity, and that is what I set out to portray.

Cult Critic: The performances from your lead actor “The Captain” (Szabolcs Thuróczy) and young actress, “Dana” (Emma Bercovici) were phenomenal. As a director how did you work with your actors to inspire the performances that you and your actors achieved?

 Szűcs: I was very fortunate with my cast. Szabolcs is an old friend and an exemplary actor. He’s a star in Hungary and people love him. I think it is significant that he is a seasoned theatre actor and that worked very well in this film. Most of the scenes are set in a military facility, and it is always a challenge as a film director to maintain tension without changing the setting. That is when an actor’s experience of being locked into a stage set proves essential. He is also a leading film actor, so I really got the best of both worlds. Emma is a wonderfully talented child actor, with more experience by the day. It was very important for me to find the special kind of naivety that she possesses, still unspoiled by the profession that has the tendency to turn children into little adults. Truly talented child actors go back to being children when they come off set at the end of the day, and they are the only ones capable of bringing the characters of genuine children to the screen.

Cult Critic: I noticed layers of symbolism in your short film. Please describe some of your thoughts on the idea that a sandwich can act as a facilitator of empathy.

Szűcs: “Sandwich” does have a lot of layers, and, if I wanted to use big words, I would say that if a viewer turns to it with an open heart, they will understand the film’s message. The sandwich in the title of the film, without giving any spoilers, symbolizes life itself. A soldier and a refugee come together thanks to a simple sandwich, that would have gone otherwise unnoticed in everyday life. This sandwich changes everything, and so it symbolizes life for the various characters, each according to their individual situation…

Cult Critic: Another interesting aspect that I noted from your work is the idea that we can learn so much from a child. In what ways do you believe we can learn about the effects of our behavior, through the eyes of a child?

Szűcs: I have already mentioned that the birth of my daughter brought great change to my life. And I have learned something new from her every day since then. Children are incredibly intelligent, and I even sometimes think that she is the one raising me. I’ve often sat and watched her at a playground as she makes friends with kids she has never met before and is soon playing along happily with them. She’s good at it. I, on the other hand, often find myself looking at a child and have a bad feeling about them…making a judgment on them. They either play too roughly for my tastes or I just have a bad feeling about them…My daughter isn’t at all bothered, it’s just another playmate to her, and she never prejudges another based on appearance, skin color, hair color, or anything else that would see an adult form an instant opinion. In many ways, Voltaire provides a motto for this film, when he says:

“Prejudice is an opinion without judgment. Thus all over the world do people inspire children with all the opinions they desire before the children can judge.”

My daughter provided the inspiration for this film at a point in my life when I was becoming increasingly aware of how quick we are to prejudge others. And, in much the same way, we see the hardened character of the Captain open up and become more accepting and understanding of others. It takes a great deal of bravery to open our heart up to others and often appears a treacherous path for the psyche… but it’s worth it…

Cult Critic: I thoroughly enjoyed your film (after the initial heart-breaking opening scene). What are you currently working on and where can we find information about you and your work?

 Szűcs: Of course, the first thing on my agenda is to see “Sandwich” appear at as many festivals as possible. And I am very keen to see how audiences respond to it around the globe. But because it takes such a very long time to make a film, I don’t plan to dawdle and I am already planning my next movie that has been with me for a while now – this time a feature film. Hungarian film is, thankfully, enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, that is good for audiences and filmmakers alike, and makes funding a little easier than in previous years. Fortunately, András Muhi is set to oversee my next film as producer ( Oscar-nominated) “Of Body and Soul”), and I am confident that this project will be ready in good time to present in Calcutta at the end of the next year. In the meantime, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Calcutta Cult Film Fest for selecting my film and I am very much looking forward to attending the award ceremony in December. Thank you India, thank you, Calcutta!

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tour of Art Deco Budapest (Part Two)

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Last week we detailed some of the structures that have made Budapest a surprise destination with lovers of Art Deco architecture and interiors. This week we continue to look at photographs of the understated but striking examples of the style in and around the city, as documented and compiled by photographer Zoltán Bolla. Budapest is more famous for its examples of Art Nouveau style, which is more ornate and relies on warmer curved lines. Art Deco is less associated with Eastern And Central Europe, but is instead the reigning style of the 1900s in many countries of the 'West' including the US, where its influences were so varied as to include motifs from Native American decoration (I point this out, because though it's rare, you can find such motifs in Budapest as well). But still, Art Deco, though over-shadowed by Art Nouveau, has a place in Hungary, which also had an early 1900s design scene that took inspiration from the clean lines and angularity of the Bauhaus and Cubist movements.

Enjoy these wonderful examples of Art Deco in Budapest. For the complete collection have a look at Zoltán Bolla's two-volume book, which can be found at the link at the bottom of the page.

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All photographs are used by permission of Zoltán Bolla, whose two volume A magyar art deco építészet, or Hungarian Art Deco Architecture, is available at the link.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

 

A Tour of Art Deco Budapest (Part 1)

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Art Deco was one of the first architectural styles to really go global. From LA to Paris, its use of geometric patterns, colorful facades, and modern-feeling forms influenced not just building, but graphic arts and industrial design. Emerging around World War I, it became the go-to style for architects who wanted to give attention-grabbing, elegant, and modern designs to their structures. It was very much the style of the machine age, and relied on angular geometry more than curved, humanistic forms for its inspiration. Though the style was originated in France, for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, held in Paris in 1925, the iconic Empire State Building in the USA might be the best-known example of the style.

As a forward-thinking, future-minded city, Budapest was of course not immune to the charms of all Art Deco had to offer. With the cubist movement popular among painters, and materials like stainless steel, chrome, mahogany, and glass more readily and inexpensively available, local architects and designers fell under the sway of all Art Deco had to offer. The results are some of Budapest's most striking and distinctive architecture. While not as immediately stunning and overwhelming as other popular styles like Gothic and Baroque, or the Brutalism of the later Socialists, the Art Deco of Budapest takes a keen eye and appreciation for design to spot and enjoy.

Luckily, you needn't leave stumbling across Budapest's Art Deco gems to chance anymore, as a local Art Deco aficionado and photographer, Zoltán Bolla, has documented the prominent examples from around the city and collected them for a self walking tour, and two-volume book (link below). Over this week and next week, we will be showcasing the best examples from the Bolla's extensive portfolio. So sit back and enjoy the understated beauty of Art Deco Budapest (click on image to enlarge).

All photographs are used by permission of Zoltán Bolla, whose two volume A magyar art deco építészet, or Hungarian Art Deco Architecture, is available at the link.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

Michelin Honors Arrive In Budapest

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Just a few months ago – on this blog – we predicted another star, a Michelin star – would fall on Budapest. And so it happened, at the same time giving the city its first ever two Michelin star restaurant in Onyx. Moreover, the prediction that Stand 25 Bisztró would be honored also came to pass, though it received a Bib Gourmand rather than a star. All in all, it was a good haul for the city’s culinary scene.

For those who don’t know, the driving force behind both venues is the wunderkind chef Tamás Széll, who helped Onyx to procure its first star before leaving to open his own restaurant in Stand 25 Bisztró. Along the way he became the first Hungarian to win the Bocuse d’Or Europe, billed at the most prestigious cooking competition on the continent. The affable, charismatic Széll, only in his 30s, has become something of a local celebrity chef. It’s an interesting trajectory, as Széll could have had his choice of jobs or attracted investors for any number of haute cuisine restaurants here or abroad, but instead he chose to flawlessly recreate and update Hungarian classics in the unpretentious environs of a corner space in a central Budapest market hall. His instincts were of course spot on, and the restaurant is always busy, with their gulyás (gulash soup) becoming immediately legendary among gulyás fans.

 via the Stand 25 Bisztró Facebook page

via the Stand 25 Bisztró Facebook page

“We would like to present our gastronomy in a more informal, friendly, contemporary, but still very high-quality way, after the quite formal, elegant, Michelin-starred style of Onyx,” Széll told finedininglovers.com . “To me it was very important not to lose quality. To use the most excellent ingredients and the most modern Hungarian kitchen technology when we offer meals that feature the culture and history of Hungarian gastronomy. We innovated traditional Hungarian meals, we modernised and we are very proud of our Hungarian products and technologies.”

 via the Széll Tamás Facebook page

via the Széll Tamás Facebook page

If you are one who keeps track of such things, the other restaurants with stars are Costes, Costes Downtown, and Borkoynha. Bib Gourmands, which honor restaurants on the budget friendly spectrum, have also gone to Budapest's Fricska and Petrus. Olimpia earned an Assiette, an award that goes to restaurants with no fixed menu.

 via the Stand 25 Bisztró Facebook page

via the Stand 25 Bisztró Facebook page

If you look where the award count places Hungary among post Soviet Union countries, it puts the country firmly at the top of the list. Second place is the Czech Republic which has three starred restaurants. As a destination for sophisticated diners, the stars are only beginning to come out for Budapest and Hungary.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

How Budapest Became 'Spy City'

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If the recent release of Jennifer Lawrence starring Red Sparrow did anything for Budapest, it solidified the city as an all-purpose filming location for the spy-film genre. In watching the preview, posted below, you can see from just this short clip how extensively the city is utilized, from the opening shot from above Gellért Hill, then on to the New York Café, which we recently blogged about, in addition to finding a few of the more unique locations in a long and eerie underpass that runs under the Western Station train tracks, and the stained glass mosaic hall of Semmelweis University tower.  Most surprising, though not in Budapest proper, is the appearance of the Fabó Éva Swimming Pool in the industrial town of Dunaújváros. The film also includes obligatory shots of the Parliament and State Opera. If fact, 65 locations in Hungary can be seen in the film.

 via Wikipedia Commons/ Illustradjc

via Wikipedia Commons/ Illustradjc

According to Daily Variety: “The action in the novel on which Red Sparrow is based takes place principally in Helsinki and Moscow, but in the film Budapest replaces the Finnish city, as well as playing the Russian capital. Ready (a producer) recalls the visit he made with others from the production team. ‘We discovered a gold mine in terms of beautiful locations to set our main story around,’ he says.”

 Jennifer Lawrence in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence in Red Sparrow

But Red Sparrow wasn’t the first spy film to recognize the city as a wonderful setting for the genre. Not by a long shot. Way back when Robert Redford teamed up with Brad Pitt in 2001 for the hit Spy Game we got to see the possibilities of Budapest cast in this role. Later, in 2002, the ill-fated comedy I Spy saw the Chain Bridge hi-jinks of Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. More recently have been installments in the Mission Impossible and Die Hard franchises, as well as the well-received adaptation of John Le’Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, not to mention the Melissa McCarthy comedy Spy. This spring will see the release of the comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me, also filmed in Budapest. Local industry has also taken its cue: Budapest Noir, while more of a crime film, also makes use of the same mysterious atmosphere.

 Budapest Noir

Budapest Noir

The answer as to why it is so ideal for the genre lies in the diversity and authenticity of locations. Despite a lull in Cold War era spy material after 9/11, the genre of the ‘West’ vs. Russia is still very much alive. Because Budapest has had one foot in each world, it is a natural location when the modern needs to mix with Soviet nostalgia. Moreover, there is just a gritty noir feeling to the city that makes it so filmable. Finally, there have been hugely advantageous tax breaks installed for film-makers that continue to this day.

Only time will tell if Budapest will remain Spy Central. If not, it is still in demand as a location for horror, Sci-Fi, and basically any American film set in Europe. We’ll just wait and see what our sources say.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

The Unlikely Story of California's Favorite Hungarian Wine

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Question: What was the trendiest wine in America and elsewhere in the 1970s, and what could it possibly have to do with Hungary, whose wine industry was suffering from state consolidation and mass production during that era? The answer is a varietal most Hungarians are unfamiliar with, as unfamiliar as Americans are with its origins. But zinfandel, the grape associated with deep shag rugs, Charlie’s Angels, and a very young California wine industry, would not have taken root as the first real California trend-setting wine were it not for an adventurous, pioneering Hungarian named Agoston Haraszthy, who, among his many laurels, is said to be the first Hungarian to permanently settle in the then new USA, in the year 1840.

Many horticulture historians don’t just credit Hasaszthy with introducing the grape to California, they also credit him with revolutionizing the wine industry in California through his methods, many of which lay the cornerstone for modern American viticulture, so much so that he is known as “the Father of California Viticulture”.  Of course innovative minds also have their failures: he originally tried growing grapes in the cold Midwestern state of Wisconsin, one of the last places you would identify with wine or wine culture.

 via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

Having moved to California to get rich during the Gold Rush, he turned from mining to grape cultivation. Unsatisfied with the local variety of grapes, and thinking fondly of home, Haraszthy is said to have ordered kékfrankos (Blaufranhkisch) seedlings from Hungary, which were eventually bred into to the zinfandel grape. But the story of zinfandel’s introduction to America does not come without some controversy, however. It is speculated that Haraszthy had ordered a kekfrankos – but while being shipped, a seedling from Dalmatia from a wine called primitivo was mislabeled as kekfrankos, and what we know as zinfandel is indeed primitivo from Croatia. But never mind that, it can still be called Hungarian, as Dalmatia at that point was still part of the Austrian Hungarian empire.  

Another version of the story has a horticulturist called George Gibbs importing a grape called tribidrag, which would eventually become the zinfandel we know today. But even this alternate take on the wine’s history has a Hungarian twist: Gibb was said to have dubbed it 'zinfandel' as a play on the grape’s Hungarian name, tzinifándli (which, if we are being honest, only sounds vaguely Hungarian).

So, while Bull’s Blood, which was a novelty wine in the US under its Socialist state-controlled entity Hungarovin, and the ever growing cult of Tokaj dessert wine, are commonly identified as Hungarian, it may be that the most popular Hungarian imported grape in American is indeed zinfandel. Moreover, the grape is staging a comeback after being overtaken by chardonnay in the 80s, then pinot noir in the 90s and 00s as the California trendy grape.

No matter which story of zinfandel's arrival in America is true, it was certainly through Haraszthy’s viticulture methods that the grape rose to prominence. These days it is a long way from any Hungarian kékfranos in flavor, and is also a long way from the flacid 1970's zinfandel that was so popular, which is a good thing. Perhaps it is time to re-introduce the grape to Hungary and enjoy some 'tzinifandli,' and honor Haraszthy, international wine legend.

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via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

Notes from the Underground: Cave Month in Budapest

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You wouldn't know it living elsewhere, but Hungary has a huge and growing underground culture. We're not talking about the 'noise' scene or craft beer, but the variety of caves and caverns around the country, several of which are in Budapest. As it's National Cave Month in the Hungary, we thought we'd offer a peek into some of the more striking Hungarian cave and cavern networks.

Hungary is known for many things, but caving has yet to become part of its national identity abroad. But this may change with the much covered (including on this blog) opening of the János Molnár underwater cave to divers. Hip international sites like Atlas Obscura made much, and rightfully so, of the gorgeous network, which is still being fully charted.

 photo by Janne Suhonen

photo by Janne Suhonen

 photo by Janne Suhonen

photo by Janne Suhonen

Then there is the Agytelek National Park network of caves and caverns in northern Hungary. You can actually enter the network on Hungarian territory and come out in Slovakia, though we don't recommend this as a safe or legal alternative to a bus. The entire network comprises over 250 caves and covers almost 200 square kilometers of ground. Some of the cave are thought to have healing properties, like the Peace Cave, which is said to relive the symptoms of asthma.

 Aggytelek National Park, via their Facebook page

Aggytelek National Park, via their Facebook page

 Aggytelek National Park, via their Facebook page

Aggytelek National Park, via their Facebook page

The Lake Cave in Talpoca is part thermal bath, part caving experience. With a three-kilometer meter long watery cave that runs straight under the town, it is also popular with health tourists who claim it cures respiratory issues.

 Tapolca

Tapolca

The Szemlőhegyi Caves, along with the Pál-Völgyi Caves, are some of the more popular caves in Budapest. Szemlőhegyi offers one of the more straightforward caving experiences in the country. Cold, dark and loaded with gypsum crystals, it's ideal for a morning or afternoon trip. You may even see a bat or two.

Hungary has only begun to open up the extensive cave networks across the country for tourism, but dedicating a month to these treasures will go a long way in bringing them much needed exposure. Throughout the month, the organizations that support individual cave will be hosting events like tours and concerts, so we suggest contacting them directly for programs.

 via the Pál-Völgyi Caves' Facebook page

via the Pál-Völgyi Caves' Facebook page

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

A Sip of Histroy at the 100-year-old Nyugat Bar

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 via New York Hotel

via New York Hotel

The cultural and night-life scene in Budapest, over the last 27 years since the demise of the Soviet Union, has been a fast changing place, and has seen the rise of cutting edge fine-dining, the rebirth of a world-class wine industry, and even the invention of a new class of pub, in our famous ‘ruin pubs’. But with all the change, many aspects remain the same, and there is even a growing fondness for the traditional, and love of nostalgia for earlier times. This is why it’s important to promote the shiny and new, but also celebrate the old. And in terms of local nightlife, it doesn’t get more more historical than the New York Hotel’s Nyugat Bar, which turned a young 100 years old last month.

While the New York Kávéház (the New York Coffee House), rightfully, some would say, gets all the attention, the bar in the same hotel is also worthy of attention as a filming location, or just as a spot to hide away from the bustle of central Budapest. Kept hidden up a few marble staircases and behind thick drapes, with its mahogany bar, low light, and cigar-room feel without the cigar smoke, and distinctly Central European vibe, one could imagine intrigue, espionage, or or any number of assignations occurring there away from the public eye.

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The name ‘Nyugat’, which means 'West' in English comes from the periodical by the same name that published the iconic group of Hungarian writers who gathered at the New York Coffee House to write, work, and carouse. The more familiar names will be Ferenc Molnár (who, once he emigrated to New York, with his fondness of hotels, made the Plaza Hotel his home), and later, Sándor Márai, who posthumously became an international best-seller. Though the Nyugat Bar closes at the reasonable hour of midnight these days, for the Nyugat-era writers, the New York Coffee House remained open all night.

 New York Coffee House, via New York Hotel

New York Coffee House, via New York Hotel

It would be hard to imagine a more atmospheric bar than the Nyugat, though through the years, it has seen closures, new owners, and renovations. But with 100 years, including two world wars behind it, the spot remains a little classy gem amidst the ruin pub chaos.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.

 

Hungarian Film Genesis Finds Its Place At This Year's Berlinale

zita kisgergely

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Last year’s Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale) brought wild success to the Golden Bear winner On Body and Soul, which now stands a chance to be Hungary’s second Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film in three years. This year Hungary has another strong showing with the home-grown film Genesis (Genezis), director Árpád Bogdán’s follow up to his acclaimed debut Happy New Life, which also got a nod at Berlinale, winning a Special Mention for the Manfred Salzgeber Award, and going on to have an active life on the festival circuit.

Funded by the Hungarian National Film Fund, Genesis tells the tale of “a young Roma boy, whose childhood reaches a sudden and drastic end when he loses his family in a tragic and brutal attack,” as the film’s press material tells it. It is a perennially relevant topic, recalling fellow Hungarian Bence Fliegauf’s Berlinale competition prizewinner Just the Wind, from 2012.

The theme is, as advance reviews indicate, capably handled by the Hungarian/Roma director Bogdán. Screen Daily, for instance, had this to say: “Though often favouring a hand-held camera, Genesis is nevertheless fastidiously assembled. As the titular allusion makes clear, what the film forgoes in subtlety it makes up for in biblical heft, benefiting from D.P. Tamás Dobos’ reverential invocations of fire, blood and water. As already noted, Gábor Császár’s soundscapes are often characters onto themselves.” Daily Variety returned a review that lavished praise on the Hungarian crew: “the film’s technical aspects benefit from Tamás Dobos’s elemental, widescreen lensing, composer Mihály Víg’s mournful score, and the masterful sound design by Gábor Császár.”

But Genesis wasn’t the only Hungarian film at the festival. There were also two honorary screenings of Eniko Enyedi’s 1989 film My Twentieth Century in the Berlinale Classics section.

Genesis had its premiere at the Panorama Special section of this year’s Berlinale festival, where it was well received. We wish it all the luck in continuing Hungary’s phenomenal recent triumphs. You can view the trailer for Genesis with English subtitles below:

 

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.