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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.

The Sweet Syrian/Hungarian Confection Connection

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via the Ghraoui Facebook page

via the Ghraoui Facebook page

When you think of Hungarian chocolate, not much comes to mind. Even if you live in Hungary, the unchallenging chocolate produced by formerly state-owned companies, or the grocery-store bought chocolate of the multinationals doesn’t get the mouth watering or the imagination sparking. But it turns out there is amazing, sophisticated high-end chocolate to be had that is produced locally, and the interesting part of the story is that it is produced by a Syrian company.

Ghraoui Chocolate company recently opened a flagship store on Budapest’s tony Andrássy Avenue, joining prestigious brands like Burberry, Herendi, and Louis Vuitton. It is a long way from the working class district of Csepel Island where its factory is located, but much farther from Damascus, Syria, where the company has its origins. Founded over 200 years ago in 1805, the brand originally traded in commodities like sugar, coffee, tea and fruit. According to the company’s site: “After a visit to France in 1931, Sadek Ghraoui decided to introduce quality chocolate to consumers in the Middle East; to people used to traditional Arabic confectioneries, artisan chocolate was a new delicacy and a culinary discovery”.

via the Ghraoui Facebook page

via the Ghraoui Facebook page

Success seemed assured as the reputation of Ghraoui chocolate grew throughout the region and beyond. Indeed, their confections were available in England’s most iconic department stores like Fortnum & Mason, and Herrod’s, as well as in Fauchon and Hediard in Paris. Due to political turmoil in Syria, however, in the middle part of the twentieth century the company was twice nationalized, at one point leaving but one retail store in the hands of the Ghraoui family. But the company persevered, and again rebounded on an international scale, being “awarded the ‘Prix d’honneur’ award in 2005 at the most exclusive chocolate fair in Europe, the Salon du Chocolat trade fair in Paris.”

It would be in the wake of the civil war in Syria that in 2012 that Ghraoui finally closed operations in Damascus, electing to open a factory in Hungary, a place they had business ties. In addition to those employed by their retail outlet, the factory employs upwards of fifty people. According to the site welovebudapest, “The company’s main goal is to reintroduce the Ghraoui brand as a Hungarian product and they commissioned a dozen Syrian chocolatiers to provide all the necessary training to the local team. To honour the host country, a distinct Magyar line has recently been featuring such treats as Coeur de Budapest (Heart of Budapest), Jardine de Sissi (Sissi’s Garden, after the Habsburg empress) and Couronne de Saint Étienne (Crown of St. Stephen, Hungary’s first king).”

via the Ghraoui Facebook page

via the Ghraoui Facebook page

Fabled American news anchor Diane Sawyer once visited Ghraoui Chocolates and asked if there were indeed the best chocolate makers in the world. If that is true, then chocolate in Hungary is famous after all, but with a Syrian twist. This all makes for a very sweet story for Ghraoui Chocolate. With a tasty flavor combination of Damascus and Budapest, how could it be otherwise?

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

Space Cowboys: The Brief History of Hungarian Astronauts

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With so many science-fiction film productions taking advantage of Budapest’s amazing studio facilities, and overall the favorable conditions of film production in Hungary, it’s easy to forget that in terms of real life science and scientific exploration, Hungarians have a long and illustrious history. It is well known that the core group who invented the atom bomb were largely Hungarian. It is less known that Hungary has both a pioneering astronaut who has traveled to space and can also claim one of the first space tourists.

via spacefacts.de

via spacefacts.de

Born in 1949, Bertalan Farkas would become one of the players in the space race between the USA and the Soviet Union. Indeed he was partially educated in Russia, graduating from the prestigious Krasnodar Military Aviation Institute. In 1978 Farkas volunteered to be a cosmonaut, and was chosen for the Soviet Intercosmos program. Ultimately, Farkas made the cut and was selected to be sent into space along with Soviet cosmonaut Valeri Kubasov. They were launched into space on the rocket Soyuz 36 on May 26, in 1980, much to the reported worry of Farkas’ family.

Farkas spent a week in space on the Salyut 6 Space Station, orbiting the Earth 124 times while conducting experiments. Upon returning to Earth, he was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, and took up the somewhat more earth-bound pursuits of tennis and politics.

The second Hungarian to take up space travel represented the capitalist West, and indeed enlisted a profit-making enterprise in his quest to see space. One of the first space tourists, Charles Simonyi is said to have paid upwards of 50 million dollars to be among the first ten or so tourists in space. Simonyi, however, has the distinction of having been the only return customer, taking the space journey twice through an American space tourism company.

Famous for his development of ubiquitous software for Microsoft, including Word and Excel, Simonyi is a billionaire many times over, and can probably fly into space as much as he wants. But that doesn’t mean it was easy, or he was pampered. According to Forbes “Simonyi spent six months training alongside cosmonauts in Star City, near Moscow, where he exercised, learned about spaceflight and survival...He had to see nearly 100 doctors and pass dozens of medical tests.”

Insignia of Simonyi’s rocket, via Wikipedia

Insignia of Simonyi’s rocket, via Wikipedia

The two astronauts’ stories coincide in that both trips were on Russian Soyuz rockets. Also, much like Farkas, Simonyi had to study Russian in order to undertake his journey. Once on the space station, however, he was subject to the same zero-gravity effects that apply to space travelers of all nationalities, allowing him to float instead of walk. Forbes also reports that once in space, Simonyi played a round of ‘space golf’.

“It’s the speed that’s the most amazing. Every 90 minutes, you see spring, you see fall, you see the Arctic, you see the tropics, you see night, you see day,” Simonyi told Forbes. “I realized it was an extraordinary experience, and I just had to take it all in.”

Soyuz rocket ship via Wikipedia. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls

Soyuz rocket ship via Wikipedia. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls

Hungarian science can’t be accused of having its head in the clouds. That said, these two Hungarians who have traveled beyond our atmosphere are both dreamers and adventurers to be commended.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.


Secretly (Faithfully) Hungarian: Marianne Faithfull

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By Photographer: A. Vente - Beeld & Geluid Wikipedia Commons

By Photographer: A. Vente - Beeld & Geluid Wikipedia Commons

It is well known that many Hungarians past and present built the film industry in Hollywood and continue to contribute to its health, whether they are first generation Hungarians or descendants of Hungarian immigrants. But Hungary also has its representatives in other fields of entertainment, like rock and pop music (for example, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gene Simmons of KISS). But less known is that folk-rock songstress and muse to artists like The Hollies, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, — Marianne Faithfull — also has Hungarian blood.

While she herself is British, having grown up mostly in Reading, Faithfull's mother was named Eva, and was born in Budapest, moving to the Vienna in 1918. Eva's last name, von Sacher-Masoch, while not traditionally Hungarian, does merit mention, as it will invoke her kinky relative, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the author of erotic novels like Venus in Furs, and after whom the word 'masochism' was coined.

 Marianne Faithful was also an outlier. She began her career in 1964 in the coffee-houses of London, when there were few female solo artists. She soon caught the eye of management connected to The Rolling Stones, resulting in her first hit single "As Tears Go By," which was composed and written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It was an auspicious beginning, and also the beginning of a love affair with Jagger, for whom Faithfull would leave her husband.

While she held her own as a singer and writer, she is equally well known as a muse for those who fell in love with her. The Rolling Stones' songs "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Wild Horses," and "I Got the Blues" were all reputedly written about Marianne Faithfull. Less known is that The Hollies’ hit single “Carrie Anne” is also about Marianne Faithful.

Faithfull suffered through much in her life, including addiction and homelessness. She lost custody of her children, and her career stalled. The 80s, however, signaled a comeback and move to New York City, where she reinvented herself as a jazz, blues, and torch-song singer. She would later return to the eclectic side of rock collaborating with such artists as PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, and doing vocal work with Metallica, all proving her timelessness and versatility. In 2007 Faithfull was listed by VH1 as the 25th all time greatest female of rock.

In 2014 Faithful came to Budapest (for the first time?) to sing at the exquisite concert hall MUPA. It was widely regarded as a triumphant performance. Let's hope she returns soon, to Hungary, where her roots are.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

Back in Budapest, Schwarzenegger Makes the Most of Filming Terminator 6

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Arnold Schwarzenegger has a long history in Budapest, as an actor and unofficial ambassador. This is of course due to the fact that while he has thrived as an American for decades, his trademark accent gives away his Central European origins. The Austrian-born politician/actor has regional roots.

As such, much was made of his extended return to Budapest to shoot Terminator 6 at Origo Studios and around town as well as in the country-side village of Komárom, on the Slovakian border. Schwarzenegger himself has not been shy about promoting his stay in Hungary last summer. He was eager to pose with the businesses he frequented, including multiple gyms and restaurants, and locations around Budapest, resulting in one memorable shot of him wearing a Guns and Roses tee-shirt riding a bike down Andrássy Avenue (henceforth putting all cars who happen to stray into the bike lane on notice). He also is not shy about promoting the drinking a Radler (a beer and lemonade mixture, popular in Central Europe) as a way to ‘wake up’ after a long night of shooting. Arnold clearly is smitten with the city, and found lots to enjoy.

via Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Facebook page

via Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Facebook page

via Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Facebook page

via Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Facebook page

Also in Budapest, though keeping a lower profile was Linda Hamilton, reprising her iconic Terminator role as Sarah Connor, along with Mackenzie Davis, who participated in the Blade Runner 2049 shoot here a few years ago. Sources report that the T6 installment will continue from where Terminator 2 left off, performing another time-traveling feat by ignoring the three proceeding Terminator films.

But none of this would mean anything if the shoot for T6 didn’t go smoothly. So again, the actor was ready to lend his voice to promote film production in Budapest and Hungary. As you can see from the video below, he, along with the film’s director (Tim Miller, of Dead Pool fame) and the late Andy Vajna (Hungarian Film Commission head and producer of earlier Terminator installments) praise the local crews and studio (Origo). In the short video, the 71-year-old Schwarzenegger calls Budapest, “one of the nicest cities in the world.” No doubt Hungarian-American Vajna, whose connections to both Terminator and Budapest are deep, can be credited with bringing the huge production — with a budget reported to be 300,000,000 dollars — to Hungary. Vajna’s contribution to developing film production in Hungary cannot be over-stated, and his leadership will be missed.

Here is wishing Schwarzenegger and everybody involved a huge success with the latest installment of the Terminator franchise, and sincere hopes of him returning to the city that agrees with him so much.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.



Budapest Among the Best, (According to Lots of Lists)

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With the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, inevitably 'best of' lists get published. In the travel industry, the Condé Nast Traveler's list of cities to travel to is big news, due to the wide readership and prestige of the brand. This year Budapest, not surprisingly, made it into the top twenty in the Readers' Choice section of the Best Cities of the World list. Moreover, in the same week, it was featured in CNN Travel, touting its surprising appeal as a winter destination. Let's look at what these respected publications are saying about our city.

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

We are not sure what qualifies as a 'big' city in the list, but with over two million inhabitants, Budapest is not a mega-city, but a livable, manageable big city none-the-less. Rated the 14th top ‘big city’ in the world (beating out favorites like Amsterdam and Rome) Condé Nast had this to say: "With some of the best Art Nouveau architecture in Europe, scenic Budapest has no bad angles. It's also Europe's unlikely capital of hedonism, where the pursuit of pleasure hits a new high. Explore the Hungarian capital’s spa culture at thermal baths built in the 16th and 17th century; have your coffee and pastry with a side of ostentation at the gilded Gerbeaud or New York cafes; and walk the Széchenyi Chain Bridge at night over the Danube River for magnificent views and a reminder of the good life."

That's a pretty shining endorsement for a city much of the world still identifies with the former Soviet bloc. But they are correct that there is a strong vein of hedonism that runs through Budapest, without even mentioning the famous ruin pub scene, wine bars, music festivals, foie gras dinners, and Danube cruises.

by  Andrés Nieto Porras  via Wikipedia Commons

by Andrés Nieto Porras via Wikipedia Commons

Budapest comes alive in the spring and summer, but CNN travel writer Nathan Kay pushes Budapest as an unlikely winter destination, saying this in a long, recently published article: "Offering a cozy winter atmosphere with romantic architectural creations, Budapest delivers a scene reminiscent of a classic Christmas movie. Rich in culture and steeped in tradition, winter here not only feels like a fairytale, it looks like one, too."

As evidence he offers the charming Christmas market, the classical interior of the Opera House, and of course the undeniable pleasure of taking a soak in one of the city's many thermal bath houses. You haven't lived until you've been snowed on in a hot outdoor thermal bath.

Surprisingly neither article cited Hungarian cuisine, which with its chimney cakes and mulled wine, also thrives in the winter. So we will just add that here, as well as advising visitors to walk the city to try spotting the many locations used for international film production in Budapest and Hungary. With renovations being done on public spaces including parks, things are only looking up for this ‘big city’ to shoot up higher on that list for next year.

photo by Marko Laci via wikipedia.hu

photo by Marko Laci via wikipedia.hu

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

 


Been There, Dune That: The Remake of Dune Comes to Budapest

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That the sequel to Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2019, would be a hit was almost a foregone conclusion. And it was well publicized that much of the film was shot in studios and locations in and around Budapest. The city perfectly fit the grungy noir feel to the script, lending its own character to the narrative. So it is gratifying to see Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve returning to shoot the latest attempt at a film version of the sci-fi classic book Dune.

This is interesting for a few reasons. Foremost, the first film of Dune is known as one of the bigger flops in film history. Even hardcore fans of David Lynch, who made Dune, try to distance themselves from the director’s only misfire (in truth, this will be Dune’s second remake, the first being an Emmy-winning TV drama). Second, Budapest has a reputation for war, crime, horror, and period pieces, but only recently has it been utilized as a location for science fiction films (though Ridley Scott had a huge success with The Martian, much of which was shot in the country). Contributing to this development are certainly the state-of-the-art sound studios like Origo Film Studios and Korda Studios coupled with expert technical crews that make film production in Hungary so affordable and dependable.

The upcoming shoot of Dune will bring stars like Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, and Charlotte Rampling to Budapest. Hnentertainment.com reports that Hungarian Csaba Tóth has been hired as special effects coordinator, having worked on such productions as locally shot Robin Hood as well as the most recent Terminator film. Geeksworldwide.com suggests that production was pushed back from February to March due to the rush to make use of of the Hungarian Film Fund’s 30 percent tax rebate, recently upped from 25 percent. The site reports that local production facilities are running at full capacity.

Dune is one of the all-time most cherished science fiction series. Written by Frank Herbert, much of the action takes place in a dystopian desert world tormented by giant sandworms. While Hungary is famous for its expansive steppe (otherwise known as the Puszta) it is short on deserts. As such, filming will also take place in Jordan, which recent Star Wars films have also utilized for their photogenic desert landscapes.

Return customers like Villeneuve bode well for the future of science fiction film production Budapest and Hungary. Being affordable is a given, but being dependable is even more important. As Dune is a multi-book series, here’s hoping there will be many more films to come.

frank-herbert-50th-anniversary-dune-cover.jpg

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

Hungarians in Hollywood: Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond

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MV5BMGMyZjMzNzYtN2RiNi00NzExLWE3NTEtYzY4MDExNGJkYWMxXkEy_003.jpg

Film has lots of unsung heroes. Most of the laurels and almost all the publicity go to promoting stars and star directors. But behind every film there are crew and highly creative people using the height of their genius to make the brand names look good. This is perhaps most true for the cinematographer. There is a reason why great directors will work with the same cinematographer again and again, and that's because they can be credited with so much of the technique and artistry behind the look and mood of a film. And in recent history, there has been no greater credit to the craft than Hungarian born Vilmos Zsigmond, whose life was explored in the 2016 documentary Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond.

 Born in Hungary in 1930, Zsigmond moved to the United States in 1958. As a political refugee, he didn't show up in American empty handed, but with excerpts cut from 35,000 feet of film shot of the 1956 Revolution, which he and fellow cinematographer László Kovács shot surreptitiously in Budapest. He and Kovács, sold the footage to news legend Walter Cronkite, and were able to relocate to Los Angeles. There, Zsigmond got his start working on educational and independent films (occasionally using the more American-friendly name Billy Zigi) while he tried to get a break with the studios. Kovács experienced Hollywood success first, working on Peter Fonda's iconic film Easy Rider, and was able to recommend Zsigmond to Fonda for The Hired Hand, which eventually led to him working with Robert Altman on the classic McCabe & Mrs. Miller. From that point on, Zsigmond became a talent very high in demand.

 Zsigmond soon became identified with the American New Wave. His filmography as a cinematographer is unrivaled, having worked with the biggest names in the business, including Spielberg, De Palma, and Woody Allen, on films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, Deliverance, and The Witches of Eastwick, winning an Emmy, a BAFTA award, a National Film Critics award, and of course an Academy Award for Close Encounters.

Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond, the documentary made by by French director Pierre Filmon (trailor above) had its premier at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, not long after Zsigmond's death earlier in that year. On Zsigmond's genius, Daily Variety has this to say in its review of the documentary: "it’s amazing, when you look at it now, to see how much of that film’s poetic sci-fi techno splendor came directly from Zsigmond: the oversaturated heat of those orange alien headlights — and, more than that, the whole soft-edged glow of the mothership. Sure, it was a special-effects coup, but when you look at how the images were shot, they’re a direct cousin to the misty melting landscapes of 'McCabe.' It was Zsigmond who made the awesomeness of alien spacecraft romantic."

Maybe some behind the scenes heroes get their share of glory after all.

Photo credit: Peter Novak via Wikipedia Commons

Photo credit: Peter Novak via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

 

 

 

 

 

Eat Your Lentils, and Have a Happy, Lucky New Year!

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lentilsny.jpg

If there is one abiding New Year’s tradition in Hungary, other than popping some sparkly and singing the national anthem, it’s eating lentils on New Year’s day. But in a cuisine where lentils do not contribute significantly other than in főzelék (pottage) or certain soups, why are lentil so important on the first day of the year? We refuse to let this question go unanswered, and are here with an explanation as to this curious local tradition of eating lentils on the new year.

Lentils, in case you didn’t know, represent luck. But not just any good luck, eating lentils means you will experience good luck moneywise, possibly due to the fact that the lentils are coin shaped. It is also known that a hearty bowl of lentils and sausage and liberal use of spicy paprika is a potent hangover cure, something everybody can benefit from on New Year’s day. While this may seem like an uninspiring dish to start the year off with, local recipes typically call for smoked pork or sausage to give the meal substance.

Though this tradition is particularly Hungarian, other cultures find significance in the humble lentil as well. For instance in Judaism, the round lentil represents the circle of life, and is eaten by certain Jewish communities as a consolation meal for mourners, something that is not so different from saying goodbye to one year and welcoming in the next. Similar to Hungarians, Italians also eat lentils on New Year’s, the lentil also representing hoped-for wealth.

But how will such luck manifest itself in the film production industry? The Hungarian National Film Fund isn’t leaving it to chance, and has already helped this along, by extending the tax rebates on films shot in Hungary from 25 to a whopping 30 percent. Moreover, Hungary remains a very budget friendly location to film in, making it the most popular destination for international film-makers on continental Europe, and only second to Great Britain in the whole of Europe.

What other lucky occurrences can we expect in Hungary this year? Of course the film industry will grow even more, as word of the country’s dynamic and affordable locations continues to circulate. Budapest will continue its rise as a world class destination for not just backpackers, but high end travellers as well. And Hungary itself will see itself prosper ever more in the center of Europe, while remaining its own very particular place.

So it’s never too late, when we are talking about luck. Have some lentils, and plan for good things accordingly. Also, this is us wishing everybody a happy, healthy 2019!

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

The Sweet Season: Hungarian Holiday Treatsp

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One of the great advantages of being in Hungary long-term, be it to live or because you are filming in Hungary, is that you get to become acquainted with local traditions and culture. And around the winter holidays this is particularly gratifying, because that means holiday food. Lots and lots of holiday food. This is especially fortuitous in Hungary, which in addition to having the most dynamic cuisine in Central Europe, is also known for its scrumptious holiday treats. In Hungary, holiday food is social currency. You give it to friends, colleagues, and of course family.

via the Pataki Beigli FB page

via the Pataki Beigli FB page

But -- you may ask -- what makes Hungarian holiday food so special? Well we are here with a rundown on Christmas food from Hungary, and you can decide for yourself if it isn’t something really worth celebrating. So let’s have a look at a few of the delicious foods people who live in Hungary will be gorging on over this holiday season.

First up is beigli (sometimes spelled bejgli). There can never be enough beigli around the holidays. This loglike confection is actually a pastry that is rolled around a sweet filling, which in hungary is traditionally poppy seed or apple walnut, or just walnut, though in a quest to keep it current, various jams, nutella, and other off-the-cuff fillings can be found. Its distinctive egg glazing makes it attractive under the holiday lights. Though small in size, beigli is in fact quite heavy. The pastry is wonderful when eaten with both dry and sweet white wines, of which there are no shortage in Hungary.

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

Mézeskalács, or in loose translation, Hungarian gingerbread, is also omnipresent, particularly in households and schools. Basically it’s a softer, airier, less aggressively spiced gingerbread that is shaped into cookie form and decorated with frosting. Of all the Hungarian holiday foods, this one benefits most from being home-made, as the store bought variety tends to dry out and not be as lovingly decorated.

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

Finally, no Christmas is complete without szaloncukor - or ‘parlor candies’ - which are colorfully wrapped candies that double as Christmas tree ornaments. Fondant is the primary component of the sweet, which is then dipped in chocolate before being wrapped, usually in bright foil, to reflect the light of fire or Christmas lights. According to Wikipedia, almost a kilo and a half of szaloncukor are eaten per family each year around the holidays.

Luckily, a plucky American vlogger went and put together a video of her favorite Hungarian Christmas foods, which you can watch below. Like with most such videos, her enthusiasm makes up for her ppronunciation. It’s good to be generous around the holidays when it comes to this and so much more.  

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

Remembering the Life of Hungarian Director Ferenc Kósa

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Kosaten-thousand-days-tzezer-nap.19899.jpg

Yesterday marked the passing of one of Hungary’s film greats, when Ferenc Kósa died at the age of 81. Though he had a long and prolific career in film and politics, he is perhaps best known for his film Ten Thousand Days (Tízezer nap), which chronicles the trials of a 1930’s Hungarian peasant family. The film was an international success, winning Kósa the Best Director award at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival despite being temporarily banned in Hungary by the reigning Socialist government, which viewed the film as being critical of their agenda.

Born in 1937 in Nyírigyháza in eastern Hungary, the director had to walk a fine line toiling under the Soviet occupation. As a result, his films were subtly political and drew the ire of the authorities. For example Mission (Küldetés), a biopic of multi-medal pentathlon athlete Andras Balczo, was initially a smash in Hungary, but soon banned due to perceived criticism of the Communist party.

Kósa collaborated on many of his scripts with the acclaimed poet and author Sándor Csoóri and with the cinematographer Sándor Sára, making films such as Ten Thousand Days, Judgment (1970) and 1974’s Snowfall. All in all, Kósa directed thirteen films.

The Hungarian Academy of Arts had this to say about Kósa: "Through his talent and commitment, (Kósa) played a defining role in the renovation of the Hungarian film artistry of the era. Ten Thousand Days belongs by now to the classical assets of not just Hungarian, but universal film history."

Critics lauded the writer/director while he was alive, and Ten Thousand Days still enjoys a following with those who are fans of serious European film. Kinoeast, for instance, had this to say about Ten Thousand Days: “The film is ultimately a brilliant saga of the life of a stubborn peasant at the precipice of fast- changing history in Hungary. Kósa uses water not just as a metaphor of time, but also as the weight of experience and the lack of control an individual possesses,” and sums up the film’s role under the political system: “Even though Kósa’s Tízezer Nap may not have the obvious parallel commentary that a (Miklós) Jancsó film might have, I don’t believe the film was intended to be propaganda for the Socialist movement. Censorship seems to cloud Kósa’s original intent of showing a Hungary that was being lost as Socialism continued where Fascism left off, crushing a lower class that only wanted to climb out of poverty.”

Despite his censorship under the Soviets, Kósa entered politics with the Socialist party after Hungary regained its independence. He served as a representative in Parliament  from 1990 to 2006. Ferenc Kósa’s loss will be felt in both the quick changing film and political landscapes.

Photo by Délmagyarország/Kuklis István via Wikipedia Commons

Photo by Délmagyarország/Kuklis István via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

X - The eXploited Makes X-plosive Debut

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One refreshing thing that has been happening recently in the local film industry is an embrace of more genre-influenced film-making. Hungarian film is traditionally known for its ponderous, art-house fare, exemplified perhaps by the highly regarded films of Béla Tarr. But a younger generation of filmmakers who have been influenced by more commercial releases are applying their strong knowledge of craft to creating films that have broader commercial appeal. We are thinking of recent films like White God, Blossom Valley, and Strangled, all of which were stylish Hungarian films that found audiences in Hungary and abroad.

The latest offering in this category is a Hungarian film called X - the eXploited, by writer-director Károly Ujj Mészáros. A crime thriller, it has been shown at multiple international film festivals, including the Chicago Film Festival. The film’s promise was recently validated when it won the Volkswagen Financial Services Film Award at the 32nd Braunschweig International Film Festival, which includes a 10,000 euro prize sponsored by the automaker.

The jury had this to say about the film: “‘X - The eXploited’ convinces with an extremely dense, always surprising arc of tension, realised with great attention to detail. Original pictorial symbolism perfectly stages the consistently strong, character-rich ensemble around the traumatised policewoman Eva. Secret services from the communist past, which have gone into hiding, once again create fear and terror against the background of the current conflicts about a democratic future. The gloomy style is thus anything but a decorative end in itself but is the causal driver of history.”

A writer at the Chicago Film Festival summarized the film’s plot nicely: “The highly anticipated second feature from the director of the 2015 box office hit Liza, the Fox Fairy is an intense and stylish crime drama that evokes the unsettled legacy of Hungary’s Communist past. Personal traumas rise to surface as a murder mystery unfolds in present-day Budapest, where talented investigative detective Éva must overcome her panic attacks in order to save her country—and herself.” Cineuropa called the film a ‘pure genre film’ before praising it for its story’s effectiveness and the potential for the director.

The writer/director, Ujj Mészáros, has already been widely lauded for his previous film, Lisa the Fox-Fairy, which was shown internationally, including earning a prize spot in the Cinéfondation section of the Cannes Film Festival. According to the Hungarian National Film Fund site, the director’s 10 short films have won 12 prizes at more than 30 national and international festivals.

Whether this new commercial direction is good or bad is up to your taste. But that Hungary has feet in both camps speaks a lot to its dynamic local film-making industry.

Below find the Hungarian language trailer for X - the eXploited with English subtitles.


Location Spotter: History on a Plate at Gundel Restaurant

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Michelin stars may be falling over Budapest with some regularity these days, but it remains true that there is still only one internationally famous restaurant that fully reflects the city’s textured history. One that is steeped in the style of the Monarchy, in its interiors and on its menu, while staying relevant on the city’s quick changing culinary map. This is of course Gundel Étterem, the grand dame of Budapest eateries, a place that exudes history and tradition.

photo via the Gundel FB page

photo via the Gundel FB page

Gundel was opened in 1910 by Károly Gundel in the central and very film friendly Városliget, or, City Park. The The New York Times famously wrote that Gundel “did more for Hungary’s reputation than a shipload of tourist brochures.” But like most great cultural institutions, it was nationalized by the Socialist-minded government of the late 20th century, leading to a decline in quality. It was only returned to its true glory when it was returned to private ownership, once purchased by moguls Ronald Lauder and George Lang. Among the famous faces who have dined on their upscale yet traditional Hungarian fare since then have including Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain as well as Pope John Paul II.

photo via Wikipedia Commons.

photo via Wikipedia Commons.

photo via the Gundel FB page

photo via the Gundel FB page

The main room at Gundel is a model of Hapburgian luxury. It is no surprise that it has served as a location for multiple films shot in Budapest, most recently 2015’s Spy, with Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy.

But it’s impossible to talk about Gundel without bringing up the famous dessert, the Gundel Pancake, a sweet flambeed crepe. The wife of Hungarian writer Sándor Márai, whose book Embers was a New York Times best-seller in the States, is credited with its invention. Daily Hungary relates it this way:  “...the theatrical adaptation of his novel titled Before Consulting was presented in the October of 1940. The banquet following the premiere was held in the Gundel Restaurant. Ilona Matzner (Lola) made one of her family’s specialties, pancakes filled with walnut, raisin and orange zest for the occasion. Károly Gundel liked it so much that he put it on the menu under the name of Márai pancake. But after the emigration of the couple, he renamed it to Gundel pancake.”

photo by dpotera via Wikipedia Commons

photo by dpotera via Wikipedia Commons

For old school luxury in Budapest, ideal for so many stories and uses, it is hard to beat Gundel Restaurant. Oh, and in addition to being a smartly chosen location, you can also eat there, making it all the more inviting.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.








Budapest After the Siege – in Heart-Wrenching Photographs

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One for history buffs, translated and with the permission of foretplan.444.hu

We could also call it 130 pictures in memory of our dying hours, referencing the title of Lajos Kassák’s work [Kis könyv a haldoklásunk emlékére, 1945]. It is February 13. Today, it has been 69 years since the siege of Budapest came to an end. We no longer talk about ‘liberation,’ but we don’t really have a better word for it. (The Soviet forces did not officially liberate Budapest, but rather captured an enemy city. At least they are clear about this.)

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“Budapest is the most wonderful city imaginable. There is no other like it in the German Empire… However, from a historical standpoint, it is unforgivable that the most beautiful city along the Nibelung river should belong to the ancestors of Attila and his huns.” – Adolf Hitler once stated. In the winter of 1944, he himself gave an order to protect the city – each and every house – as a key military stronghold. What we see in the 130 photographs recently shared on Fortepanon is the result of this apocalyptic and completely senseless battle – as told through the ruins, the missing residents, the buildings, themselves.

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The military action to occupy the city lasted for 102 days. During the siege, around 28,000 civilians lost their lives – among them 15,000 Budapesters of Jewish descent. The Soviets not only lost 80,000 soldiers, but the number of their wounded approached 240,000. The number of German and Hungarian soldiers lost – including both those killed and injured – reached 100,000. As a result of the siege, around a quarter of the city’s 40,000 buildings were either destroyed or seriously damaged. The Germans blew up all of the bridges across the Danube; entire squares disappeared, for example Honvéd Square and Szent György Square. The city was transformed into a mountain of corpses and, especially on the Buda side, a pile of debris. Furthermore, while the siege was going on, another war was also underway – the campaign of the Arrow Cross against the Jews of the capital city.

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Now we will try and jump over these 102 days, even if with this jump it will be harder to make sense of everything we see in these pictures. László Deseő, who was 15 years old in 1944, wrote about the fateful final/first days in his diary, writing from the basement of their Mészáros street house.

It is morning and there is heavy shelling. Sometimes they shell the house for a good quarter of an hour. Every three minutes the whole house shakes and we can hear debris falling. (…) For me, the worst part of living in this basement is the humiliation we have to endure. The Germans asked us for wood. We didn’t want to give it to them from the firewood storage room, because we have our cases stored in there. So we gave them wood from the large room instead, but those were big logs. They made us chop them up. While we chopped, they laughed. We have to clean the toilet up after them, because if it is full, they simply go on the floor next to it. They light open fires in the rooms with wood flooring. All of our furniture is used as barricades. The situation is unbearable. (…)

The Russians are at the Preisengers’ place. That’s the third house down from here. At 5 o’clock, the Germans leave, because they heard that the Russians had surrounded them and were attacking from Naphegy. (…) 8:30. The Germans came back. At 9 the Germans went out again. The shelter emptied out. I snuck up to have a look around. The Germans are still in our apartment. There are dead horses in every direction. There is a faint aroma of blood and corpses, blending delicately with smoke. It is cold. Manure is knee-high in the rooms. It’s hard to see. (…) The Germans are standing around freezing. They’ve become soft. They even kindly remind me that if I don’t go back to the basement, they will kill me, since civilians are not allowed on the front line. I put them at ease with the fact that this won’t be the front line for long. They are reassured. Apparently, they burned down the Déli train station. At 11 o’clock the Germans will leave the house, perhaps for good. Either they will return, or the Russians will come.

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At 2:45 in the morning, the first two Russians arrive. They are all decked out. They have automatic weapons with them. They are giddy. They shake hands with the paramedics and the wounded hiding here. They laugh at them. They say that if they feel like it, they could go back to the Germans, but they’ll be all right in Russian hands. They ask for rum. When they get the rum in small glasses, they hand them back saying, “big Russian glasses!” But we are not afraid of them. (…) I went up to the apartment. It is a tragic thing to go from room to room. There are eight dead horses in the apartment. The walls are red with blood as high as a man stands. It is full of all kinds of manure and excrement. Almost the entire floor of the loft has collapsed. Every door, cabinet, piece of furniture, window is smashed. Nothing has been left intact. There is hardly any plaster left on the walls. There are German armored cars abandoned in front of the building. (…) There is no wall between the bedroom window and the window of Katica’s room. People are walking on dead horses. The soft bodies of the horses are malleable. If people jump on them, blood bubbles and squelches from their bullet wounds. (…)

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The Russians came in the morning. They were looking for schnapps [pálinka]. They didn’t find any, so they left. We hear more and more reports of Russians harassing women. (…) The Potzonyis come over in the afternoon. They told us how the Russians had taken everything from their place. When I was out in the street, a Russian put a demijohn in my hands and wanted to take me somewhere. The superintendent of the neighboring house came over. I gave the bottle to him, so the Russian took him away instead. I am curious as to where he took him.

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Anything that wasn’t destroyed by the Germans was plundered by the Red Army. Marietta Seidl remembered the destruction of their home on Gellért Hill in this way: “The Russians lived in the villa for more than half a year. During this time, they didn’t even clear away the rubble from the rooms that had been decimated by gunfire. When they suddenly moved out at the end of the summer, we were met with a horrifying picture. They took practically everything that they hadn’t burnt or thrown into the craters left by the bombs. They left no trace of the piano, the paintings, furniture, rugs – at least what they hadn’t already cut up for horse blankets or curtains for their trucks. And they also took 13 doors and altogether 72 window frames. (…) In all the rooms stood the meter-high remains of my grandfather’s library: a pile of human excrement then an open book placed on top of it, then a newer pile, and another book, stretching to such a height that, from a comfort point of view, it was incomprehensible to us. These towers decorated the rooms like skyscrapers standing next to each other, emanating the most unbearable odor.

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On December 30, 1944, Lieutenant-General Iván Hindy, the leader of the Hungarian armed forces in Budapest, reported, “The local patriotism of the civilians in Budapest is so great that the people are in mourning; they aren’t even worried about their own fate, but are in despair over the destruction of the city. Everyone is horrified by the thought that we might be forced to blow up all of the bridges.

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Maybe it is not so far fetched to think that these pictures might have been taken by such a local patriot. In such arresting detail, these photos are able to capture the state of the city – for the most part Castle Hill, the Víziváros district, and Gellért Hill – in the spring/summer of 1945. The dead bodies that were pulled out from under rubble or horses, from basements or from the Danube, have already been buried. We can see memorials to a few of them – temporary wooden crosses placed here and there in grassy areas and parks.

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We received the 130 photographs from Dr István Kramer, a lawyer. In the early 1970s, the photographer’s widow (unfortunately he no longer remembers her name) gave him the prints developed from the original negatives. The photographer might be unknown, but he/she is probably identifiable. There weren’t so many people who could have gone through so many of the streets of the resuscitated city in such detail. Tibor Csörgeő, János Kunszt, Tibor Inkey – maybe the photographer hides among them. What is certain: when the photographer was taking this series of pictures, he/she couldn’t have had any other thought than to capture the scene for posterity and reparation. Perhaps this is why the style of the photographs seems to be without empathy, dry, and factual – and so, this is how Budapest looked in 1945.

References:

Krisztián Ungváry, Miklós Tamási. Budapest 1945

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Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

Filmed in Budapest: Ellie Goulding's "Close to Me"

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Breakout recording artist Ellie Goulding just released the video for her new single “Close to Me”, racking up over half a million views on You Tube in only a few days. While the video was shot in Budapest, like so many other music videos, there is a distinguishing feature that makes this particular one exceptional: at the beginning of the clip Budapest gets named as such. There is no shortage of chic, stylish videos that use Budapest as a backdrop to great effect (we are thinking of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and Selena Gomez’s “Round and Round”), but rare is the video that makes it a point of naming the location.

This may seem like a small thing, but in fact it represents something larger. In the past decade, Budapest has become not just a go-to destination for tourists, but even also one for film-makers, to the point that it is no longer just a stand in for other cities, but a highly recognizable location, and one worth bragging about.

The video itself makes good use of some tried and true locations. We see the recently renovated Fisherman’s Bastion, as well as the grounds around the Buda Palace. One noticeable difference between the “Close to Me” video and so many others shot here is that it is sunny. Not just the weather, but the whole tone of the video. Budapest is so frequently used for its chilly Soviet feel, or dark Gothic atmosphere, but rare is the bright whimsy on show here, in a video which exploits this under-utilized aspect of our dynamic, ever-changing city.

Of course we weren’t the first to notice the stylish video for “Close to Me.” Its release was actually covered by Rolling Stone magazine, which called it a “fashionable romp through Budapest,” and was quick to point out that the city is indeed scenic. Elsewhere in international coverage, MTV News calls the video “a posh, scenic glamour reel.”  There’s that word -- scenic -- again. Indeed, from the opening drone shot through to the final, drone shot from over Gellért Hill, there is a scenic glamour here in the scenery in between, particularly in the Gellért bath-house, that make one feel as though Budapest has brushed off the dust of its past and come into its own.

And it has. though really, this is only the beginning.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

Hungarians in Hollywood: the Hargitay Daddy Daughter Duo

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The film industry in Hollywood is rife with family dynasties, from the Douglas family to the Coppolas. Due to the out-sized proportion of Hungarians who have shaped and worked in Hollywood, it only makes sense that entertainment will run in the blood of a few Hungarian families. You could look to the Curtis family, with legend Tony Curtis and his perennial scream-queen daughter Jamie Lee Curtis. And then there are the Hargitay’s: Mickey and Mariska, both accomplished Hungarian/American actors.

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

Mickey Hargitay, like so many Hungarian emigres to the US, was born in the early 20th century, in 1926 Budapest. Originally named Miklós, at a young age he joined his family in their troupe of acrobats, touring the country to perform in front of large audiences. Later in his youth he took up figure skating. Then, when trouble struck in the form of World War Two, he took up arms as part of a resistance movement, before fleeing for the United States at the age of twenty-one.

Like many Hungarians, he settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked as a plumber while re-starting his career as an acrobat with his his new American wife. But inspired by the film Hercules, he decided to take up body-building, and then went on to hone his craft and win Mr. Universe contest in 1955.

After leaving his wife for mega-star Jane Mansfield, Hargitay caught the interest of film producers. Fittingly, one of his more famous roles was that of Hercules.  Though he never rose to the iconic level of Mansfield, he had a long career as an actor, most recently working on the TV series Law and Order.

Hargitay and Mansfield via Wikipedia Commons

Hargitay and Mansfield via Wikipedia Commons

Though Hargitay died in 2006, his mantle is carried on by his daughter Mariska. Born in 1964 from his marriage with Mansfield (there’s a pedigree) Mariska Hargitay got her start in acting in a small role in the classic comedy Ghoulies. Since then, her career has followed a varied path, with roles in such dissimilar projects as Leaving Las Vegas, the soap Falcon Crest, and Baywatch. But she is best known for her long-running role on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.


via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

There is a strong vein of Hungarian pride in the family, with her brothers bearing the Hungarian names Zoltán and Miklós. The children were brought up to speak Hungarian, which the Mariska capably demonstrates in the below video.

And, of course, when Hargitay won her Emmy in 2006, she thanked her father, fellow Hungarian Mickey.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.







Location Spotter: Fiumei Road Cemetery

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As it's just past the Day of the Dead, we're going to take a dark road towards the edge of town to look at Budapest’s greatest mostly untouristed landmark, Fiumei Road Cemetery, more commonly known as Kerepesi Cemetery. Day of the Dead is when so many families visit the graves of their departed, often after dark, lighting the cemetery with candles, and is frequently accompanied by music (Mozart's Requiem is a typical offering at Kerepesi Cemetery).

Lajos Kossuth’s crypt via Wikipedia Commons

Lajos Kossuth’s crypt via Wikipedia Commons

Kerepesi itself is notable in that while its grounds suffered from poor maintenance for some years, its gravestones, tombs, and mausoleums, have been well preserved since the middle of the nineteenth century. To walk through it is to walk through the varied styles of architecture of Budapest in facsimile. You will find stunning examples of Art Deco, Bauhaus, and of course Gothic styles. Moreover, it is one of the biggest Pantheons in Europe, and a park so expansive that it’s not unheard of to discover pheasant taking refuge in its underbrush (the graveyard even keeps a guide to its flora and fauna). According to the graveyard’s dedicated site: "Artists, Jacobins, heroes of the revolutions from 1848 and 1956 are buried on separate plots, and there is a huge mausoleum that recalls the cult of the dead during the times of the party state. The grave park, that resembles an arboretum lies on 56 hectares, is also known for its rich flora and fauna."

Ferenc Déak’s tomb via Wikipedia Commons

Ferenc Déak’s tomb via Wikipedia Commons

Below are some curious facts about Kerepesi Cemetery:

It is the fourth burial ground for József Attila, Hungary's beloved tragic poet.

There is a special section allotted to suicides, the executed, and others denied a church burial.

Béla Bartók's son forbade his father's ashes from being kept there due to its use as a favorite burial spot among the then ruling Socialist party.  

There is also an 'Artists' Quarter' where the country's notable artists are buried.

Some of Hungary's luminaries who are buried at Kerepesi include: Endre Ady, Mihály Babits, György Faludi, Ödön Lechner, Leó Szilárd, Mihály Munkácsi, Imre Kertész, Miklós Jancsó, and Georg Lukács

Behind Kerepesi Cemetery is the smaller but equally atmospheric Salgótarjáni Street Jewish Cemetery.

There is an excellent Hungarian language site for the cemetery which helps locate graves and gives suggested walks for visitors. You can find that here.

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

via Wikipedia Commons

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruben Brandt Has Artful Impact Abroad

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As the film industry in Hungary develops, one thing we notice is that local film-making is increasingly crossing over with international audiences. Much of this seems due to the broad appeal of the projects that are undertaken, mixed with a distinct sense of ‘voice’ when it comes to films from Hungary. Looking at pictures like the multi-lingual Hier (see an interview with the director here) much of which took place in northern Africa, and the visionary, narrative friendly Sunset, we see a bridge between what was once a very insular industry and the larger world audiences. This has never been more true than with the recently released animated film Ruben Brandt, Collector.

This full-length, hand-drawn animated feature exploits the much loved genre of the art caper. The film was conceived of and directed by Slovenian-born Milorad Krstic and made in Hungary with English-language and Hungarian speaking actors, meaning there are both English and Hungarian versions. The story follows the character Rubin Brandt, a man who is haunted by nightmares of being attacked by the world's most famous paintings, including works by Botticelli, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Hopper, Picasso and Warhol. To put an end to his torment, he plots to steal and possess the art from such museums and the Louvre, Tate, Uffizi, Hermitage, and MoMA, and keep them for himself, thereby robbing them of their power.

The film, widely praised for its expert animation and intimate knowledge of the art world, has been bringing in strong reviews from the trades. Daily Variety said: "While Krstić is especially good at providing noir atmosphere (jazzy, smoke-filled dives, ominous shadows, and references to Mike Hammer films), he positively excels at high-octane action." The Hollywood Reporter says it is "ingeniously imagined," and "Ruben Brandt’s pacing is amazingly fast for a film filled to the brim with art-history references and ideas borrowed from modern psychology and lovers of either field will have a, well, field day spotting the countless visual and verbal references."

In a show of its belief in the film's international appeal, last September Sony Pictures Classics acquired rights to distribute it in North American and Latin America. Ruben Brandt, Collector is the feature animation debut of 66-year-old Krstić, though his short My Baby Left Me won the Silver Bear at the Berlin film festival. Let's hope Brandt continues to collect great reviews, and paints a pretty picture at the box office.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

Interview with Bálint Kenyeres, Director of Hier

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The following is an interview with up-and-coming Hungarian film director Bálint Kenyeres, whose feature film Hier was recently released. The interview, conducted by Bori Bujdosó, appeared on the site for The Hungarian National Film Fund, and is reprinted with their permission.

Bálint Kenyeres’ short film, ‘Before Dawn’ was in the 2005 competition in Cannes, and went on to win the European Film Award. His follow-up, the 2009 ‘The History of Aviation’ premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at the festival, and also won accolades all over the world. His first feature, called ‘Hier’, will debut in the ‘Cineasti del Presente’ competition of the Locarno Film Festival. We talked to the director about the challenging process of bringing the script to life, a film noir bereft of any actual mysteries, and the brilliance of Vlad Ivanov.

In an old interview you said you would like to complete your first feature before your hair turns grey – you didn’t quite manage to accomplish this goal.

True enough, making this movie was a lengthy process, and back when I started I wasn’t quite able to assess the level of outside interest in a film like this, or the requisites for such a story. We’ve also experienced an unlucky streak right from the beginning; sometimes it touched on the absurd, and it made me wonder what else could go south. It’s my personal responsibility that we have never given up, but it always felt like going into production was just around the corner, there wasn’t a specific point, when it became obvious that we should just quit.

During preproduction, you described the movie as a film noir in broad daylight. Please tell me more about the visual concept of Hier.

The North African setting was a given. I chose it because it’s only half an hour away from Europe, but it’s like an alien landscape to a European, who can get lost there in a way it wouldn’t be possible to do in Europe. This environment lends itself to visual clichés and romanticization, but I was confident that I didn’t want this, that there would be no camels, or orange-coloured sand dunes in the sunset in this movie.

Regarding only the story and its resolution, it’s a banal story carrying all the sadness of its banality, and the visuals of the movie had to reflect this. It’s awfully simple, really: there’s nothing in the shadows, nothing lurks in the dark, everything’s out there in the blazing sun. The source of the mystery is not some external entity, but the protagonist himself. The solution shouldn’t be sought in the long shadows and dark corners, instead it is revealed by the way the story unfolds for us through an unreliable narrator. The film is also a journey back to the era 15 to 20 years prior to when the film’s set, so we tried to evoke the visual atmosphere of movies from the 90s without creating a retro feel. This is one of the reasons why I found it very important to shoot on film, which meant Super 16 in our case, because that’s what we could afford.

Hier  by Bálint Kenyeres

Hier by Bálint Kenyeres

Did you have any previous connection to North Africa?

None, whatsoever. I traveled to Morocco for the first time after I’d completed the first draft of the script, and the reality I witnessed there was uncannily close to what I had written. I went back many times, and in the later drafts I included locations, moments, experiences that my colleagues and I encountered there.

The lead actor has changed several times throughout the years.

 Vlad Ivanov had always been part of the cast in another role, and he’d always been in the back of my mind as a possible option for the lead role, but in the script Ganz was a Western European character, and Vlad has a very distinct Eastern European presence. In the end, we went with Vlad and chose to mould the character to his personality instead. But if Vlad takes on a role, it adjusts itself to him anyway. I think he is one of the greatest European movie actors, and he is also a charming person.

Did you enjoy working with him?

 That’s an understatement. He also carried this project on his shoulders, like very few would have been able to. He has an amazing heart and soul, yet he’s as precise and focused as a Swiss watch. And he has a director’s mind, he instinctively directs the situations from the inside. We only had 32 shooting days, we worked with a lot of non-professional actors, and he was brilliant at extinguishing potential fires. On several occasions, by the time I went from the monitor to the camera and was about to give instructions to Vlad’s partner, he had already taken care of the situation.

Hier  by Bálint Kenyeres

Hier by Bálint Kenyeres

The past of the character is only hinted at, and the whole film plays with how many things are left ambiguous. How did you decide on how closely to guide the audience?

This fine-tuning is the key to whether the film works or not, and the way we handle it also determines the possible audience for the film. We wrote many versions of the script, and they differed mostly in this respect, but there has never been a version telling the story in a mainstream, audience-friendly way. We knew that this film was only for a discerning audience. The goal was to provide information at a rate that would keep the suspense alive.

Weren’t you worried that the audience wouldn’t be able to emotionally connect to this character?

The point of this auteurial experiment was precisely not to base the story on the usual emotional identification with the protagonist. I didn’t want this to happen. The casting and the direction also goes against this form of identification: the protagonist is basically an unlikeable guy. The driving force is more to do with the mysteries and the questions that keep arising, which make the viewer realize that even though there is no emotional identification in the traditional sense, the thoughts and feelings that arise in the viewer are very similar to the ones the protagonist has. This was a rather presumptuous experiment on my part, but if I am proud of anything, it is the fact that it seems to have worked, based on the feedback received. On the surface, the film seems to be about someone going through midlife crisis, but in fact, it is the examination of a fundamental human issue. However banal and simple this guy’s story might be, his experiences and his misfortune are special and unique – just like everyone else’s. Whether these experiences can be shared with others, and whether we can really connect and identify with another person, is a different matter altogether. This is one of the main themes of the movie, and we chose our narrative strategy to serve this.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.


Hungary's Unexpected New Star: Dry Furmint Has Its Moment, and Then Some

zita kisgergely

photo via Cellar Door Wines

photo via Cellar Door Wines


It's always exciting when a remarkable Hungarian makes waves abroad. Lately, we have seen so many, from film directors to novelists and artists. But it's just as thrilling to discover that a piece of local culture is being pegged as the next 'big thing' in an industry known for its exclusivity and sophistication. We are talking about the embrace of a Hungarian varietal, Tokaji furmint, by international wine merchants and connoisseurs.

Tokaj wine has always found a place on the tables of epicureans: it has been this way for centuries. But it has always been the sweet Tokaji Aszú dessert wine, known as the 'wine of kings' that got all the attention. Now, however, vineyards and fine wineries are turning to what was once considered the plain sister of Aszú: dry furmint, and are getting overwhelming feedback on the results.

 For instance, we can cite a sizable article in The Guardian, which asks if dry furmint is the next big wine discovery: "If I had to take a punt on what white wine we’re going to be talking about this year, I’d put my money on furmint. Hungary’s answer to Austria’s grüner veltliner already appears on many fashionable wine lists," wine writer Fiona Beckett said in 2017. The article goes on to favorably compare it to a white burgundy, and points out that the varietal even has its own dedicated web site in America: furmintusa.com.

photo by András Kovács via Wikipedia

photo by András Kovács via Wikipedia

The website is backed by a powerful marketing initiative, according to Forbes.com. Over seventy tastings of furmint were recently held coast to coast in the States to woo interest from American wine enthusiasts. The article, which calls furmint "lush, intensely sweet and acidic" goes on to detail some huge competition wins for the brand: "In 2016, two Dry Furmints took top medals at the Sunset Magayineás International Wine Competition in Sonoma, California: Barta 2013 Furmint Szamorodni Oreg Kiraly Dulo (Best of Class and Gold Medal) and Béres 2011 Dry Furmint, Lőcse (Gold Medal). Seven other Hungarian wineries won Bronze Medals."

Jeff Jenssen of Wine Enthusiast gets more technical: "Furmint ranges in color from pale straw to light amber, with aromas of pineapple, lemon blossom, orange rind, ripe pear, white peach, yellow peach and apricot….Ripe, unbotrytized grapes are used to produce the dry version, though if botrytized grapes find their way into the fermentation tanks, that adds another level of interest and complexity, with scents of honeycomb and jasmine."

Indeed, the wine is addictively flavorful, loaded with unique fruity and floral notes, but without the heavy mineral quality of the more famous Hungarian whites from the volcanic region north of Lake Balaton.

The road to being an internationally recognized star among wines may only be hampered by the fact that Tokaj is simply not a huge region, and production hasn't grown enough to support mass-quantity exports. Most of its 10,000 acres go to growing grapes of the sweet Aszú wines. Still, limited production is also a good thing: it means that small vineyards still dominate the game, and that a good portion of the wine will remain at home, in Hungary.

Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.

 

 

 

Local Soptlight: Filmmaker Viktória Szemerédy

zita kisgergely


The following is a reprint from an interview Hungarian filmmaker Viktória Szemerédy did with The New Current, regarding her short film “Butterfly Daughter”, which had its premier at the 26th Raindance Film Festival.

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Upon leaving a state care institute, a twelve-year-old girl joins her elder sister and their grandmother in a remote village. She is desperate to reconnect with her negligent mother, but when she thinks she has found her on social media she finds herself running into a predator’s trap.


Hey Viktória, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going? Are there any nerves ahead of the screening?

Not really. The screening itself is going to be the icing on the cake we were baking with great care for a lot of time, so I am quite ready to enjoy it at Raindance. I am so excited, though, to meet fellow filmmakers, industry professionals there; changing opinions, ideas, starting dialogues and raising questions with them. 

What does it mean to be screening Butterfly Daughter at Raindance 2018?

First of all, I still have to pinch myself to believe Butterfly Daughter is going to be screened at Raindance. 

It is a great honour to me and also an opportunity to express my gratitude towards my closest mentors, Ruth Paxton and Stephan Mallman, and the incredible industry professionals I was blessed to work with, Tamás Hutlassa, Péter Szatmári, and Réka Lemhényi among many others. 

Tell me a little bit about Butterfly Daughter, how did the film come about? What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

I saw a documentary play in Budapest two years ago in which a 12-year-old girl told her own story. She was living in a remote village in Hungary, and of course was completely bored there. She went on social media and a man linked up with her, eventually tricking her into meeting him. A relative met the little girl in the middle of the night by accident, when she was about to leave the village and called the police immediately. It turned out that the man was a child trafficker. And the bait? He promised her hot chocolate in bed every morning. 

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The girl’s story hit me hard, and I felt I had to keep it alive by writing a fiction screenplay around the promise of this simple act of care. I realised that more children are in danger than we even dare to imagine. Therefore I wanted to raise attention to the potential threats of social media for children. 

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

I had a hard time before filming the encounter between Izabella Rea, the wonderful 12-year-old girl who played Bori and György Sipos, a warm-hearted, talented and very sensitive young actor in the role of the Man. 

I knew I had to be careful since this was a delicate situation for both of them. We were playing, improvising around the scene during the rehearsal period, still, I never asked them to rehearse that specific scene. I wanted to use the surprise of experiencing the encounter for the first time. Holding that space for them to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed was crucial. 

Other than that, my most painful experience was filming the computer screen. I promised myself that all my future films will take place in the middle ages with no technology whatsoever.

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

I have, though my passion was not supported by my family when I was a teenager. I had to take a long detour. I started my carrier as a medical doctor and was working as a psychologist for many years. Now I feel blessed to live my passion every day. 

"I would ask my fellow filmmakers to consider the impact they can create..."

How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut short?

Both of my short films deal with delicate issues. Butterfly Daughter is about an emotionally neglected child and the desperate deeds she is ready to take to get back to her mother. Pintu is about domestic sexual abuse. Given my past, I am quite sure that I will raise similar issues for discussion in my films. 

Still, I feel that only now I am ready to make films that are more visceral, that are braver in their visuals. I would like to eventually target the subconscious and do not spoil the audience with intellectual details and explanations. 

How would you describe Butterfly Daughter in three words?

Braking transgenerational traumas.

Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?

Well, I wouldn’t call it advise, but maybe food for thought. The film is an extremely powerful tool. I would ask my fellow filmmakers to consider the impact they can create, the message they can send or the inspiration they can provide, before starting to make a film. 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?

I hope adults realise that letting minors hang out in the shady world of social media is a bad idea. Spending time with kids or teenagers, talking, playing, doing sports or walks or even going to the cinema with them could actually save them from the obvious dangers they face alone in front of the screen. They need our attention so much, and if they don’t get that from family members, friends, they will search for it at the wrong places.

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Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.