Hungarian films that made a hit at film festivals
Many Hungarian films have been successful. We collected 10 of them, which have been very successful abroad, at various film festivals.
“The Round-Up” (1965)
Miklós Jancsó‘s masterpiece takes place after the defeat of the 1848-49 War of Independence, but its astonishing story, written in an innovative style, becomes a universal parable about the nature of dictatorships and the people who live in them. “The Round-Up” won the International Film Critics’ Award at Cannes and repeated the honor at Locarno, and was voted Foreign Film of the Year in London. Jancsó later almost came home to Cannes: six more of his films competed, he was once awarded Best Director and in 1979 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Along with “The Round-Up” and “Sindbad”, many consider Károly Makk‘s directorial debut one of the three best Hungarian films of all time, in which the lives of two women intertwine as they both wait for the same man: the wife and mother of János, imprisoned for political reasons (presumably after ’56), support each other spiritually, even by telling a merciful lie, while the brilliantly portrayed memories of the old woman in bed also reveal old images of family history.
The duo of Mari Törőcsik and Iván Darvas won an acting award at Cannes, Károly Makk the Jury Prize and the Special Director’s Prize. In 2001, “Love” was also included in the list of the 100 best films of the 20th century by the Guardian, a prestigious British newspaper.
“The Fly” (1980)
Ferenc Rófusz‘s animated short film is the first Hungarian Oscar-winning film, telling the story of the world from the perspective of a fly, the “adventures” and the dangers of people’s homes. Rófusz was not able to attend the Oscars for political reasons, and the statue itself was returned to him only after a long hassle from the party functionary who received it. The fly flew around the world’s animation festivals, returning with prizes almost everywhere.
The first Hungarian feature film to win an Oscar, István Szabó‘s film was announced as the winner in the Best Foreign Film category by the American Film Academy in 1982. Based on the novel by Klaus Mann, the film explores the drama of a celebrated actor in Nazi Germany: how independent can art be from politics?
Can an artist sell his soul to create? And “Mephisto” was not only awarded in America: it won Best Screenplay and Critics’ Prize at Cannes and was voted Foreign Film of the Year in Italy and London.
“Cat City” (1986)
It did not appear at any major awards, but on other hand, it is one of the biggest successes of Hungarian cinema abroad. Béla Ternovszky‘s animated film tells the story of the struggle between cats and mice, with Grabowski‘s adventures at the center. The “Cat City” has been shown successfully in cinemas and on TV in many countries around the world, making it probably the most-watched Hungarian film of the last 50 years.
“Son of Saul” (2015)
The “Son of Saul” is a Hungarian drama film directed by László Nemes Jeles, released in 2015. The film was invited to the official selection of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the festival’s Grand Prize, the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film at the 73rd Golden Globes, and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.
“Liza the Fox-Fairy” (2015)
“Liza, the Fox-Fairy” is a film by Károly Mészáros Ujj, which was released on February 19, 2015. The film uses Japanese mythology to create a romantic comedy in which the title character, played by Móni Balsai, thinks of herself as a Japanese fox fairy, aka a kitsune. Other main characters are David Sakurai, Szabolcs Bede-Fazekas and Zoltán Schmied.
The film was produced by the Film team with the support of the Hungarian National Film Fund and produced by István Major. The soundtrack was composed by Dániel Csengery, the music for the Japanese-language songs was composed by Ambrus Tövisházi, the lyrics were written by Eiko Toda, and the singing is by Ambrus Tövisházi and Móni Balsai.
The film won awards at the Portuguese Fantasporto, the Dutch Imagine, and the Belgian International Fantasy Film Festival (BIFFF). The film has also been screened in Japan and has had great success in Tokyo and Osaka.
“On Body and Soul” (2017)
“On Body and Soul” is a 2017 Hungarian drama film directed by Ildikó Enyedi and starring Alexandra Borbély and Géza Morcsányi. The film won the top prize at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival. On behalf of Hungary, the Film Fund‘s Film Jury nominated the film for the 2017 Academy Award in the category Best Foreign Language Film.
A love story with a unique tone about two people who turn out to be in the same place in their dreams, both deer and a couple. Sure, it’s a strange premise, but as strange as it is, it’s also poetic and beautiful. “On Body and Soul”, Ildikó Enyedi talks about how as humans we can often be so distant from each other, the importance of communication, and the need for love and human connection. The film won Alexandra Borbély the Best European Actress Award in 2017.
“Those Who Remained” (2019)
“Those Who Remained” is Barnabás Tóth‘s 2019 83-minute colour drama based on Zsuzsa F. Várkonyi‘s novel The Girl Novel of the Men’s Times, starring Károly Hajduk and Abigél Szőke. Nominated by Hungary for the 2020 Academy Awards in the Best International Feature Film category, the film has been shortlisted in the top 10 films.
The film is a beautiful, touching, and human piece about letting go, remembering, and how difficult it is to redefine oneself after a loss through the relationship between a middle-aged man and a teenage girl. It’s also about how difficult it is to make human connections after someone you loved more than anything else has been taken away from you.
“Sing” (in Hungarian: “Mindenki”, means “Everybody”) is a 2016 Hungarian short film directed and written by Kristóf Deák. Set in 1991, it follows the story of a girl who moves to a new elementary school and becomes a member of the award-winning school choir. In 2017, the film won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film at the 89th Academy Awards.
The film’s plot is based on a story that director Kristóf Deák heard from a Swedish friend. The first screenplay was written in 2012 with two English comedians Bex Harvey and Christian Azzola and was originally set in an English-language environment instead of Hungary. It was the first starring role for both Dorka Gáspárfalvi and Dorottya Hais, who were chosen from eighty children auditioning for the roles. The choir was chosen from among five school choirs.