Hungary’s filmmaking is 120 years old and that’s worth celebrating. It all began with A táncz, and now it continues with Hollywood standard studios.
On April 30, 2021, we celebrated the 120th anniversary of the first directed Hungarian film, “A táncz” (“The Dance”). The National Film Institute – in line with tradition – is organizing Hungarian Film Day on this red-letter day, when this movie was completed by Béla Zsitkovszky and Gyula Pekár. Unfortunately, today only still photos have survived of the first Hungarian motion picture containing directed, dramatized scenes.
Since then, in every period countless outstanding artists have added to Hungarian film’s enviable reputation in the course of their careers in Hungary or internationally. The National Film Institute – Film Archive launched a widespread research program to identify lost treasures of Hungarian film history. These works are irreplaceable and form a vital part of our national cultural heritage, which is why their preservation and making them accessible is our prime mission.
Hungarian film streaming service FILMIO made several films accessible free of charge. The National Film Institute has launched a website that shows images from the collection of its archives, including images from 120 full-length films as well as fragments.
Due to the fragility of the raw material and in the course of historical vicissitudes, the original prints were frequently destroyed, lost, or have only survived to this day in a fragmentary form. It is a sad fact that we will never see most of these in their entirety. However, it occasionally happens even today that in attics, cellars and from the depths of collections, rolls of film turn up, incredibly, survived and prove interesting for contemporary viewers.
We are now in the final hour to locate these continuously degrading treasures and rescue them for posterity. In this regard, we ask for the help of the domestic and international community. In the list below we introduce the 120 most sought-after films made between 1901 and 1944, with commentaries about why it would be especially important to find them. The selection includes various genres, early silent films and missing sound films, demonstrating just how diverse the “lost Hungarian film heritage” is.
“A tolonc” (“The Undesirable”) is one of these films which was saved from an old cellar. It is a black and white silent film from 1915, directed by the Oscar winning director Mihály Kertész. The protagonists were Lili Berky and Mari Jászai, and the screenwriter was Jenő Janovics. This is the only motion picture that captures Mari Jászai and Várkonyi Mihály. Várkonyi became famous later under the name of Victor Varconi in Hollywood.
The nitrocopy of the film was found by Cselényi László, who brought home the coils. Unfortunately, the coils weren’t projectable, but they provided a good enough base for making a decent quality security copy of it. The digital restoration was done in New York by the Hungarian found Cinetic Studios, after that the nitrocopy was returned to Hungary. The final part of the restoration was finished by Hungarian Filmlab VFX. The studio stabilized, pre-cleaned and tone corrected nearly 70 426 frames by hand.
15 restored, unforgettable Hungarian film classics are available free of charge on FILMIO, the streaming site of the National Film Institute. You can find here.