Is the film industry buying Orbán’s election campaign?
The community of Hungarian film professionals has been working for ten years to get films and series like Dune, Blade Runner, Terminator and Netfilx’s latest hit Shadow and Bone into Hungary. The law on paedophilia, which is part of the governing party’s election campaign and which even some members of FIDESZ do not agree with, is a step in the wrong direction.
The recent events with two senior government politicians casts doubt on Orbán’s real intentions regarding the current law. FIDESZ MEP József Szájer was caught last year in a gay bar in Brussels during the curfew, but after resigning from his political role, was “exonerated” from any consequences by pro-government politicians.
“There are several dual-life gay politicians in the government who, like József Szájer, seem to lead exemplary heterosexual family lives,” said József Kardos, a founding member of Fidesz.
Meanwhile the government’s ambassador to Peru, Gábor Kaleta, was given a suspended prison sentence for possessing 19,000 paedophile photos in 2020 after being taken home. This judgment was blatantly mild from all points of view. The law that has now been passed makes this offence punishable by up to life imprisonment without pardon. Apparently Orbán is very lenient with his own. That is why the current anti-LGBTQ law can be nothing more than an election campaign and a distraction.
Hollywood has always been sensitive to gay rights. In 2016, a #boycottgeorgia campaign was launched over the then anti-LGBTQ law in Georgia, which caused major film studios to stop filming.
Currently, Marvel’s “Moon Knight” series is filming in Budapest, Legendary’s “Borderlands” has just finished filming, and the crew of Disney’s “Poor Things” has arrived in the country. There are industry rumours that “Shadow and Bone”, famous for its diversity, could also return to Hungary for a second season. The stakes are high, yet the reaction of the government commissioner for film was days in coming.
Hungarian film commissioner Csaba Káel told Variety that the anti-LGBTQ legislation, which was tacked onto a separate bill that increased the penalties for pedophilia, is “principally strengthening the child protection system,” and expressed hopes that the industry would not be affected by any potential backlash.
“Hungary offers highly skilled film professionals, world-class facilities, amazing locations and a generous tax rebate to the international film community,” he added. “I firmly believe all these aspects are of more importance than politics.”
Hope springs eternal, they say, but now we need more. The Hungarian film community and the international film crews working in Hungary are working together to find the appropriate response. Many Hungarian filmmakers expressed their solidarity, among them at ORIGO Film Studio the studio staff tied a rainbow-coloured ribbon on the ORIGO logo.
“We have always done our best to make international productions like to work with us. There is serious work and dedication in all 24,000 Hungarian film professionals to make sure that the productions that choose Hungary are completed on time, within budget and that all crew members enjoy their time here. A law passed during an election period would do no good if it undid this work.
Political ideologies, parties and presidents are constantly changing, in the United States as well as here in Hungary. But the films made here remain. We believe that Hollywood’s decision makers are smarter than a hasty decision,” said Mihály Tóth, Marketing Director of ORIGO Film Studio.
Any boycott on the current situation would in fact put not the Hungarian government but Hungarian filmmakers and their families in an awkward position.