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Plenty of Hungarian Content at Montreal and Toronto Film Festivals

 

Randy Ray

 

There’s a distinct Hungarian flavour at the Montreal World Film Festival, which began this week. And it continues in September when the Toronto International Film Festival begins its 10-day run.


Eszter’s Inheritance, directed by Budapest native Joseph Sipos, is based on Sándor Márai's acclaimed novel Eszter hagyatéka (Eszter's inheritance"), and takes place in pre-World War II Hungary.


Sipos worked for Hungarian television from 1973 until 1989. In 1990 he founded his own production and distribution company, PCN Ltd., which is active in TV programming, documentaries and feature films. He makes his directorial debut in features with Eszter’s Inheritance.


Eszter, a striking woman in her fifties, lives alone by choice in her family's home, with only the company of Nunu, a faithful servant of the family. Just as Eszter has accommodated herself to live a calm and safe second half of her life with few expectations, she receives a telegraph that will change everything once again and force her to face sentiments she herself does not understand.


Years ago, she fell in love with Lajos, a charming and convincing young man. Eszter has continued to love him all her life, despite his turning out to be a disloyal con artist. Causing her near total ruin, Lajos ran off with Eszter's sister leaving her alone and financially destitute. All that remained in his wake was the family home she has occupied ever since.


Now, some 20 years later, he has sent notice that he will at last be visiting with his two children and re-entering Eszter's life unexpectedly. Upon receiving the telegraph, Eszter is flooded with old memories and new fears with which she must somehow come to terms.


Screenings will take place on Aug. 28 at 9:30 p.m., Aug. 29 at 5 p.m.) and Aug. 31 at 7:20 p.m., all at CINÉMA QUARTIER LATIN 17. The director and other contributing artists will be present for a Q&A at the first screening.


Another Planet, directed by Ferenc Moldoványi who was born in Debrecen, Hungary, is a documentary shot on four continents that focuses on its most vulnerable human inhabitants: children.


According to the UN, 2008 is the International Year of Planet Earth. Yet we live in an extremely divided world, marked by shockingly unjust human conditions, reeling from the symptoms of massive ecological crises. Countries left to fend for themselves, looted and humiliated, completely unable to recover in the wake of civil wars and genocide. Via seven stories, the film introduces viewers to a variety of young characters, all minors, who accept their fate with quasi humility. The appalling everyday life of child labourers, child prostitutes and child soldiers is revealed to us in Congo, Cambodia and Ecuador.


In the 1980s Moldoványi worked as an assistant director at Pannonia Film studios in Budapest and studied at the Budapest Academy of Drama and Film. His filmography, all documentaries, includes: Inauguration (1987), Here and Now (1988), On the Samizdat (1989), The Godfather (1993), If We Eat a Beaver (1994), The Cinema and several TV series. He will be in Montreal for the screening and is meeting with students at UQAM.

 

Another Planet will be shown on Aug. 26 at 5:10 p.m and Aug. 27 at 12:20 p.m. in each case at CINÉMA QUARTIER LATIN 11.


The third film with strong Hungarian connection is The Investigator, a project of writer-director Attila Gigor who was born in Budapest. Gigor studied acting at various Hungarian drama schools before enrolling in the Hungarian Academy of Film and Drama in 2000, where he made shorts, documentaries and experimental films and became established as a writer-director. The Investigator marks his debut in features.


In the film, Tibor, a 37-year-old forensic pathologist at the same hospital where his mother lies dying of spinal cord cancer, has problems communicating with people and leads a lonely life. He has enough money to buy whatever he wants but the surgery necessary to save his mother's life is only done in Sweden and its cost is far beyond his means.


Still, Tibor is determined; he'll do whatever it takes to keep her alive. One day a one-eyed man calling himself Cyclops introduces himself at dinner and offers to pay for the operation in return for Tibor agreeing to kill someone he's never met before. It's a macabre bargain, but Tibor is desperate. That's when he makes a terrible discovery...


The Investigator is to be screened on Aug. 29 at 10 a.m. and 7:10 p.m., on Aug. 30 at 12:20 p.m. and on Aug. 31 at 7:20 p.m., each time at CINÉMA QUARTIER LATIN 13.


For more information contact the Montreal World Film Festival at (514) 848-3883 or email at info@ffm-montreal.org

 

Hungarian offerings at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 4 to 13 include Delta and The Secret of Moonacre.


Delta, directed by Kornél Mundruczó of Hungary and presented in Hungarian, begins in a timeless, remote region of the Danube Delta, where a young man (Félix Lajkó, who also composed music for the film) returns to his serene birthplace. However, the land's natural beauty is soon tarnished by its coarse, aggressive inhabitants. When the man and his estranged sister (Mundruczó regular Orsi Tóth) attempt to rebuild their deceased father's rundown shack, they upset their family and anger the local residents, who react viciously against their unusually intimate bond. This chain of events ultimately culminates in a disastrous, violent climax.


While Mundruczó's characters can come across as deviants, occupying a space beyond the boundaries of traditional moral principles, their authenticity and ultimate decency scramble everyday notions of suitable social behaviour. Their minimally illustrated yet ethically complex struggle deals not so much with taboos, but rather with the courage and freedom it takes to accept an instinctive allure to one's own blood relative, even when that desire breaks with social conventions. Moreover, the film deals with the barriers we produce as a society and those who believe they have the authority to persecute certain individuals who do not ideally fit the status quo.


Delta has already garnered international acclaim and owes much to the compelling performances of its young leads. The film was shot in Romania's exotic Danube Delta and Mátyás Erdély's cinematography captures the striking drama of that landscape. The region's breathtaking natural phenomena – including a turtle thought by the sister to be the reincarnation of her father – becomes, in a way, one of the lead characters in the film. Delta is a provocative work that confronts its audience but rewards each viewer with an immensely powerful outcome.


Director Mundruczó studied at the Hungarian Academy of Drama and Film. His first short film, Day After Day (01), was recognized with multiple international awards. In addition to making several other short films over the span of his career, he has also directed three features: Pleasant Days (02), Johanna (05) and Delta (08).


Screenings take place on Sept, 5 at 2 p.m. at AMC 7; on Sept. 8 at8 p.m. at AMC 5 and on Sept. 13 12:45 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre 4.


The Secret of Moonacre, directed by Gabor Csupo of Budapest, is adapted from Elizabeth Goudge's award-winning children's book The Little White Horse. It’s an epic adventure film with a magical heart.
The story follows the exploits of thirteen-year-old orphan Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards of The Golden Compass), whose sole inheritance from her father is a book. This is no ordinary tome, however – in Maria's hands, its ancient story comes alive. The book chronicles an age-old rivalry between the Merryweather and De Noir families over a set of magical pearls, and as Maria delves into the mysterious tale, she finds herself fantastically entangled in the bitter feud.


Left penniless by her father's death, Maria has no choice but to leave the city and live with her taciturn uncle, Sir Benjamin Merryweather, at his isolated country estate in Moonacre Valley. On her way to her new home with her caretaker Miss Heliotrope, Maria's carriage is attacked by Robin, the De Noir family's teenaged son. Although she is unharmed, the incident gives Maria a frightening taste of the animosity between the two clans.

 


When Maria arrives at the Merryweather property, her uncle spies the unusual book in her possession, and immediately confiscates it. With the help of the estate's resourceful chef, however, Maria relocates the book and continues reading, finally discovering the weight of her responsibility: she has been anointed the last Moon Princess of the valley. It is up to her to find the magic pearls before the next full moon and end the conflict between the two families. If she fails in her quest, the dark curse following the Merryweather family will destroy Moonacre Valley for good. But is this a challenge Maria is ready to accept?


Featuring a strong cast led by veterans Tim Curry, Ioan Gruffudd and Juliet Stevenson, as well as rising star Richards, this latest film from acclaimed director Gabor Csupo (celebrated for Bridge to Terabithia) expertly weaves fantasy, magic, drama and humour into an imaginative and exciting family adventure.


Director Csupo was born in Budapest, where he studied animation at Pannónia Stúdió. He left Hungary in 1975 and formed the respected animation house Klasky Csupo, Inc. with Arlene Klasky in 1981, and subsequently worked in the US on several animated series, such as The Simpsons and Rugrats. His films include Bridge to Terabithia (07)and The Secret of Moonacre (08).


Screenings take place on Sept. 6 at 12:30 p.m. at Winter Garden Theatre and Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Varsity 3.


For more information about the Toronto International Film Festival, call (416) 968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM or visit: www.tiffg.ca .

 

 

 

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