East-west film collaboration sparks controversy
As Hungary faces growing political isolation from the European Union, an internationally co-produced drama strikes a nerve
OTTAWA – 7 February 2012: Against the current backdrop of the European Commission launching legal action against Hungary for violations of treaty law and democracy: a new film has touched a nerve over its examination of often irreconcilable ideologies between east and west.
Since its world premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival a few months ago, “The Maiden Danced to Death”, a co production between Canada and Hungary become a festival darling to audiences around the globe. To date it has been invited to 16 festivals in 12 countries, and counting.
The production boasts some Hungary’s top talent including Academy Award winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond A.S.C. (The Deer Hunter, Close Encounters, Deliverance, Maverick), Screen Actor’s Guild award recipient Endre Hules (Angels & Demons, Apollo 13, Se7en) and actor Zsolt Laszlo (The Eagle, Kontroll).
Despite international kudos, the film’s release in Hungary has met by some with harsh criticism and indignation over its subversive post-mortem on the end of the Cold War.
Set in 1999, “The Maiden Danced to Death” tells the story of two estranged brothers and former dancers who reunite after the opening of the iron curtain. With their common love interest brokering a truce, the brothers set about resurrecting their last successful choreography together, based on a ballad of the same name. As old ghosts begin to surface, the inevitable clash of cultural and political ideology comes to the fore.
Expelled by the Communists 20 years earlier, Steve (Hules), has earned success abroad before returning to Hungary where his very presence challenges the ideals of this brother Gyula (Laszlo) who “stuck it out” at home all those years.
“The inspiration came from the very real antagonism between the sizeable Hungarian diaspora – mostly political refugees – and those who remained in Hungary” says writer-director Hules, himself a former refugee. “I was always wondering if these suspicions could be resolved somehow so those groups could help each other better. This film is part of that thinking process”.
The timing and execution of that “thinking process” has clearly hit a nerve, placing that diaspora and the current administration at odds.
An international co production between Hungary, Canada and Slovenia, “The making of this movie really became case of life mimicking art,” according to its Canadian producer, Michael A. Dobbin of Quiet Revolution Pictures.
Upon taking office with a two thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament in 2010, the government of Viktor Orban quickly set about “restructuring” the Hungarian Film Fund, which was at the time a participant in the film’s financing.
“Suddenly, Hungary wasn’t playing by the rules any more and didn’t seem to care that it could be hurting its own producers – let alone its partners” says Dobbin. “The fact that the film is now such a success is truly in spite of seemingly intentional efforts to sabotage an international partnership.” The pattern is hard to ignore.
Represented by ID Communications a Canadian sales company, the film will be screened for its international market premiere in Berlin’s European Film Market on February 14. It will continue on to festivals is Poland, Portugal, USA to name a few in the coming months. Click here for a full list of festivals and screening dates as well as the film trailer
The Maiden Danced to Death is also available on iTunes Canada, and premieres on Super Channel, and will be available on DVD/Bluray in April.
About ID Communications
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About Quiet Revolution Pictures