Editor's Introduction: “Contemporary Perspectives on Hungarian Cinema”

By Catherine Portuges (U of Massachusetts, Amherst )

This issue of KinoKultura is intended to offer readers a selection of essays, interviews, and reviews that engage a variety of contemporary perspectives on Hungarian cinema. Addressing the diversity of representational modes, historical moments, and innovative styles of one of East-Central Europe's most consistently creative visual cultures,  the film scholars and filmmakers assembled here give voice both to the history and current realities of documentary, experimental, animation, and fiction filmmaking.

Prior to 1989, Hungary was renowned for a rich and complex national cinema that represented, among many other things, the collective dreams and traumas of the nation's 20 th century East-Central European experience—private and subjective, political and collective.  In the post-socialist era, long-standing cultural policies that had both prohibited and tolerated a variety of cinematic practices were reformed and transformed, giving way to radical changes in the system of production, financing, exhibition, and distribution.  A long-awaited Film Law was enacted to encourage foreign investment and co-production; state-of-the-art studios were constructed; and organizations such as the National Cultural Fund (which ensures the financing of film events) and the Hungarian Motion Picture Public Foundation were established to foster collaboration and transparency.

Some of the contributions that follow are concerned primarily with topics of film-historical importance, while others focus on more recent examples of filmmaking and on reflections and productions by filmmakers on both sides of the 1989 divide. It is my hope that these essays will open up new spaces for discussion among film scholars and in conversation with others interested in exploring this vibrant cinema.


I wish to thank Volodia Padunov for the honor of serving as guest editor of this issue of KinoKultura, and for his unflagging encouragement throughout the development of this project.  I am grateful to the staff of Magyar Filmunió (established in 1992 by the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary for the international promotion of Hungarian cinema) for generously sharing their expertise, arranging projections, interviews and meetings, and providing documentation for the films discussed by our contributors.  For nearly four decades, the majority of feature, documentary, experimental and short films produced each year have been showcased annually during Hungarian Film Week (Magyar Filmszemle), attracting critics, journalists, festival curators, film professionals, and interested viewers to Budapest for screenings, press conferences, and galas throughout the capital.

My own ongoing engagement with Hungarian cinema could not have proceeded as it has without Filmunió's invitations to the Filmszemle each February since 1988; the unparalleled access offered to filmmakers and industry professionals—archival collections and screenings—are both the source and the fruit of a unique and dynamic community.   I am indebted to the expertise and friendship of Éva Vezer, Zsolt Kézdi-Kovács,  Katalin Vajda, Csaba Zoltán Papp, and Annamaria Basa and their superb colleagues. This issue is dedicated to them, to my Hungarian friends and relatives, and to Hungarian filmmakers of all generations whose artistic achievements have made and continue to make Hungarian cinema such a creative and challenging experience for audiences around the world.

© Catherine Portuges, 2008