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    Phillip Bergson on Budapest and ZagrebDox 2008

    By Phillip Bergson | July 4, 2008

    A regular contributor to KINO – German Film, roving British film critic Phillip Bergson visited a pair of festivals at the beginning of 2008. Herewith a short resumé of his views as seen from the inside of film festival life at the 39th Hungarian Film Week Budapest and 4th ZagrebDox.

    39th Hungarian Film Week Budapest (29 January to 5 February 2008)

    The long-awaited Delta by wunderkind Kornel Mundruczo, awarded the Gene Moskowitz Critics Prize and the Golden Reel, has now been selected to compete at Cannes. This curious domestic drama with a watery setting also won for composer Felik Lajko the Best Music Prize for his atmospheric score.

    More of an audience-pleaser was The Investigator by Attila Gigor, deservedly winning the Best Actor Prize for Zsolt Anger as a dour mortician who becomes part-detective, part-avenging angel in a witty fusion of film genres with a sharp and amusing screenplay, which was itself prized, while this engaging film also picked up the Genre Prize and Golden Scissors trophy for editing.

    The lengthy awards ceremony thankfully was followed by a lavish cocktail and buffet in a modern museum adjacent to the Millenaris hall, where press and overseas guests could mingle sociably with such legends of Hungarian cinema as Karoly Makk and Miklos Jancso. Spectacular filmmaking facilities were also amply on display at the new Korda Studios at Etyek, equidistant from downtown Budapest and the international airport, with six sound stages and Europe’s largest indoor watertank, plus tax incentives sure to attract foreign filmmakers..

    4th ZagrebDox (25 February to 2 March 2008)

    Huge audiences flocked to the day-and-night-long screenings of documentaries screened in a clutch of auditoria, never far from downtown bars and cafes. Highlights with a musical theme included Pola Rapaport and Wolfgang Held’s Let the Sun Shine In (France), a brilliant 54-minute memoir of the first stagings of that ground-breaking musical Hair, and Grant Gee’s Joy Division (UK), a feature-length study of the eponymous English group with the real-life protagonists of the movie Control.

    The festival paid tribute to Marcel Lozinski, who attended for his retrospective and a Master-Class. Top award went to Sean Fine and Andrea Nix’s War/Dance (USA), which showed an unusual, artistic response of African school-children to some of their contemporary tragedies. The International Critics FIPRESCI Prize was split between Anne Sundberg and Ricki Stern’s The Devil Came on Horseback (USA), about how a former US soldier had tried to make the world aware of the massacres in Darfur, and Michael Jacobs’s Audience of One (USA), the sharply contrasting but deliriously funny record of a deranged would-be film director attempting with his all-too-willing family to make a religious epic in Italy for the glory of God and his revivalist congregation in the Bay Area.

    ZagrebDox is not only championing the genre handsomely in all formats, but also brought to the lovely, renovated Astoria Hotel many filmmakers and pitchers from across Europe to encourage the continuing commissioning of such works. With 20,000 admissions during the week, this event deserves to be noticed more.

    – Phillip Bergson

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