23-10-2007

Rights to 40 years of Hungarian films stuck in limbo

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Foreign sales from Hungary's bountiful postwar film catalogue have been stuck in a bureaucratic limbo since 2004, and a Sept. 30 deadline that was expected to clarify the situation has gone unheeded.

A film law approved by Parliament in April 2004 provided that the rights for all postwar movies was to be transferred from the incumbent distributor Mokep (www.mokep.hu) to the National Film Archive by Sept. 30, 2007. But the Hungarian State Treasury (www.allamkincstar.gov.hu/en/cimlap), which disposes of state assets, failed to carry out the transfer. Causes of the delay are unknown, but speculation ranges from simple bureaucratic inefficiency to a politically motivated, deliberate slowdown.

The catalogue consists of 800 feature films made between 1948 to 1986 within a solely state-owned industry, plus thousands of hours of documentaries as well as animations from the Pannónia Film Studio - whose uncertain future was the subject of another recent FNE report. It is not known whether any financial assessments were made on the value of this film library.

Foreign sales have been stalled as the rights no longer belong to Mokep, but neither do they belong to the Archive, which was formerly known as Magyar Filmintezet, (www.filmintezet.hu).

Adding another layer of complication, the now-defunct Dialog Studio, led by Mafilm CEO Tolmar Tamas (www.mafilm.hu/1024/indexeng.html), also owns a library that is involved in the case. Once the transfer is completed, the state-owned National Film Archive's director, Vera Gyurey, is authorized to announce a call for competition to win the distribution rights.

Since 2004, "no contracts on rights [of films made in this 38-year period] could be extended" with distributors or broadcasters abroad, a source close to the matter who asked for anonymity confirmed to FNE. Only domestic deals on TV and home video have been clinched.

In the past, Mokep's sales arm, Hungarofilm, orchestrated the international sale of all Hungarian films.

A confidential meeting on the issue was held with the relevant parties last week at the state privatization agency (or Allami Vagyonkezelo Rt., www.apvrt.hu). No details of it have been disclosed.