Film Marathon closes with record audience figures


Budapest Classics Film Marathon, the Hungarian Film Institute’s festival celebrating restored motion pictures, has closed with a record number of full-house screenings, meet-and-greets and international professional programmes, including the first-ever archive film fair. More than 20,000 took part in 110 screenings over the six-day time travel, smashing previous attendance numbers.

The country’s biggest cinema on Szent István Square in front of the Basilica was packed on all four evenings. Audiences enjoyed watching John Travolta, Dezső Garas, Johnny Depp and the most famous Hungarian vampire, Béla Lugosi, in recently restored film classics projected onto the one-of-its-kind, 130-sqm outdoor screen. Showings of Jesus Christ Superstar, Ed Wood, Football of the Good Old Days (Régi idők focija) and Grease provided an unforgettable, open-air cinematic experience for several thousand.

At the special invitation of Film Marathon, Hungary welcomed Oscar-winning Kevin Macdonald and producer of the generational cult movie Trainspotting, BAFTA-winning Andrew Macdonald, grandsons of world-famous filmmaker Emeric Pressburger (Imre Pressburger) who was born in the Hungarian city of Miskolc. A dream of theirs came true when they took on Hungarian citizenship, which was taken from their Transylvanian Hungarian grandfather at the time of Trianon.

Marathon provided a unique opportunity to meet artists: as well as Kevin Macdonald and Andrew Macdonald, Lajos Koltai, Pál Sándor, Gyula Gazdag, Péter Gárdos, András Kern, Thierno Souleymane Diallo, Pierre Földes and leading researchers of film heritage and film history introduced films and initiated audiences into behind-the-scenes secrets.

Spectacular super-productions by Sándor Korda, who became world-famous as Sir Alexander Korda, founder of the British film industry, were also on the festival programme. Marathon joined the celebration of the 130th anniversary of the birth of the legendary filmmaker, the first to be knighted for services to the industry, by presenting the universe of Korda films.

Csaba Káel, Kevin Macdonald and György Ráduly (Fotó: NFI)

The audience at Marathon had the first opportunity to see around 50 Hungarian pictures recently restored by the National Film Institute Film Archive and Filmlabor, including legendary Latabár films, directions by Gyula Gazdag, and works by Endre Tóth, the young, gifted filmmaker of the 1930s, who became a leading artist in Hollywood as André de Toth.

There was also a record number of full-house festival screenings of restored movies at Uránia and Toldi cinema. Tickets sold out for the Alfred Hitchcock movie To Catch a Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, the Jean Renoir romantic comedy A Day in the Country, Francis Ford Coppola’s classic The Godfather, the first Hungarian biopic, Endre Tóth’s Semmelweis (1939), Raging Bull that made Robert de Niro a global phenomenon, and the generational cult movie Trainspotting.

Open-air screening of Grease (Fotó: NFI)

Within the Marathon framework, Matthijs Wouter Knol, director of the European Film Academy, Claire Legras, France’s ambassador to Hungary, and Csaba Káel, commissioner for the Hungarian film industry, unveiled the Treasures of European Film Culture plaque, whereby the European Film Academy celebrates the Western (Nyugati) Railway Station, which as the location for many brilliant films has played a significant role in the European film heritage.

The organizers provided free-of-charge accreditation to film specialists, students and teachers. More than 1000 people took advantage of this scheme. Nearly 3500 took part in student screenings and educational programmes.

Matthijs Wouter Knol and Csaba Káel

There was a new venue in the Marathon programme this year: Budapest Music Center, where audiences could enjoy special film concerts in the company of outstanding representatives of contemporary Hungarian jazz such as Veronika Harcsa, Miklós Lukács, András Dés and László Gőz.

Eighty-five foreign participants from 19 countries – from the United States to Japan – arrived for Marathon professional programmes, in order to present their recently restored films and share their experiences on film restoration, distribution and use for educational purposes within the conference series called Budapest Classics Lab. The festival also saw the debut of an international archive film fair at which the Hungarian archive was joined by foreign archives and TV stations as exhibitors and speakers.

Partners of Budapest Classics Film Marathon organized by the Hungarian Film Institute: The Film Foundation, the foundation of Martin Scorsese supporting film preservation and film restoration, the British Film Institute (BFI), Cinémathèque française, Paramount Archive and main sponsor MOL.