Budapest School


Budapest school or documentarism was a filmmaking movement spanning roughly from 1972 to 1984 in Hungarian art and experimental films.

The movement originated from Béla Balázs Studios, a small-budget filmmaking community, which main concept was to unite the "avantgarde" or "underground" young filmmakers of Hungary and give them an opportunity to make experimental works without state censorship. These films didn't have to be shown in front of an audience, but could be made outside the state-sponsored "mainstream" cinema. The studio gave birth to two main movements in the early 1970s: an experimental, avantgarde group (led by individuals like Gábor Bódy), and the documentarist group, whose main goal was the portrayal of absolute social-reality on screen. This movement was called "Budapest school" by an Italian film critic on a European film festival. Soon they adopted this name.

Main founders and leaders of the group were István Dárday, Györgyi Szalai, Judit Ember and Pál Schiffer. Many young and sometimes amateur artists were invited to the group by fellow filmmakers. The most famous example for this is Béla Tarr who made his debut film at the age of 22 financed by Béla Balázs Studios.

Rules of the movement were not strict, but were usually followed by films made by it: they were shot with amateur equipment, mostly hand-held cameras and usually by two or more cameras at the same time. No professional actors were cast, all the roles were played by amateurs (who most of the time socially resembled their characters) and no pre-written script was used. Only a scenario and certain plot elements were pre-written, the cast members' reaction for them were improvised on the set. Most films were shot in a very short period of time with a very limited budget or no budget at all. Their central themes were mostly the lives of working class and/or poor people in urban Hungary and their struggle to have a decent existence. The main goal of the movement was to show absolute reality on screen instead of the false escapism shown by commercial and mainstream films that time. The Budapest school movement was closely resemble to (if not a version of) cinema verité. The first full-length film made in this manner was "Jutalomutazás" ("The Prize Trip") (1975) by István Dárday and Györgyi Szalai. The most well-known example for the movement is "Családi tűzfészek" ("Family Nest") by Béla Tarr.

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