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Archive for November, 2011

Who is the most sought after dinner guest at hot-spots from California to Seville these days? We will give you a hint: he is hairy, fat as all get out, and known for his exquisite taste. Yes, we are talking about a certain pig that, while fairly well known around these parts, has become a delicacy abroad, especially at very high-class, expensive restaurants. Introducing Hungary’s latest star: the Mangalica! You can always spot a Mangalica because, unlike most pigs, our celebrity swine is dressed to the nines in a fleecy coat of fur. Mangalica is quickly becoming a foodie ‘must try’ and with good reason. But if you are dining out, bring a full wallet, because this pig is not a cheap date.

It is a curious fact that the Mangolica pig was almost extinct, having fallen out of favor with the bland tastes of Hungary’s previous socialist regime. Descended from the wild boar, Mangalica are also referred to as the ‘curly-hair hog’ because of their unique coat. They are also known for their pungent, rich flavor, primarily due to the fatty marbling of the meat. Because of this high fat content, the pig is sought after for premium sausages and salami, as well as hams and chops.

But the spotlight was not always on our celebrity pork. It is said that there were, at their darkest hour, less than 200 of these beasts left in Hungary, until a wise Mangalica enthusiast began breeding them back into popularity. These days over 60,000 pigs are produced yearly in Hungary, a far cry from the small family from which they originated.  If you are a Mangalica fan, it pays to be in Hungary, where cuts of all sort can be had for a mere 8 Euro a kilo, fresh from various Hungarian butcher shops. Abroad, however, they command stratospheric sums. For instance, in Spain, where the Mangalica is commonly turned into ham, an 8-10 pound leg of boneless Jamon Mangalica can cost around 400 euro. At the French Laundry, regularly listed as amongst the top ten restaurants in the United States, the swine dish goes for over 40 dollars a plate. This makes Mangalica a rare treat and expensive dinner guest.  But don’t be surprised if you see the pig appear in more and more venues. When you are a rising star, they will always save the you best seat in the house.

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If you grew up in the 1980s, you know the Rubik’s Cube as that frustrating colorful puzzle that about half the world was obsessed with solving. There wasn’t much that could distract a kid from the newly launched MTV in 1984, but the Cube was one such thing. Everyone across the globe seemed to have one.

Can you guess where we are going with this? Yes, the famous mind-bending puzzle was invented by a Hungarian: Ernő Rubik. It was one of those fairy tale inventions: created in hours off from work as a university professor by a man with a passion for math, design, and games. The first Cube prototype was actually made of wood, with beveled corners, and the object was to match designs righter than colors. Initially called the ‘Magic Cube’ by the humble Rubik, the toy company that bought the rights re-named it Rubik’s Cube.

To call the Cube a phenomenon would be an understatement. More than 300,000,000 cubes have been sold since its introduction, and if laid next to each other, would form a line from the North to the South Pole. The toy company estimates that at the height of its success, one fifth of the world’s population had tried their hand at the Cube.

While the wild obsession with the Cube had died down, it lives on as a favorite toy and brand. Budapest occasionally hosts the annual Speed-Cubing competition, and in 2007 Rubik himself was on hand to give out the awards. But the competition is not as straight-forward as is may sound, because there are constant innovations in the culture of Cubing. Amongst the newer, more ‘extreme’ categories are one-handed cubing, foot cubing, and even solving the Cube while blindfolded.

Should there not be a documentary about Cubing, like there was for Crosswords or Scrabble? Absolutely. If you look it the short news clip below, you will see just how much passion and imagination gamers bring to cubing. Just an idea, free to take, and you know where to turn if you need production help.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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Hungary is not known for producing  international stadium rock acts. But did you know that the creative force behind one of the most successful bands in history was born to two Hungarian émigrés to Israel? This mystery man is the Demon himself, Gene Simmons of KISS.

Simmons’ mother, Flóra Kovács, from Jánd, Hungary, was one of the only members of her family to survive the Holocaust. Beginning her post-war life in Israel, she met another Hungarian, Feri Witz, got married, and gave birth to the as-of-yet scaleless Chaim Witz. Upon moving to the States for a better life, Chaim had his name changed to Eugene, then later shortened it to Gene in honor of rockabilly star Jumpin’ Gene Simmons.

After a few false starts in straightforward hard-rock outfits, Simmons and singer Paul Stanley formed KISS, with the intention of being the biggest rock band in the world. Simmons had a love of Sci-Fi and a smart marketing mind; it was his idea to costume each member as a character, with Simmons as the Demon (sometimes also referred to as the Lizard God). Initially, their make-up and costumes were mocked, but the band toured relentlessly and started to gain a following for thrilling shows filled with pyrotechnics and drama. Over the course of a few years, KISS moved from playing bars to packing stadiums. Eventually the KISS empire covered everything from merchandising KISS dolls, trading cards, books, to forays into film.

KISS suffered a dip in popularity in the late 80s when they decided to take off their make-up; a move most fans felt betrayed the spirit of the group. But they returned hard, heavy and made up, and forty years on, remain one of the top grossing touring acts.

Though some members of KISS have dropped out, Simmons still tours with the band, and was in Budapest as recently as 2008, when he sang a song in Hungarian, much to the delight of the crowd. He also seems to have found a new life as a reality TV star, in a show that derives from fellow rocker Ozzy Osbourne’s success.

Below, find an old gem: Gene in Budapest speaking Hungarian.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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Note: This is a re-print of the PPM Hungary newsletter, which can be signed up for here.

With so many uprisings transpiring in the Middle East, it is easy to forget that Budapest once gripped the world’s attention when Hungarian freedom fighters drove the Soviets from the city in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. To call the bravery of the Hungarian demonstrators and militias heroic would be an understatement. They held the city for just over two weeks until Soviet forces invaded Hungary and re-took Budapest using superior numbers and artillery. Only photos truly can show just how dangerous the situation on the city streets was. Budapest itself became a theater of war, as soldiers moved from house to house, battling for each bit of territory.

Though the exact details of the events of the 1956 Revolution are disputed, it is believed the uprising began in Republic Square when insurgents tried to take the building of the Soviet-controlled Budapest Committee of the ruling Hungarian Workers’ Party. The army fired on the insurgents, killing many, and then called in tanks for protection. When the tanks arrived, however, it is believed – romantically perhaps – that instead of protecting the ruling party, they sided with the insurgents. The building was taken, and a revolution was sparked.

When the Soviets retook Budapest, the citizenry endured some of the bloodiest fighting the city has ever seen, with over 2,000 Hungarians killed, and countless more detained and tortured. It would be more than thirty years until the Soviets relinquished grip on Hungary, this time peacefully.

Today, there is a memorial by the Hungarian Parliament to those who died in the fighting – fittingly, in the form of bullet holes filled in with bronze. For a closer look at the revolution, and just how much inherent drama it contained, have a look at the 2006 Andrew Vajna-produced film Szabadság, Szerelem (Children of Glory) in which a team of politicized water polo players endure the 1956 Revolution, and live to take on to beat the Soviet water polo team in that year’s Melbourne Olympic Games.

Just walking around Budapest as a visitor or resident, one can spot pock-marks made by gun-fire on the edifices of older buildings, evidence of a tumultuous past. In the course of its history, Budapest has been occupied my many foreign armies, including Russians, Turks, and Germans. But none came without battles and/or uprisings. Though many of the bullet marks are being filled in as downtown apartment houses undergo renovation, there are still plenty of facades where Budapest’s embattled history is written.  PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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