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Archive for June, 2012

Anita and Ticia Gara

It is a little-known fact that Budapest is one of the chess world’s international hubs. But in truth, players from all around the globe travel here to train and compete. When Bobby Fischer – widely regarded as the best chess player in history – decided to go into hiding, he did so in Budapest, where he could remain among a  passionate chess community.

It was in Budapest that Fischer met the Polgár sisters: Judit, Zsófia, and Zsuzsa (who now goes by Susan). It is known that Fischer took an interest in the girls and their training, coaching them in their formative years (though it should be noted that the Polgár sisters were already quite famous by the time Fischer came along). The strongest – and youngest – player was Judit. Her accomplishments are extensive: at age 15 she was the youngest grandmaster in chess history, beating Bobby Fischer to the distinction by one month. As the widely acknowledged best female player in the history of chess, Judit Polgár has beaten most of the field of male players as well and, at one point, was one of the top 10 players in the world – the highest ranking a female player has achieved to date. To cap off her accomplishments, in 2002 she beat Garry Kasparov – one of the last grandmasters to face and fall to the “striking” girl from Hungary.

Judit Polgár

To further the tradition of siblings in chess, there are the Gara sisters: Ticia and Anita. Anita, for her part, has won the Hungarian Chess Champion title three times, and is a yet another Hungarian female grandmaster. Younger sister Ticia won the countrywide championship twice, and continues to be one of the top 100 female chess players in the world. Both, it is fair to say, are photogenic enough to star as themselves in the film of their lives.

Anna Rudolf

Perhaps the most up-and-coming player in recent years is Anna Rudolf, who won over Ticia Gara in the 2008 Hungarian Women’s Championships held in Szeged. When the then 20-year-old defeated top male players in the French Vandoeuvre Open, Rudolf became the center of a controversy that saw her grandmaster male competitors accusing her of receiving chess moves via a transmitter in her lip balm. Her bag was searched but nothing was found aside from the accessories of somebody who doesn’t mind looking good while they clean up the floor with the competition. Though the Polgár sisters broke down many of the gender barriers in Hungarian and international chess (Judit only plays in gender-inclusive tournaments) it is possible that even now the male chess world is not ready for the intelligence and beauty of what Hungary’s chess community has to offer.

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Though there has been a turn in local tastes for homegrown music, sang in Hungarian, here in Budapest, pubs and clubs still resonate with songs in English, imported from abroad. Rare is occasion when Hungary has the opportunity to export some of its on songs in the form of pop music (classical is another story). But recently the sophisticated Hungarian pop band The Unbending Trees have become something of an international hit with their brooding ballad “You Are A Lover,” which was released in England by the label Strange Feeling Records, and was subsequently covered by Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn.

Lead singer and Trees founder Kristof Hajos’s story is idiosyncratic as is the band’s music. Much has been made in the local press of Hajos’s youthful stay in a local Franciscan monastery, where he was studying to be a monk. For undisclosed reasons, he was invited to leave the monastery (in other words, kicked out). From there he pursued a career in the arts. Hajos is a charismatic frontman, but the driving force behind the music is Balázs Havasi, one of the most promising contemporary graduates of the Hungarian Music Academy. Having recorded the song “You Are A Lover,” they posted it on their MySpace page, and were lucky enough to have Ben Watt of Everything But the Girl stumble upon it. Not long after, Watt signed the band to his Strange Feeling Records.

In interviews Hajos has compared The Unbending Tree’s music to Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen. Others have made the comparison to Hungary’s favorite suicide anthem “Gloomy Sunday”. While the band acknowledges that debt, it does seem convenient and they remain optimistic about their prospects and optimistic about Hungary. “I don’t foresee moving out there (to London). I am quite happy with my job right now. So unless it is really necessary, I don’t think I will move,” said Hajos.

The accompanying video to “You Are A Lover” was basically homemade, yet it captures the moodiness of Budapest perfectly (not to mention making great use of the Szabadsag Bridge). Apparently the couple in the video broke up not long after the shoot. Let’s hope The Unbending Trees don’t do the same, and continue to reflect well on the sophisticated local music scene, internationally.

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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That Budapest has been used as a stand in for many other cities has been well covered elsewhere in this blog. In Steven Spielberg’s Munich, for example, Budapest had the opportunity to stand in for Paris. But did you know that France’s most famous architectural firm actually designed one of Budapest’s most striking locations? We are talking about the great Western Railway Station, Nyugati, which designed by Eiffel firm architect August de Serres. That it has not achieved the iconic status of the Eiffel Tower makes it only the more unique in its ability to stand in for a grand railway station in most any large city in Europe. Completed in 1877, the 66,000 square foot space has gone through recent renovations, and rests on one of the stranger, cavern-like shopping spaces in the city.

The station was build with comfort for the common traveler in mind, and a building housing an expansive coffee shop was constructed into the side of the station. The space was taken over by McDonald’s after the end of the Socialist regime. While some consider the fast food restaurant an abomination, others consider it one of the most beautiful restaurants in Europe, and its popularity is inarguable: it is the second busiest McDonalds of all the company’s restaurants worldwide.

As you can see from the pictures, the space of Nyugati Station resonates with elegance and utility. The iron and glass design allows for a bright space that still feels moody and romantic: just right for that railway station farewell. Over the years it has been used in any number of films, though most recently, it was a backdrop for action from Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

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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