It was a good past few weeks for Hungarian film-makers abroad. The film The Exam by Hungarian director Péter Bergendy won the Gold Hugo in the New Directors competition at the 48th Chicago International Film Festival. His film, A Vizsga (The Exam) was lauded at the festival, which has only just wrapped up this weekend. The jury issued this statement regarding the film: “(The Exam is) …a film which combines the intricate plotting of a Cold War secret agent thriller with the serious undercurrent concerning deeper issues of personal loyalty versus the police state…It exudes a quiet confidence, remarkable in a new filmmaker.”
Bergendy was previously best-known known for his 2004 debut, Stop Mom Teresa, as well as being a sought-after TV commercial director and editor of the film magazine Cinema. Though The Exam was backed by Hungarian National Television, and was broadcast on local television, it received a brief theatrical run in Hungary as well.
The spy-versus-spy plot revolves around a national security officer, his boss, and a mysterious femme fatale during the heady and historically important days of Cold War 1956 Hungary. Boyd Van Hoeij of Daily Variety took notice of the film at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and had this to say in his review: “The Exam, (is) a nifty little pretention-free genre item from helmer Peter Bergendy. Penned by Norbert Kobli, the pic’s communist-cat-and-counterrevolutionary-mouse game is never excessively political, instead playing up the noir and mystery elements that ensure the film’s main loyalty lies with entertaining its mainstream audience. Impressively shot on a small budget for Magyar TV, this was deservedly released in theaters first, and could go a similar route in other ex-Soviet territories. “Exam” should also pass the test for TV buyers worldwide.”
Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter also praised the film, saying this: “Director Peter Bergendy does a fine job building the claustrophobic atmosphere, and yet there is just enough action to keep the film taut and suspenseful.”
International sales of the film – which looks to be both a critical favorite and crowd-pleaser – will be handled by the state-run Magyar FilmUnio. Congratulations to Bergendy, and to Hungarian film-making as well, which is alive and strong.
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