Miskolc Remained Standing

in 14th Jameson CineFest - Miskolc International Film Festival

by Rita Boronyák

The history of the Jameson CineFest International Film Festival (JCF) means much more than a series of data down the years. Stories from the past 14 years have added up to a friendly, audience-centered event that has been able to build its own audience over the years by screening high quality films, by organising conferences and inviting good musicians for to perform concerts.

“In 2003, the first Meeting of Young Filmmakers was organised, signifying the starting point of a success story in Hungarian cultural life. After the first ‘try-out’ year, we turned to the world, organising an international film festival. We did not chase rainbows or utopias. We built up our festival slowly, but with care, always going for feasibility. From year to year, the festival has grown. By today, Jameson CineFest is considered as Hungary’s leading film event.” declared Tibor Bíró, founder and festival director.

The organisers of the CineFest did have traditions to draw upon: the first ever Hungarian film festival was held there in 1938 and since the 1960s, a documentary and television festival has also been held in the town. Miskolc and its surroundings are important for Hollywood cinema as well: William Fox, founder of the 20 th Centrury Fox, was born in the nearby village of Tolcsva, while Adolph Zukor, founder of the Paramount Pictures, was born a little farther away in Ricse.

The years between 2004 and 2008 were all about young filmmakers. From year to year, the organisers also had more and more films, founded more and more awards, organised more and more programmes, eg conferences, concerts and parties.

The 6th edition brought two essential and characteristic changes in 2009. First, the festival moved out permanently from the beautiful old Kossuth cinema to the newly built House of Arts. The other change was the name and the focus of the festival. Although they are screening until nowadays mostly the films of young filmmakers, the festival itself became an international film festival without age restriction. Since that year, CineFest became part of Media programme (EACEA), too.

The real turning point was the next, the 7th edition: in 2010, the festival started a CineClassics series drawing attention to filmmakers of Hungarian descent. The patron of the series is the Academy Award winning director, István Szabó. Film historian Péter Muszatics selects the films and organizes conferences. The first in line, was the Miskolc-born Emeric Pressburger, the Academy Award winner British screenwriter-director. Since 2010, the Emeric Pressburger Prize is the major recognition of the festival.

That was the first year when the feature programme was notable even for the international film industry. The Emeric Pressburger Prize went to the Golden Lion winner Shirin Neshat (Women Without Men/Zanan-e bedun-e mardant), and the Grand Prix went to Mia Hansen- Løve (The Father Of My Children /Le père de mes enfants). The festival screened the most important award winners of the Sundance festival, too. That professional and quality development is mostly the result of the work of Géza Csákvári, a film critic who has strengthened JCF’s team since 2009 as artistic director. This year was memorable also for the presence of Ingmar Bergman’s and Andrey Tarkovsky’s producer Katinka Faragó, who was the head of the international jury. The prize given for the best animation was renamed to remember the famous animator, Attila Dargay (1927-2009).

In that same year, the organisers of the festival and the management of the Irish Jameson Whiskey Factory signed a contract of sponsorship, and the festival became – with Dublin, Toronto and Bangkok – Jameson CineFest International Film Festival (JCF IFF).

That was 9th edition in 2012 when a Lifetime Achievement Award was given for Agnieszka Holland. After the Hungarian premiere of her Academy Award nominated film In Darkness, she also gave a master class.

The summary of that year’s JCF should be: really strong feature films and great directors were guests in Miskolc, e. g. Sundance winner Benh Zeitlin and his Beasts of the Southern Wild (nominated for four Acadamey Awards) and the winner of the Sarajevo Film Festival, the Romanian master, Radu Jude.

That year was the first edition of the Miskolc Film Market, too. Last, but not least, this was the first time that a FIPRESCI jury was part of JCF. The chair of the jury, György Báron wrote of the festival: “(JCF) has indisputably become the leading international film festival in Hungary. The festival of young filmmakers looked back to the rich cinematic heritage of the region: the participants visited Adolph Zukor’s birthplace in the nearby village Ricse and inaugurated a memorial plaque of the founder of Paramount Pictures to honour the studio’s 100th anniversary. You Must Remember This was the title of a conference on Casablanca and its Hungarian-born director Michael Curtiz (Kertész Mihály), which honoured the 70th anniversary of the legendary movie and the 50th anniversary of Kertész’s death in Hollywood. From the feature competition programme, the FIPRESCI prize went to the film Everybody in Our Family (Toata lumea din familia noastra) directed by Radu Jude.”

The 10th anniversary (2013) was the time of synthesis, summing up and repositioning. Thanks to a co-operation with the Hungarian National Film Fund, a forum for Hungarian filmmakers and producers was organised. Since that year, we can say for sure that one of the most important goals has been reached: packed houses at every screening and at any time. The audience is mature, too: at the 12th edition (2015), Sean Baker’s Tangerine won not only the Zukor Adolf Prize but also the audience award. The Lifetime Achievement went to Academy Award winner István Szabó.

The 14th JCF (2017) was commemorating Károly Makk (1925-2017), the great master of cinema, who received Lifetime Achievement last year at JCF. This year, Jirí Menzel received a Lifetime Achievement, and Ambassador of the European Cinema award went to Magda Vášáryová.

The Jameson CineFest is the only Hungarian film festival at which, beside the international jury, also the FIPRESCI, an International Ecumenical Jury and the C.I.C.A.E. (International Confederation of Art Cinemas) jury are present. All of the festival screenings (except the classics) are premieres. The JCF is also a gift for the region: the organisers insist that all programmes, including the screenings, conferences, concerts and exhibitions, should be free to enter. The JCF is accepted with pleasure: the number of viewers is estimated to be 17,330 in 2015, 20,000 in 2016, and 25,000 in 2017.

Edited by Amber Wilkinson