Hungary Cannes sensation may help country face dark past

Thu May 28, 2015 1:53pm EDT
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The makers of the award-winning Hungarian film "Son of Saul" said on Thursday they want as many Hungarians as possible to see it in a country that has been plagued by anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

The film -- the tale of a Jewish "Sonderkommando" death camp worker who finds a corpse he believes is his son's and sets his mind to burying him amid the horrors -- won the jury's Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival this month.

It will be released in at least 48 countries this year, its producers said.

Director and screenwriter Laszlo Nemes told reporters that his first feature film was partly a testament to hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews killed during World War Two after Hungarians cooperated with the Nazis in their deportation.

He quoted a text message from the film's historical consultant, Zoltan Vagi, who wrote that Hungary had a lot to atone for.

The message said Hungary set a European record by sending 430,000 Jews to Birkenau within eight weeks in 1944, among them more than 100,000 children.

"This film is about Saul's drive to give one Hungarian child of the 100,000 a proper, honest burial," he said.

Surveys show Hungarian anti-Semitism at a persistently high level and the far-right Jobbik party, which has capitalized on that sentiment, is the main challenger of the ruling center-right Fidesz party.   Continued...

Director of the film "Son of Saul" Laszlo Nemes (L) smiles during a news conference in Budapest, Hungary, May 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo