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Mannheim, November 13th, 2017, (SIGNIS / GC). At the Mannheim International Film Festival, Hungarian filmmaker István Szabó received a tribute and the title of "Master of Cinema" for his work. This filmmaker has also been honored three times by SIGNIS in different festivals: in Locarno (Ecumenical Prize) in 1974, in Berlin (ecumenical mention) in 1992 and in Mar del Plata (SIGNIS Prize) in 2002.
Istvan Szabo is considered as one of the filmmakers who has marked the History of cinema. Born in 1938 in Hungary, he discovered in primary school, playing a priest in a play, that his future was in theater. At the end of the forties and early fifties, the neo-realistic Italian cinema made a great impression on him, and he then began studying cinema in Budapest. After the war, he lived in a society built mainly by women, since many men died in combat. This youth has strongly marked him, and is essential for the understanding of his films.
Through his films, Szabo became one of the representatives of the Hungarian new wave in the sixties. In 1974, he received the Ecumenical Prize for Tüzolto Utea 25/ 25 Fireman's Street at the Locarno Festival. This film is a call for freedom. His films and his work during the communist era express hope in a world that stifles the people.
In 1982, Szabo surprised the world of cinema by winning the Oscar for best foreign language film in Hollywood with the film Mephisto in which the actor Klaus Maria Brandauer shines. This film is important because it shows choices of an individual in a society dominated by a criminal regime. His film is located in Nazi Germany, but the theme is universal. He comes back with Taking Sides / Taking Part in 1991, which received the SIGNIS award in Mar del Plata. This film deals with the case of the conductor Furtwängler who made a career in Nazi Germany. After the war, a US judge investigated whether he was a Nazi or not. The SIGNIS Jury awarded this film because it encourages the audience to take sides with the artist's responsibility and participation in a genocidal regime.
In 1992, Szabo introduced Edes Emma, Draga Böbe / Sweet Emma, Dear Böbe at the Berlin International Film Festival, and won the Silver Bear while the ecumenical jury gave him a special mention. This film was made after the fall of the Berlin Wall and discusses how women who were teachers of Russian lost their work in this new world in which Russian no longer had any value. Szabo is fascinated by the effects of changing societies in which the political system changes several times.
His latest film, Hinter der Tur / Behind the Door was presented this weekend at the Mannheim Film Festival, after the tribute ceremony. The film tells the story of Hungarian women living in the early sixties who are still traumatized by the horrors of war.