Indie Shorts Awards Cannes

Cinema is one of our last desperate attempts to find common values that transcend the noise of everyday life.

Gábor Holtai & Péter Fülöp

Gábor Holtai is a director from Budapest, Hungary. He divides his time between directing TV series with
the occasional commercial mixed in and developing his feature-length projects in Hungary and in the UK
as well. Based on the success of his latest, award-winning short film ‘Second Round’ he’s now convinced
that horror is the new drama and lighthearted is a medical condition. He also cares deeply about social
justice issues and surrounds himself with old rescue dogs.
IG @gaborholtai
Péter Fülöp has been working in film productions for eighteen years. He has got experience from no-
budget music videos and shorts, trough domestic commercials and feature films, to Hollywood
blockbusters. As part of a production, he prefers to be involved in the creative process of the film as
well. He worked in such movies like World War Z, and Die Hard 5. He funded his own production
company (FP Films) in 2011, where he produced internationally recognized, award winning shorts. His
first feature film ‘Deva’ premiered at the 75th Venice Film Festival 2018. He produced the highest
grossing Hungarian feature film in 2020 ‘Budapest heist’ and currently produces the biggest budget
Hungarian feature "Now or never!"

Did the current state of the world (overpopulation, climate change, etc.) influence your decision to make a film in which childbirth is regulated by the state? Could you share with us how you came up with the idea?
Yes and no. Topics such as overpopulation and climate change appear in the film, but merely as tools of control. In the film, a committee representing the state utilizes half-truths and seemingly fair logic – prioritizing the interests of the country – to exert complete control over a young couple. So, in this setup, the aforementioned themes, among many others, lose their true significance, become distorted, and detach from objective reality – thus creating a condition for the young couple where falsehood and truth become indistinguishable. Of course, fundamentally, this is a dystopian proposition; however, it is also a (not so) extreme portrayal of behaviors that we can already observe in our immediate and broader social environments: reality is too complex and frightening, and day by day, it becomes easier to give up our freedom and accept the rules of an oppressive system that promises security and stability for the future – even if this promise is a lie. There wasn’t really a specific inspiration for the basic idea of the film; rather, it is a distillation of the general anxiety felt in Hungary and in our Central and Eastern European region over the past decade.
Did you envision the audience's reaction to the film when you first got involved in the project? And how do you think this story will resonate with viewers on a personal level?
When I first picked up the screenplay of the film, I felt like I was not just reading a dystopian drama, but almost a thriller. Besides the important subtext of the story, it had momentum, being both humorous and oppressive, dynamically progressing while pushing boundaries. I thought that if we could realize the film faithfully to the screenplay, then perhaps we could convey those serious questions posed by the story to the audience more easily and entertainingly. The genre elements would make the film more accessible, and the artistic / cinematic aspects would make the final result more thought-provoking. I believe that due to the reasons mentioned above, the film works internationally and is understandable even with the slight language barrier caused by the rather fast Hungarian dialogue. The fictional dystopian world somewhat elevates the story from the Central and Eastern European reality in which it was born, making it more globally resonant. At the same time, it becomes a narrative with which anyone can identify if they have experienced any form of institutional oppression in their life.
Were there any specific cinematic influences that guided the look and feel of the film?
We cannot speak of a specific influence, but generally, it can be said that Gábor greatly admires the works of Bong Joon Ho, Park Chan-wook, Jean-Marc Vallée, Damián Szifron and Andrey Zvyagintsev. Traces of this admiration might be observable in his own films as well. The look and feel of the film also owe much to the dedicated work of cinematographer Dániel Szőke and production designer Júlia Luca Erdős, as well as to Hungary’s Soviet-Communist era, which erected such surreal buildings (and later left them abandoned), eventually serving as the main location for ‘Second Round’.