A new Hungarian series written by Bálint Szentgyörgyi will soon be available in 61 countries. On the day of its premiere, The Informant (A besúgó) will be available not only in Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe but also in several countries worldwide simultaneously on HBO MAX. The director is often referred to as “the new wonder child of HBO-Europe.” However, after a few short films, this is his first major work and Geneva was his first-ever film festival where the series had its world premiere.
This article was originally published on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute.
Bálint Szentgyörgyi’s series breaks several records. It is the first all-Hungarian HBO series and the first Hungarian series to air with English and Spanish subtitles at the same time as the domestic premiere, even worldwide. It is also the first Hungarian series that will be simultaneously accessible in 61 markets after its world premiere, including the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, and several countries in Europe.
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The series premiered last fall (2021) at the Geneva International Film Festival and has been a huge success. After the premiere, Szentgyörgyi was even signed by a world-famous agency. Alongside clients such as Idris Elba, Emily Blunt, Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, Kim Cattrall, and Harvey Keite.
With the idea for the series, he reportedly called HBO and said, “I have a pilot for a series. For sale.” Two months later, he got an appointment.
Within the two months, he wrote the scripts for more episodes. Then HBO said they liked it! He had one condition, he wanted to direct. And as Szentgyörgyi admitted: HBO said yes. They gave a lot of money. And helped with the development.
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The story is classically Hungarian and still set in the country’s communist era, before the political change, in 1985. Twenty-year-old Gergő’s heart is full of excitement and anticipation: he moves to Budapest to study at the University of Technology and Economics. On the first day of his studies, he joins a group of democratic, oppositional youth who organize demonstrations against the communist regime. The group is led by Zsolt Száva, a young student who soon becomes Gergő’s best friend. His life changes abruptly as he meets beautiful girls, parties, and engages in political debates.
But Gergő is hiding a big secret. He is a state security informer who has no choice: If he wants to keep his seriously ill brother alive, he needs a drug provided by the state.
While Száva searches for the informer in the group, Gergő faces a daily challenge: how can he outwit state security and keep his new friends? As time is running out, he must decide which side he is on.
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As the director himself told to Index in an interview, he wanted to write a story that would be relevant to the Hungarian audience, but at the same time would bring Hungarian history to the international market.
I linked this concept with my own message on the level of the characters. When we were touring in Switzerland, the explicitly artistic cinema audience was shocked, because for them Hungarian film is usually something dark, gloomy, slow, and they got something full of color, humor and rhythm. They were also surprised that this was the reality behind the Iron Curtain. Before, they had the image that we are victims, that we are weak for freedom, and now they see that we can be cool kids when needed to be.”
The director has lived in several countries, but not long ago he decided to move to his homeland, Hungary. He says, the further he moved away from Hungary, the more he felt how good it is to be Hungarian.
“There is something in the air, a fleeting feeling in the grass or folk music that breaks my heart from the first beat. When I was in my twenties and re-reading The Boys of Paul Street on the London Subway, I realized it was time to move home. I arrived with a backpack. My parents were still living abroad, I hardly knew anyone in the city, but I knew then that I wanted to make my first film here.”
Several Hungarian series have already aired on HBO and have become real hits, such as Társas Játék and Terápia, but both are based on production from abroad.
Featured image via HBO Max Hungary’s Facebook page