Censorship in the 21st century is a harder game to play

"Kojot", a film that depicts contemporary Hungary, was praised by critics last year but withdrawn from cinemas and banned from the top Hungarian film festival. Now producers have published it for free online.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Censorship in the 21st century is a harder game to play - NewsMavens
Movie camera. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Pal Szojka, one of the main characters in "Kojot", is a corrupt man who gains power through shady business dealings. His character is quite similar to real-life Lorinc Meszaros, an affluent businessman and loyal friend of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. Meszaros is a well-known oligarch, who, in a matter of years, went from being a mechanic to one of Hungary's richest men.

Many say that the similarity between Szojka and Meszaros played a significant role in the fate of the film. Shortly after its premier, it was removed from cinemas. Now, its producers have barred it from entering one of the most prestigious Hungarian film competitions and then, in a surprising move, made it freely available online.

If this was indeed state-sanctioned censorship, it means the ghosts of the past are back. During the communist era, an artistic production -- a book, a song, a film -- would fall under three categories: banned, tolerated or supported. It looks as if "Kojot" may have been degraded to "tolerable", but were its opponents aware that censorship in the 21 century has the internet to contend with?

art, politics, illiberalism

Details from the story:

  • "Kojot" received two awards from Hungarian film critics.
  • Despite the film's success, the producers suddenly decided to withdraw it from cinemas shortly after the premiere. It was also barred from one of the most prestigious Hungarian film festivals. This was an unexpected because many felt the film had a chance of winning the top prize.
  • After the scandal broke out, the production company made the film available for free on its website, on Youtube and, eventually, they offered it for free to cinemas. This was another shocking decision since making the movie available for free is completely against the business interests of the company.
  • The film's director, Mark Kostyal, voiced his outrage after the events. 
  • Kostyal told Nepszava that the film was not a political statement. “I just wanted to make an authentic film about Hungary today”.
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