“We screwed up,” reads the giant billboard on the highway into Budapest.
It depicts the outline of former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany’s head, within which the dome of the Hungarian parliament can be seen, as well as the profiles of at least four of the main characters in Hungary’s new “political crime thriller.”
The film’s release date is ideal – at least for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz Party.
It is six months before an election that Fidesz is portraying as a battle between good and evil: 12 years of fairy-tale rule versus the evil Gyurcsany government that came before it.
Ferenc Gyurcsany is not running in the election, but a six-party opposition coalition is.
The phrase “we screwed up” comes from a notorious secret speech given by Mr Gyurcsany in May 2006, shortly after the Socialists were re-elected.
In an ugly speech brimming with expletives, he told shocked MPs that “we lied, morning, noon, and evening” to win.
Mr Gyurcsany refused to resign after the speech was leaked on Hungarian radio in September of that year, sparking large street protests.
The film, based on those events, is Hungary’s first political thriller, and it will be released on October 21. The title of the English-language version is The Cost of Deception.
The Democratic Coalition, which Mr Gyurcsany founded after leaving the Socialists, is a key member of the opposition alliance, and his wife, Klara Dobrev, is the Democratic Coalition’s candidate for prime minister in this month’s primaries.
Mr. Orban and his Fidesz party, which has ruled Hungary virtually unopposed since 2010, portray the entire opposition alliance as a puppet show dangling from Mr. Gyurcsany’s bony fingers.
‘Fog of forgetting’
“The perfect time for children’s movies is just before Christmas, and the perfect time for political thrillers is just before elections,” Gabor Kalomista told me unequivocally. He is the CEO of Megafilm, the company that made the film.
“We Hungarians have a reputation for forgetting our own history. It is more comfortable to remain in a fog of forgetting than to confront certain facts.”
He denies receiving public funds for the film but refuses to name his financial backers.
The film includes a remake of riot scenes from 2006, when protesters broke into the almost unguarded state television station, smashing windows and setting fire to a presenter’s car, as well as a largely peaceful demonstration in which riot police opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Many Hungarians who witnessed the events will be watching the film intently for clues to explain the police’s strange behaviour: sometimes passive, sometimes aggressive.
The right wing in Hungary has long claimed that they were acting on orders from Mr Gyurcsany himself.
“We completed the political puzzle after extensive research… And then we knew exactly what had happened “Dorottya Helmeczy, the film’s producer, stated
Let’s fast forward to October 20, 2021.
Six opposition parties, ranging from left to right, held primary elections late last month to select a single candidate to run against Fidesz in all 106 individual constituencies next April.
The primary was an experiment, and it was a huge success, mobilising activists and opposition voters all over the country, including in towns and villages where there had been almost no opposition presence since 2010.
Choosing a joint candidate for Prime Minister is proving more difficult.
The first round was won by Klara Dobrev, a 49-year-old lawyer.
However, in this week’s run-off, which begins on Sunday and concludes on October 16, she will face independent conservative Peter Mark-Zay.
Ms Dobrev has vowed to defeat Mr. Orban in the spring and to “restore the rule of law and lead Hungary back to the family of European nations.”
Many in the opposition, however, are concerned that she will not be able to attract the more conservative and middle-of-the-road voters that the opposition needs to win.
This is largely due to her ex-prime minister husband’s Communist Party background, as well as her own family’s Communist Party history.
Gabor Kalomista’s thriller film could be a game changer in the propaganda war that Fidesz has already started.
“She is the ideal candidate for Fidesz. Peter Marki-Zay, on the other hand, would be a Fidesz nightmare “Political Capital think tank’s Robert Laszlo said.
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That is why, after weeks of political wrangling, Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony, who finished second in the first primary, withdrew at the last minute to give his opposition colleague a clear run against Klara Dobrev.
Mr Marki-Zay is a charismatic provincial mayor, a devout Catholic, and the father of seven children.
They argue that only a centrist or conservative candidate can unite the country against Mr. Orban in 2022.
It sounds like the plot for a different movie.