Documentary filmmakers spend plenty of time examining the Bush administration, the Iraq War and the aftermath from Hurricane Katrina. All are fair game, but few directors tackle the horrifying impact Communism had across the globe during the 20th century. Last year’s “The Singing Revolution” did just that, recalling the Soviet’s cruel occupation of Estonia and how the country kept its culture alive through several torturous decades under Communism.
Now, Hungarian filmmaker Klaudia Kovacs gives us “Torn From the Flag,” a film the Hollywood Reporter dubbed “perhaps the most comprehensive chronicle of the  Hungarian uprising yet caught on film.” “Torn,” which won First Prize at the Beverly Hills Hi-Def Film Festival, will be shown at 4 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 21) at The Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills.
Big Hollywood checked in with Kovacs to find out more about her documentary – and what drove her to investigate this important chapter in history.
BH: What was your main mission in creating “Flag?”
KK: I’m from the Hungarian city of Eger. In 1552 the 2,000 soldiers manning the city’s castle (this number includes the women and children) defeated the Turkish army of 80,000 soldiers. The fort is still standing; I grew up playing on its walls and hills, continuously being amazed at this underdog victory.
The 1956 revolution is a very similar story. Hungary, a nation of 10 million, defeated the Communist terror of the Soviet Union, a nation of 200 million, for 13 days. This event eventually led to the worldwide decline of Communism. When this tiny country dared to generate its own destiny, it became a moral leader.
Today, our existence still faces so many great challenges. I hope “Torn From the Flag” will inspire people to take charge, be active, and be socially – and politically – responsible.
BH: Talk about the research that went into the project … was it hard to find people who lived through the revolution? What part of their personal stories touched you the most?
KK: I was making the film for nine years; the first two were almost exclusively spent doing research. Once I realized the international effects of the revolution were never portrayed extensively enough on film, it was easy to outline what sort of interviewees I wanted.
It was really easy to find freedom fighters; however, finding a Communist was unbelievably difficult! Finally, 24 hours before the Hungarian shoot, I placed an ad in one of the biggest local newspapers saying, “Major Hollywood production looking for a Communist.”
Of course, we were no major Hollywood production by any means, but we got a Communist!
BH: Why do you think few documentary filmmakers focus on the impact of Communism? How might this situation change?
KK: The West knows practically nothing about Communism and its horrors. The image of Communism has been falsified and romanticized and it’s a challenging task to set the record straight. Many people think it was some livable democracy with many social benefits. That is NOT true!
Historians estimate that Communism had more than 90 million–I repeat, 90 million–victims worldwide! That’s like wiping out Canada three times. Many people who survived the concentration camps during WWII died in Communist labor camps not much after.
Let’s not forget that the Communist party accepted members of the Nazi party into their membership. The Communist higher-ups were criminals. People who lived in Communist countries lived in terror and constant fear. Human and civil rights were horribly abused.
Life was hopeless and unbearable. Communism was Hell!
BH: What has been the reaction to the film from audiences in the U.S. and across the globe? Anyone object to its content?
KK: The reaction to the film has been very positive and welcoming; no objection as far as I know. There have been several standing ovations since, and a flow of festival awards and positive feedback from historians, film critics, and the audience.
For many freedom fighters, coming to a screening is a family event. They bring their kids, grandkids, daughters and sons-in-law, and after seeing the film many of the younger generation realize that, unbeknownst to them, they have had a real hero in their family.
BH: Is it true your film has yet to be shown in Hungary? Can you explain why … and if it might be shown there soon?
KK: It’s true; the film has not been shown in Hungary. Currently Hungary’s Prime Minister is Ferenc Gyurcsany, a former Communist, and his party, the Hungarian Socialist Party, is a successor of the pre-’89 Communist regime’s party, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party. Ferenc Gyurcsany and his government have been committing serious human and civil rights violations.
I don’t find it surprising that they are not welcoming an anti-Communist film, especially a film that promotes the empowerment of, and self-rule by, the individual, and could inspire social change in Hungary.
As the film is winning awards one after another and is gaining more and more credibility, ultimately it must be shown in Hungary. Should it not, it would rob the Hungarian populace and the world at large of an opportunity to be given a valid moralistic viewpoint that states in no uncertain terms that no government can or should be allowed to oppress its population via misrepresentation or coercion.
Note: Kovacs is working on a theatrical release for “Torn” and is pursuing the movie’s educational outreach possibilities.
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