“BBS was a time bomb. The Studio was responsible for the creation of a public discourse, which it extended by degrees, almost from generation to generation, constantly pushing the political envelope. Neither consistently nor entirely consciously, it opposed the official film industry, where harsh political censorship was firmly established. How BBS worked was redefined by each new generation, according to their own aesthetic principles, way of thinking and theory. This was both its greatest merit and the truest mark of its democratism” (Director István Dárday).
BBS – a singular phenomenon
No student, intellectual or artist in the 1980s and 1990s could ignore the Balázs Béla Studio (BBS). Now, however, the first generation is coming to age which knows nothing about BBS, and does not even suspect that it was a centre of filmmaking unparalleled in the world.
271 directors, 50 years, 511 films – this is BBS in numbers. With regard to genres, the works made here cover the entire spectrum: shorts, features, documentaries, animations, experimental films, video, artistic documentations, etc.
In 1961, the film club that grew out of the association of young film professionals in 1959 was granted official status by the cultural policy makers (chief among them György Aczél) of the Kádár regime, in an attempt both to support and keep under observation the fresh graduates of the College of Film. From the start, the young artists of BBS used the framework defined by politics to experiment with, and reform, the language of film. As the years went by, the Studio became the fountainhead of films that were aesthetically and politically more and more daring, thanks to their choice of subject matter and experimentalism. Several directors of modern Hungarian cinema started their career in BBS, among them István Szabó, Sándor Sára, Judit Elek, Gyula Gazdag, Zoltán Huszárik, János Rózsa, Elemér Ragályi, Béla Tarr, János Xantus, Ildikó Enyedi and Gábor Bódy.
It is an intellectual openness that makes BBS special: the filmmakers kept the door open for creative minds from other arts and fields of knowledge, and visual artists, theatre professionals, writers, musicians and sociologists were welcome to make their own films or make valuable contributions to those of others. This was the secret to those famed BBS documentaries, like the Pedagogy Series, Pál Schiffer’s Cséplő Gyuri or Judit Ember’s Right of Asylum (Menedékjog). This was how Miklós Erdély found the opportunities to make his legendary films, and this was how other important figures of Hungarian contemporary art – among them Ákos Birkás, Péter Dobai, Tibor Hajas, Ágnes Háy, Dóra Maurer, Tamás Szentjóby, Zoltán Jeney, László Vidovszky and László Najmányi – became associated with the Studio.
Recollection and reconstruction
The celebration takes place in Műcsarnok, where in December 2009 a large scale exhibition will be opened, accompanied by film screenings and other collateral events. The display will evoke the past 50 years of BBS in a way that enables younger generations to appreciate the age, the atmosphere in which these films were made, and to know who the emblematic figures of the Studio’s history were. Contemporaries familiar with BBS will have an opportunity to evoke, relive, or even reinterpret, the shared stories and experiences.
The history of the Balázs Béla Stúdió naturally offers a chronological approach; therefore, the layout of the exhibition is partly determined by a temporally based periodization. The exhibition which displays the history of BBS – highlighting certain events – and features a selection of its works does not, however, follow the logic of a classical, (art)historical exhibition. The formulation of the different installation spaces and the selection of films, film groups, and supplementary information, work around such defining concepts as creativity, community, documentation, predilection, and censure. Considering various projects from the last decade (exhibitions, conferences, critical readers and monographs) which studied the social history and art of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Other Voices, Other Rooms montages figures, places, scenes, communal formations and events. The exhibition showcases episodes of the cultural climate of the Kádár era, primarily through select archive photographs, daily newspapers, essays, and in relation to the contexts of BBS, Hungarian Neo-avantgarde art, and the history of exhibits at Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest. The exhibition, as it is underlined by the title, proposes a constellation out of the numerous possible approaches and reconstructions of the functioning of a unique Studio, which, up until now, has only been displayed in parts.