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New HBO series set in late Kádár-era Budapest begins filming

Budapest, Hungary – HBO Europe is producing a new TV series set to explore the Hungarian democratic opposition and the Budapest underground scene of the 1980s, the company announced late last month.

The new HBO series, titled Besúgó (Informer) will follow Geri, who moves to Budapest from Veszprém in 1985 to start his studies at university. He joins a group of youngsters who are organising against the communist regime. But in order to keep his ill brother alive, Geri must report the group’s activities to the secret police…

The series is penned by Easy Living writer Bálint Szentgyörgyi who will also direct episodes alongside Áron Mátyássy and Bence Miklauzic. Known from director György Kárpáti’s debut film Guerilla, Gergely Váradi is taking on the leading role, starring alongside Márton Patkós (Sunset, Bet on Revenge), Júlia Sász (Neither with You, Land of the Brave), and Abigél Szőke (Those Who Remained). Szabolcs Thuróczy, who worked with Szentgyörgyi before in hit-series Easy Living, is also a member of the cast.

Patkós will play the group’s charismatic leader Zsolt Száva and Szőke will appear as Judit, a rebellious singer and the daughter of a loyal communist officer, played by Thuróczy. Szász will star as a prominent member of the group who is fed up with only being treated as Zsolt’s girlfriend.

The 1980s saw the rise of prominent democratic formations opposed to the communist regime, who later played a significant role in the regime change as political parties. One of these groups is Hungary’s current governing party Fidesz, whose initial core membership was composed of students at Bibó College, a university dorm and debate club. 

Bálint Szentgyörgyi stated that he is excited to finally be making a show about the change of regime in Hungary. He said now that a “sufficient amount of time passed”, they are able to look at the period from a historical perspective. Szentgyörgyi’s previous widely-acclaimed series, Easy Living, about the family of a corrupt businessman, is often thought to be a commentary on the wealth accumulation of oligarchs close to Fidesz.

The new series, focusing on anti-communist university resistance, comes out after large-scale anti-government protests in the past few years that revolved around universities, such as Central European University in 2017, or last year’s occupation of SZFE by students in resistance to the appointment of Attila Vidnyánszky. Prominent members of the cast, Gergely Váradi and Abigél Szőke both participated in the occupation.

Besúgó will be HBO’s first series to be solely produced in Hungary and the first mainstream film or series to focus on the change-of-regime period in the country. In a recent interview for Mandiner, Norbert Köbli, the writer of International Emmy-winner Eternal Winter and Tall Tales, also announced he is writing a film about the Taxi blockade of 1990, which was the first major protest after the fall of communism.

Besúgó started filming in late March, but no fixed premiere date has been announced yet.

By Ábel Bede

Ábel Bede was born in Budapest and has two degrees in History from Durham University. He specialised in Central Europan history and has been contributing to Kafkadesk since 2019. Feel free to check out more of his articles right here!

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