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Preview: Freedom First Film Festival

There is a certain refreshment to an event being termed as “not just another film festival”, but this spirit truly embodies the Freedom First Film Festival, which is going on this weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The festival is timed to coincidence with the sixtieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution.

One of the most significant results of the Hungarian Revolution was the fleeing of many refugees from Hungary. One such immigrant that fled first to Montevideo, Uruguay and then to Montreal, Canada is producer Robert Lantos. If the name doesn’t really resonate, then this is a shame because the Canadian film industry essentially doesn’t exist without Lantos. He started Vivafilm to distribute foreign films in Canada, then RSL Productions for films like In Praise of Older Women and then co-founded a company called Alliance, which became Alliance Atlantis, which is now known as eOne.

Robert Lantos produced a very significant film called Sunshine which features the incomparable Ralph Fiennes as three different members of a Hungarian-Jewish family, along with an incredible cast of actors: Rachel Weisz, Molly Parker, the fantastic mother-daughter team of Rosemary Harris & Jennifer Ehle, Deborah Kara Unger, William Hurt and a relative unknown named Mark Strong. The film is prominently about the Hungarian Revolution, and won the Genie Award (the precursor of the Canadian Screen Award) for Best Film in 1999. It’s essential viewing still, and believe it or not, Sunshine will be screening om Friday, November 18th at 5 pm (note the start time and keep in mind the film is 180 minutes), followed by Q & A with Robert Lantos. Oh yeah, and it’s completely free.

Another highlight of the festival is the film The Ambassador to Bern which was produced in 2014, but didn’t see much action theatrically in Toronto. This doesn’t make much sense as the film is a taut political thriller set beneath the backdrop of the 1958 hostage taking at the Hungarian embassy in Switzerland. If it sounds a little bit like Ben Affleck’s Argo then you can imagine what to expect from Atilla Szász’s film.

There are plenty of other highlights throughout the weekend, so we would suggest coming down to the TIFF Bell Lightbox and celebrating this significant milestone. Best of all, tickets are all free and there are many different perspectives about the Hungarian Revolution on display at state of the art cinemas.