Interview with Filmmaker Akos Kovacs (LEFT ON OUR OWN)

LEFT ON OUR OWN, 27min., Hungary, Drama/Art
Directed by Akos Kovacs
An elderly taxi driver, who happens to be a tireless storyteller, is a man of contradictions: a hopeless romantic and a crude observer of life who has lived through individual hardship and witnessed the despair of others. He doesn’t hold back while roaming the streets of Budapest: the route to the destination leads through the labyrinth of his own memories and emotions, which his words conjure. Friends and strangers, cheap décor, lonely buildings, a life-long correspondence that encapsulates a relationship, numbing melodies from an ancient music box all swirl and blend in this film’s poetic vision. Sensitive writing and emotional cinematography draws the attention to small details, to personal hopes and everyday tragedies. A hypnotic, haunting and tranquil soundtrack gives eerily gentle force to the old man’s tales.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’ve been something of a film aficionado all my life. I was 16 when I attended a so called ‘youth film club’ where all the classic Italian Cinecittá greats were screened, you know, Fellini, Pasolini, Antonioni, the works. Talk about love at first sight. I was thrilled, mesmerized, enchanted and, most of all, intellectually intrigued. My parents were shocked to learn I was not willing to follow the family tradition of attending law school. I respect such Hungarian filmmakers as George Cukor, István Szabó, Lajos Koltai or Vilmos Zsigmond who became Hollywood legends, and love the great Hungarian trailblazing directors who never got their much deserved international break, but are geniuses nonetheless, like Zoltán Huszárik or Károly Makk. They paved the way for aspiring filmmakers like myself. I’m also a big Tarkovski fan, as you might have guessed by our short film’s first scenes that are a dedicated hommage to the opening sequence of Stalker. I’m also an avid reader of literature, be it John Updike or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I couldn’t write anything if not for the books that left their marks on me. Without my love for the great Czech author Bohumil Hrabal my taxi driver character surely couldn’t have been born.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

The film is based on a short story I wrote some 20 years ago. It caught the attention of our seasoned producer, Jenő Hábermann, and he bugged me relentlessly to develop it into a proper script. Our multiple award-winning short film Left On Our Own is my directorial debut. It is something of an old-school ‘author’s movie’, as I wrote the script, composed the music, did all the foley and sound post work on it myself. Script adaptation took a few weeks, pre-production and location scouting started sometime during the summer of 2021, and we found ourselves shooting late September of the same year. We let the material rest for a while, as I had lots of other tasks on my hand, so post production finally started in January of 2022. We got the job done in about six weeks, just the two of us: my partner in crime was Viktor Juhász, director of photography, who also served as the editor and colorist for our movie.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Always remember. Or never forget.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

It was a labor of love, so it’s hard to talk about obstacles, though there were many. I feel blessed that this dream finally did come true, and honored by the overwhelming international attention it gets. We have won multiple awards from Budapest to Bucarest, Milan to Abruzzo, Shanghai to Toronto. What more can you ask for? Maybe the post production phase was a bit too strained, as Viktor and I tried to do the job of a complete post production team.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was driven to tears. Literally. And no, I’m not a crybaby. What an honor! These people saw our film with my own eyes. They really picked up on the myriad intimate details that only a select few are able to catch, especially on first watch.

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Very early on. It just took me a few decades to get there.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

It must be Szindbád, the utmost Hungarian classic by Huszárik, completely unknown to the world. If you want an international hit, it would be Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Blade Runner by Ridley Scott.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

This is my first experience with you guys, and it’s been an absolute joy. The audience feedback feature is just a gem, I’m really thrilled to hear people with no prejudice value our work. Much depends on the film’s later life with you, so let’s get back to this question some time later on.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Actually so far it’s beyond all expectations. Our film is really going places through Filmfreeway – in ways I’ve never dreamt possible.

10. What is your favorite meal?

A nice steak will do, medium, thank you. And some nice, harmonic red to accompany it. Maybe a fruity Pinot Noir from Mr. Coppola’s estate.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m something of a household name in Hungary as singer-songwriter and professional performer, so I have weeks of rehearsal and a couple of big venue concerts to concentrate on in the short term. But I’m already working on ideas I’d like to develop into a treatment to shop around and later make into a proper script for a feature film. I’m in no rush, but the international success of Left On Our Own compels me to make the next bold step – as soon as I can.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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