Films: Torn from the Flag

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Torn from the Flag

Torn from the Flag

USA, 2007, 95 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Foreign, History
Program: Documentary Films

DIRECTOR: Endre Hules, Klaudia Kovacs
Producer: Klaudia Kovacs
Editor: Stephanie Hubbard
Screenwriter: Endre Hules, Klaudia Kovacs (Story)
Cinematographer: László Kovács, Zoltan Honti
Principal Cast: Henry Kissinger, Otto von Habsburg

On October 23, 1956, the tiny nation of Hungary erupted in a spontaneous nationwide revolt that challenged the might of the Soviet Union and riveted international attention. Men, women, and children took to the streets, banding together against the crushing rule of the Stalinist government—and for thirteen days, the world saw the first glimmer of independence in Eastern Europe since the end of World War II. Of course, the spark was quickly extinguished, and Hungary would remain under Communist rule for another thirty years. Even so, there was no turning back from its ignition: the slow decline of the Soviet empire had begun.

We in the electronic age are used to constant reportage by virtual armies of newscasters covering global events from every angle. But in 1956, news from overseas broke erratically if at all. Luckily, some passionate young Hungarian film students, namely famed cinematographers-to-be Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and László Kovács (Easy Rider), managed to smuggle black-and-white footage out of their war-torn country, and it’s their stunning images that dominate Torn from the Flag—which, along with Dr. Andrew Senyei, they executive produced—while Kovács served as DP for what would be the last time before his death in 2007. Accompanied by powerful interviews with former freedom fighters, Russian soldiers, members of the Hungarian secret police, Communist bureaucrats, and statesmen like Henry Kissinger, they make this pivotal moment in world history come alive.

In their perfectly paced and engrossing documentary, directors Klaudia Kovacs and Endre Hules avoid a simplistic anticommunist slant, instead delving deeply into the complexities of Cold War geopolitics that still resonate today. In Klaudia Kovacs’ words: “As nations are still faced with brutal challenges to their civilized existence…[so] Torn from the Flag urges people around the globe to value freedom and democratic principles” more than ever.

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