(Cineuropa.org) Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes is making a sensational debut in the world of feature films, as his first full-length feature will have its world premiere in competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. The selection of this Laokoon Filmgroup production, sold abroad by Films Distribution, stands as a testament to the immutability of Hungarian arthouse cinema at the very highest level all around the world over the last few years (Kornél Mundruczó was in the running for the Palme d'Or in 2008 and 2010, and Béla Tarr was competing in 2007).
Born in Budapest in 1977, László Nemes was, incidentally, assistant director on Béla Tarr’s The Man from London. Having turned a lot of heads with his short films (With a Little Patience, which won 25 awards the world over and was nominated for the European Film Award in 2008; The Counterpart, which received ten trophies; and The Gentleman Takes His Leave, which bagged the Best Director and Best Cinematography Awards at the Hungarian Film Week in 2010, among others), László Nemes wrote the screenplay for Son of Saul with France’s Clara Royer (a novelist, and a doctor of history and of Hungarian and Slavic literature).
The film recounts two days in the life of a Hungarian prisoner working in a "Sonderkommando", a special commando unit assigned to one of the Auschwitz crematoriums. After he comes across the body of a boy he believes to be his son, he attempts to do the impossible: snatch the body and find a rabbi to conduct a proper burial. While the Sonderkommando could be disposed of at any moment, Saul turns his back on the surviving members and their plans for rebellion in order to save the remains of his boy, whom he failed to take care of while he was alive.
Produced by Gábor Sipos (European Film Promotion Producer on the Move 2009 – read the interview) and Gábor Rajna for Laokoon Filmgroup, Son of Saul was backed by the Hungarian Film Fund, the Cannes Festival’s Cinéfondation Residence, Sarajevo Cinelink and the Jerusalem Film Lab, among other sources. Distribution in Hungary will be handled by Mozinet, and Paris-based Films Distribution is in charge of international sales.