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Having suffered as a boy under a brutal Communist-era coach, champion Hungarian gymnast Miklos moves to Canada years later in search of a new start - only to find himself unwittingly perpetuating the very same cycle of abuse among his own pupils. Written by
Nothing like making a picture about an occupation you know something about
White Palms, (Fehér Tenyér) Hungary, 2006. Viewed in Budapest at the annual Magyar Film Week, (Magyar Film Szemle) February, 2006.
Having suffered as a boy under a brutal Communist-era coach, champion Hungarian gymnast Miklos moves to Canada years later in search of a new start - only to find himself unwittingly perpetuating the very same cycle of abuse among his own pupils.
"White Palms" helmed by Szabolc HAJDU is possibly the only feature film ever made whose central subject is the specialized athletic domain of Gymnastics. It follows the life of a talented young gymnast in the city of Debrecen who rebels against his sadistic coach in Communist Hungary, runs off to a Russian circus where he suffers a very bad injury, emigrates to Canada where he himself becomes a leading gymnastics coach, then, years later, returns to Debrecen for one last shot as a performer in international competition, whereupon, having proved his mettle once and for all against his arch Canadian rival goes back and joins a famous Canadian circus! (Le Cirque du Soleil).
The gymnastics scenes, which take up a goodly portion of the total screen time, are especially realistic as both the director and his brother Zoltan Miklos Hajdu, who plays the hero, Dongo, at maturity, are highly trained gymnasts! Nothing like making a picture about an occupation you know something about The title refers to the chalk gymnasts dust their palms with when approaching the high bar to get a better grip. The gyrations on the bars are breathtaking but what really gives this film its unusual punch is the parallel study of the art and mentality of the career gymnast woven into a strong critique of the Communust system that paralyzed Hungary for four decades. Fascinating film, one of a kind. The festival closer "Taxidermia" a study in the gymnastics of regurgitation made enough people in Hungary puke this year to convince the critics that it was the "Best Film of the Year" different shucks for different folks. All things considered, however, 2006 was not a bad year at all for the steadily reviving Hungarian cinema and White Palms is one if the best of the new breed.
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