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Arguably the most gifted Hungarian filmmaker of his generation, István Szots has been compared by critics to Ford, Vigo and Renoir. His forgotten masterpiece, People of the Mountains, is the story of a woodcutter and his family who live high in mountains of Transylvania. Forced out of their home, they are enticed into working for the very company that ejected them, only for their lives to begin to unravel one tragic misfortune after another.
Shot almost entirely on location (in the harshest conditions imaginable), using mostly non-professional actors, a devotion to realism and the details of daily life, and an indictment of the prevailing conditions, this was a groundbreaking film. Szots auspicious debut was, however, refused a distribution license by Nazi minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels and condemned as 'Communist propaganda'. In spite of this, the film went onto to win a major prize at the 1942 Venice Film Festival and later cited as an early model for the post-war Italian Neorealism movement, praised by Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini among others. A powerful, elemental vision suffused with poetic lyricism and a romantic anti-capitalist zeal, People of the Mountains is the jewel of Hungarian cinema of the period.