Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  58 minutes
Date:  2015
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; Hungarian / English subtitles
Color/BW:  Color
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1989: A Statesman Opens Up

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How a political ingenue guided Hungary through its most critical period in three decades - and laid the groundwork for the fall of the Berlin Wall.

1989: A Statesman Opens Up

Forty-year-old academic economist Miklos Nemeth was more surprised than anyone when he was named Prime Minister of Hungary. It was 1989, and the Communist system was on the brink of collapse. Nemeth, an outsider with few friends in the Party, was charged with the seemingly impossible task of saving the country from bankruptcy.

1989 is a gripping documentary that takes us behind the scenes of Nemeth's administration, during the most critical year in recent European history. As Nemeth travels to Berlin, Bonn, Bucharest, and Moscow, meeting with his increasingly worried fellow Warsaw Pact leaders and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the film reveals the unsung role Hungary played in the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent collapse of Communism throughout Eastern Europe.

Convinced that free elections are coming (and that the Communist Party will lose) Nemeth seeks to avoid a repeat of 1956, when Hungarians' rebellion against the USSR ended with tanks in the streets.

We join him as he seeks the tacit blessing of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, sidelines the hardliners in East Germany, and navigates the crisis that erupts within the Party when the body of executed Prime Minister Imre Nagy, one of the heroes of 1956 Hungarian, is discovered buried in a Budapest field. All in the space of a few months.

Despite the personal dangers (he wears a bullet proof vest and is told to keep his head moving), Nemeth persists. And when he allows tens of thousands of holidaying East Germans to flee to the West during the summer of 1989, he makes the historic events that would soon grip Berlin inevitable.

Built around extensive contemporary interviews with Nemeth, 1989 creatively uses archival footage and meeting transcripts voiced by actors, providing a unique sense of immediacy and urgency to this remarkable story.

'Intelligently moulded, filmically provocative, entertaining and informative.' - Tue Steen Muller, Filmkommentaren

'The mix of archive material and interviews works well.' - Michael Soby, CPH-Culture

'The story of possibly the last victim of the Iron Curtain, who paid the supreme price.' - Natalie Yahya Rosendahl, Magasinet OST

'Puts us on the same plane as the characters.' - Klaus Rifbjerg, Ekko

'Reconstructions laden with reality and archival material buried beneath the Iron Curtain in equal measure relate the tale of the demise of the Eastern Bloc.' - Rikke Collin, Filmcitat


** CPH:DOX Documentary Film Festival, Denmark
** Memorimage Film Festival, Spain
** Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Estonia
** Cinema for Peace Film Festival, Germany
** Paris L'Europe autour de l'Europe Film Festival, France
** Hong Kong International Film Festival, China
** It's All True International Documentary Film Festival, Brazil
** DocAviv International Documentary Film Festival, Israel
** Planete Documentary Film Festival, Poland
** Goteborg International Film Festival, Sweden


Main credits

Östergaard, Anders (film director)
Östergaard, Anders (screenwriter)
Rácz, Erzsébet (film director)
Rácz, Erzsébet (screenwriter)
Lense-Møller, Lise (film producer)
Németh, Miklós (narrator)

Other credits

Editors, Pernille Bech-Christensen, Szilvia Ruszev - BFS, Thomas Papapetros; director of photography, Simon Plum - DFF; composer, Stein Berge Svendsen.

Distributor credits

A film by Anders Ostergaard and Erzsebet Racz

Docuseek2 subjects

Comparative Government
Eastern Europe
World History
Politics and Political Science

Distributor subjects

Comparative Government
Eastern Europe
History (World)
Political Science


Miklos Nemeth; Anders Ostergaard; Erzsebet Racz; Hungary; Hungarian; 1989; fall of communism; Warsaw Pact; politics; documentary; film; video; DVD; ; "1989: A Statesman Opens Up"; Icarus Films

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