Hungary ‘projects’ new tales for children in old filmstrips

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Filmstrip is thriving in Hungary with a new wave of enthusiasts charmed by its slower-paced entertainment.

Filmstrip is thriving in Hungary with a new wave of enthusiasts charmed by its slower-paced entertainment.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Tablets and mobile phones may have to be prised from the fingers of children elsewhere, but in Hungary storytime can be all about a 100-year-old piece of tech — filmstrip.

Generations of kids there have been enthralled with stories told with the help of a projector.

Alexandra Csosz-Horvath turns off the lights and reads Sleeping Beauty from a series of still captioned images projected onto the bedroom wall — her three- and seven-year-old clearly under her spell. “We’re together, it’s cosier than the cinema yet it’s better than a book,” said the 44-year-old lawyer.

Filmstrip — a century-old storytelling medium that was killed off in the West by the video cassette in the 1980s — is not just hanging on in Hungary, it is thriving with a new wave of enthusiasts charmed by its slower-paced entertainment. Printed on rolls of film, the still images were never meant to move.

“Between the 1940s and the 1980s filmstrips were used worldwide as a visualisation tool in education and other fields,” Levente Borsos, of Seoul’s Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said.

But while it was surpassed by more advanced technologies in the West, it became a popular form of home entertainment in the Soviet bloc where TVs and videos were harder to come by.

When communism collapsed, filmstrip began to disappear — except in Hungary, where the since privatised Diafilmgyarto company survives as the country’s sole producer.

“Continuous filmstrip publishing and slide shows at home can be considered a Hungarian peculiarity, a special part of the country’s cultural heritage,” Mr. Borsos said.



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