An Indonesian film was screened recently on Hungarian TV during prime time, with subtitles. The film was Nia Dinata's famous Berbagi Suami (Love for Share). Three days ago, a Hungarian play titled The Tragedy of Man was performed by Indonesia's Teater Keliling (Roaming Theater) in Jakarta.
These two events and many others happened during the last three years because of one man. He is none other than the outgoing Hungarian Ambassador to Indonesia Mihaly Illes, a great friend of Indonesia.
"I was surprised to see the response in Hungary when the film Berbagi Suami was screened during prime time," Ambassador Illes, who submitted his credentials to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Nov. 7, 2006, told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview at his office in Jakarta.
Likewise, there was a good response from the audience when the bilingual (English and Indonesian) premiere of The Tragedy of Man, a play written by Hungarian author Imre Madach, was performed at the Usmar Ismail Hall in Jakarta last Friday. The program was organized by Illes to bid farewell to his Indonesian and foreign friends.
But Illes is not stopping there.
"I am very much impressed by your film Laskar Pelangi *Rainbow Warriors*. I know very well its director, Riri Riza. Now I am planning to translate the novel Laskar Pelangi into Hungarian," Illes said.
The film is based on renowned Indonesian novelist Andrea Hirata's book of the same name.
But the question is whether Illes can translate from Indonesian into Hungarian.
Oh yes, he can. Illes learned Indonesian from 1989 to 1991, not in Indonesia but in Russia.
Because of his language skills, Illes mingled easily with Indonesians, especially among officials, businesspeople, artists, writers, singers and thinkers.
"Knowledge of local language made my job easy," Illes said.
During the last 32 months, Illes did much to create a new chapter in bilateral relations between Hungary and Indonesia, which are now 54 years in the running.
"We have excellent relations with Indonesia at the political level. Unfortunately, our bilateral trade is rather stagnant. But we have been focusing to revive our economic links as well as cultural links in the last three years," Illes said.
The leaders of the both countries, Illes said, had exchanged visits in recent years and enjoyed close contacts with one another. Many Indonesian ministers, officials, businesspeople and artists visit Hungary and vice versa.
In the economic field, Illes admitted there were some problems that made bilateral trade rather stagnant. Geographical distance, the limited size of the Hungarian market and the current global financial crisis were the main reasons for this sluggishness.
For instance, Illes continued, the bilateral trade value rose only slightly to US$105.46 million in 2008 from $105.30 million in 2007.
"Despite trade stagnation, surprisingly there is a growing interest among Hungarian investors to invest in Indonesia, the biggest economy in Southeast Asia," Illes said.
At least four Hungarian companies are in the process of investing a total of $50 million in various sectors such as energy, fisheries, coal mining, oil and gas and biofuels, thanks to the efforts of the Hungarian Embassy in Jakarta and the Indonesian Embassy in Budapest.
"You know, Hungary and most other European countries are currently facing a severe financial crisis. Yet more and more Hungarian companies want to invest in Indonesia. They realize the potential of Indonesia. This is a good sign and new trend," Illes said.
Hungary also generously contributed around $4 million for the reconstruction of the tsunami-ravaged Aceh province. Last year, Hungary provided a $10 million loan on easy terms for a water purification program.
During his stay in Jakarta, Illes has focused more on enhancing people-to-people contacts.
"As a result, people from the House of Representatives, Constitutional Court, Public Works Ministry, Kadin *Chamber of Commerce and Industry* and numerous cultural groups visited Hungary," Illes said.
Even Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo visited Budapest recently to sign a sister-city agreement with Budapest.
When asked about his impression of the Indonesian people, Illes described them as friendly people.
"I like Indonesia very much, ever since I learned Indonesian in Russia. Since then, I always wanted to work here. Finally my dream came true. The Indonesian people are very friendly and gentle. I like them very much," Illes said.
His stay may be shorter in Jakarta, but Illes will be remembered forever for one thing.
"I wrote numerous articles about Indonesian authors and poets in Hungarian literary magazines. We started a program under which Indonesian writers can stay for a certain period in Hungary and they can translate Hungarian literature. We have already sent several Indonesian writers to Hungary.
"The result was very good," Illes said.
Though his job in Indonesia might be ending this week, Illes's interaction with Indonesia will not end.
"I will be retiring by the end of this year. Then I will have a lot of time. I will certainly come back to Indonesia to meet my friends and finish my project of translating Laskar Pelangi," Illes said.