“No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos”
BY BOB FISHER
“No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos” has been chosen for the American Documentary Showcase. It will be screened at U.S. embassies and other overseas venues throughout 2010. The program is a cooperative venture by the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The 86 minute documentary takes audiences on a 50 year journey with Laszlo Kovacs, ASC and Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC who arrived in the United States in 1957 as political refugees in search of an impossible dream of becoming Hollywood cinematographers.
The non-fiction film was conceived, produced and directed by James Chressanthis, ASC, whose narrative cinematography credits include the telefilms Living Proof, Four Minutes and 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story. Chressenthis produced the documentary over a two-year span while he was shooting the popular Ghost Whisperer TV series.
Kovacs and Zsigmond were students at the national film school in Budapest, Hungary in October, 1956 when a spontaneous revolt against the communist regime was brutally crushed by the Russian army. They documented history in the making and carried their film across the border into Austria so people around the world could see what happened.
Kovacs and Zsigmond arrived in the United States in February, 1957. They were initially rejected by the filmmaking establishment as foreigners who didn?t speak English. They overcame every obstacle, and became two of the most revered filmmakers in history.
?I interned with Vilmos while he was shooting The Witches of Eastwick (in 1987),? Chressanthis says. ?He and Laszlo hosted a luncheon for the cast and crew to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the uprising against the communist regime. They toasted the spirit of the revolution and those who gave their lives in a quest for freedom. I thought someone ought to produce a documentary about them.?
Twenty years later, Chressanthis decided he was that someone. He filmed more than 70 hours of interviews with Kovacs, Zsigmond and an all-star cast of more than 50 actors, directors, cinematographers, journalists and other people whose paths Kovacs and Zsigmond crossed. The interviews are artfully interwoven with memorable scenes from films lensed by Kovacs and Zsigmond and other footage documenting their lives.
“Laszlo was skeptical,” Chressanthis says. “Other people had told him they were going to produce a documentary about him and Vilmos. I am grateful we got his memories on film, and am so sorry that Laszlo didn’t get to see it before he died.”
The documentary has played at 26 festivals on four continents. It aired on PBS stations in 2009 as part of The Independent Lens series, and is currently being distributed in DVD format.