About • George Csicsery
GEORGE PAUL CSICSERY, a writer and independent filmmaker since 1968, was born in Germany in 1948, the son of Hungarian parents. He immigrated to the United States in 1951. He has directed 35 films--dramatic shorts, performance films and documentaries.
Much of his work since the late 1980s has been about mathematicians, notably N is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdõs (1993), about an eccentric, wandering mathematician. It was broadcast on Duna-TV, Hungary (1995), SBS-Australia (1996), the Sundance Channel-USA (1996-98), NHK-Japan (1997) and Noorder Licht, VPRO-Netherlands (January 2001), and again on Zomergasten on VPRO (2007). The film played on U.S. public television stations by arrangement with American Public Television, (2002-2012), and Discovery Canada (2003-2004). Other features include Julia Robinson and Hilbert's Tenth Problem, a one-hour biographical documentary that premiered in January 2008, and started broadcast on public television stations via APT in October 2011. Hard Problems: The Road to the World's Toughest Math Contest also premiered in January 2008. The feature documentary about American high school students who participated in the 2006 International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, was produced for the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and broadcast on public television stations. I Want To Be A Mathematician: A Conversation with Paul Halmos (2009) is based on a 1999 interview with the renowned teacher and mathematician.
Among films made in collaboration with the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) are Taking the Long View: The Life of Shiing-shen Chern, a one-hour documentary about mathematician Chern, completed in 2011 and screened at Chern's centennial celebrations in Tianjin, Berkeley, Paris and New York; Counting from Infinity: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Primes Conjecture premiered at the Joint Mathematics Meeting (JMM) in January 2015. 17 Gauss Way, a 20-minute documentary about the building that houses MSRI; and The Right Spin (2005), about astronaut Michael Foale and his part in saving the Mir space station in 1997, made for Math Awareness Month. Invitation to Discover (2003) is about MSRI, and porridge pulleys and Pi is a half-hour film on mathematicians Hendrik Lenstra and Vaughan Jones, which premiered at the Teléscience Festival in Montréal, Canada, in November 2003. Navajo Math Circles, made with support from Vision Maker Media and MSRI, premiered in 2016 and aired on PBS in September 2016. Secrets of the Surface: The Mathematical Vision of Maryam Mirzakhani premiered at the JMM in January 2020, and has screened widely through May 2020. Broadcasts in several countries are anticipated.
Between 2010 and 2013, Csicsery produced 30 long-form biographical interviews with senior mathematicians for the Simons Foundation Science Lives web series. In 2014, he produced a series of 150 short videos for the Gathering4 Gardner Foundation (G4G).
Csicsery's work includes films on cultural and historical subjects in a style he calls first-world ethnography. Songs Along A Stony Road, a one-hour documentary collaboration with Dutch filmmaker Chris Teerink, is about musicians discovered by Transylvanian ethnomusicologist Zoltán Kallós It was completed in 2011 and premiered at the Chicago Independent Music and Movies Festival. In 2012, it screened at festivals in the Netherlands and in Nepal. Filmed between 1999 and 2006, the project was supported by CEC/ArtsLink, National Geographic's All Roads Film initiative, and by the Nederlands Thuiskopie Fonds. It was broadcast by Hír-TV in Hungary in 2015. The Thursday Club (2005) is an hour-long doc about retired Oakland policemen who were involved in suppressing the antiwar demonstrations of the 1960s. Hungry for Monsters (2003), a feature documentary about a Pennsylvania case of false accusations of incest and child molestation, was shown at the Bermuda International Film Festival and in the Human Rights section of the 57th Locarno International Film Festival in 2004, and was broadcast by Teacher's TV in the UK in 2006. Troop 214 (1997), about exiled Hungarian Scouts in the United States and their return to Hungary, and Communist Pioneers, was co-produced with Duna-TV in Budapest, Hungary, and broadcast in November 2000. An English-subtitled version was released on DVD in 2008. Csicsery produced, directed and edited Where the Heart Roams (1987), a feature documentary about romance writers and their fans. It was broadcast on the POV series on public broadcasting stations in the USA (1991), on SBS-Australia, and on NHK. Television: The Enchanted Mirror (1981), which received prizes at the Marin, Mill Valley, Palo Alto and USA film festivals, was re-released by Whole Earth Films in 2008 on DVD. Half-hour 16mm films include Hookers (1975), about prostitutes organizing a union in San Francisco; Let's Get It Over With! (1970), about American student reactions to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia; and People of the Current (1971), about the Muslim Tausug people of Luuk township on Jolo island in the Philippines.
Csicsery has worked on films by Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven) and Barbet Schroeder (Koko), and was co-producer of Child of Giants (2010), about the son of photographer Dorothea Lange and painter Maynard Dixon, made with producer Tom Ropelewski.
George Csicsery is the author and co-author of five feature-length screenplays: Ida (1989), Meeting With Darkness (1992), East of Evil (1995) and Alderman's Story, set in King Philip's War in New England in 1675, which was awarded first prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival Screenplay Competition in 2005. His most recent screenplay, The Temptress and the Guru (2013), was co-written with noted religion writer Don Lattin. Csicsery's articles, reviews and interviews have appeared in Salon.com, Amerasia Journal, Asia Times, Heterodoxy, Film Quarterly, California Magazine, Savvy, the San Jose Mercury-News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the East Bay Express, the Oakland Tribune, The Japan Times, The Forward, Lufthansa Bordbuch, Release Print, and many other publications. Several have been reprinted in anthologies, including Conversations with Ishmael Reed, University of Mississippi Press (1995); Without Force or Lies, edited by William Brinton, Mercury House (1990); and Burden of Dreams, by Les Blank & James Bogan, North Atlantic Books (1984).
He is editor and publisher of two books under the Zala Films imprint: Almost a Soldier: The 1945 Diary of a Hungarian Cadet (2011), and All That I Saw (2017), both by his brother, Sigmund Csicsery. He is also the editor of A Charmed Life, by Marika Somogyi (2019).
He has a BA in Comparative Religions from UC Berkeley (1969), and an MFA in Film Production from San Francisco State University (1972).
Csicsery received the 2009 Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM) Communications Award for bringing mathematics to nonmathematical audiences. He is also recipient of the 2008 Árpad Academy Gold Medal awarded by The Hungarian Association, an international organization founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1951. This award is presented to Hungarians and their descendants living outside of Hungary, in recognition of scholarly, scientific, literary and artistic achievements promoting the spirit and knowledge of Hungarian culture.
He has taught film editing at Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco (1982-1997), and general cinema courses to undergraduates at San Francisco State University (1996) and at UC Davis (1998).
© 2004- George Csicsery