The American Society of Cinematographers

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Documentary About Kovacs And Zsigmond To Premiere At Cannes

May 9, 2008

No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos will premiere as an official selection of the 61st Annual Cannes International Film Festival on May 22 as part of the Cannes Classics program. The documentary tracks a 50-year journey with Laszlo Kovacs, ASC and Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, beginning with their arrival in the United States as political refugees from Hungary in February 1957.

“There is poetic justice in this film premiering at Cannes,” says producer/director James Chressanthis, who is also a cinematographer and member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC). “Laszlo shot Easy Rider, an ultra low budget, counter culture film that was a favorite with critics and fans at Cannes in 1969. That was the film which finally opened doors for Laszlo in Hollywood. I am overjoyed that our film will screen at Cannes. It is a perfect return to the place that launched the career of Laszlo Kovacs and then, in turn, his artistic brother Vilmos Zsigmond. They became legends in their own time.”

Kovacs’ body of work includes such memorable films as That Cold Day in the Park, The King of Marvin Gardens, Paper Moon, Shampoo, New York New York, Ghost Busters, Frances and Mask. Zsigmond earned an Oscar® for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, additional nominations for The Deer Hunter, The River and The Black Dahlia, and an Emmy® for Stalin. His other credits include McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Rose, Deliverance and the upcoming birth-of-jazz film, Bolden!

No Subtitles Necessary includes excerpts from more than 50 hours of interviews with Kovacs, Zsigmond and some 70 individuals whose lives they touched, including industry-heavyweights Karen Black, Peter Bogdanovich, Sandra Bullock, Richard Donner, Dennis Hopper, Tatum O’Neal, Bob Rafelson, Barbra Streisand, John Williams, Peter Fonda, Jon Voight, Irwin Winkler, Ellen Kuras, ASC, Owen Roizman, ASC and Haskell Wexler, ASC.
“Their brotherhood and how they struggled and triumphed is the heart of the story,” says Chressanthis. “When I asked Vilmos, if he had one wish, what would it be, he looked at the camera and said, ‘All my dreams came true.’ We lost Laszlo while we were in production. I am grateful we were able to portray his immense spirit on film before he died.”

Kovacs and Zsigmond were born and raised in small towns in Hungary during the Nazi occupation and subsequent imposition of a repressive communist regime by the Soviet army. Zsigmond had just graduated from the Academy of Film and Drama in Budapest, where Kovacs was still a student, when a spontaneous revolt broke out against the communist regime. They borrowed a 35 mm Arriflex camera and film from the school and documented fighting on the streets.

t was a dangerous endeavor. “The Russians considered the camera a weapon,” Kovacs reminisced. “We could have been shot on the spot,” Zsigmond added. After the revolt was crushed, Zsigmond and Kovacs made a perilous trek on foot through a forest carrying thousands of feet of unprocessed film across the border into Austria. They were determined to bring the story of the uprising to the free world. Kovacs and Zsigmond arrived in the United States in a quest for what seemed like an impossible dream. They didn’t speak English and had no connections or resources except for their natural talent and determination.

“Laszlo was put to work in upstate New York tapping maple syrup out of trees,” Chressanthis says. “Vilmos was assigned to a sponsor who got him a job in a still photo lab in Chicago. What were the odds that within a dozen years they would begin to play a significant role in redefining the global art of filmmaking?”

“Recognition for cinematographers in general is long overdue,” says film historian and critic Leonard Maltin. “When it comes to Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, it’s clear that the American New Wave of the late 1960s and early ‘70s wouldn’t have flowered as it did without them.”

Chressanthis traces his inspiration for this project to 1984 when Kovacs conducted a seminar following a screening of Paper Moon at the American Film Institute (AFI). Chressanthis subsequently interned with Zsigmond during the production of The Witches of Eastwick in 1986. Chressanthis has worked on documentaries in the past, but he is primarily a narrative film cinematographer. He currently is filming and directing episodes of the hit TV series The Ghost Whisperer.

There was no production company backing the project when Chressanthis put his plan into motion in February 2007. “Some wonderful people who shared my admiration for Laszlo and Vilmos both as artists and as extraordinary human beings joined me in this endeavor. In May of 2007, NC Motion Pictures came onboard with critical financing. I also received terrific support from cinematographer Anka Malatynska and editor/co-producer Elisa Bonora. We were determined to tell the world how Laszlo and Vilmos affected the art of filmmaking, but that is just part of their story. This is also a story about their friendship and how they always supported each other.”

First-time feature film and documentary filmmakers Kian Soleimanpour, Zachary W. Kranzler and Tony Frere produced No Subtitles Necessary along with Chressanthis. Jimmy Conroy II and Dr. David Kaminsky are executive producers. For additional information about No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos and the team who produced it, visit