January 8, 2010
A recent article in SF360.org, the San Francisco Film Society’s online magazine, featured local filmmaker George Csicsery, whose documentary Hard Problems will be specially broadcast in the Bay Area a few days before the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings take place.
Given carte blanche by the MAA to shoot the film as he saw fit, Csicsery made the young math prodigies the focus of his documentary. "The suspense," he said, "was already embedded in the setting—a series of elimination-type competitions culminating in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO)."
The film allows the viewers to become invested in the students' lives and families, making it all the more suspenseful when the final group of six is chosen to represent the U.S. at the 2006 IMO.
"The students themselves provided the meat of the film," said Csicsery. "Their individual stories and personal passions drive the film," he continued.
For example, Arnav Tripathy, one of the six, is equally gifted in music, and just as passionate, according to Csicsery. Another, Zach Abel creates beautiful works of origami, while Yi Sun excels in every field he touches.
"Revealing these tidbits leaves us wanting to know more about how these students think and what drives them," said Csicsery. In the interview, Csicsery said his favorite scenes to shoot were those of students working on problems or taking tests.
"Watching someone’s face and hands when they are in another world is a window to the magic of thought."