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Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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20 years of film about numbers? Do the math

  1. March 17, 2013
  2. By Hugh Hart, SF Chronicle correspondent
  3. SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, Sunday Datebook
  4. http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Juan-Solanas-talks-about-Upside-Down-4355533.php

George Csicsery never set out to become the go-to guy for math movies, but after his "N Is a Number" about noted brainiac Paul Erdös opened in 1993, the Oakland filmmaker suddenly became inundated with ideas for similarly themed documentaries. "People began to bombard me with ideas and requests," he says. "In making 'N Is a Number,' I felt Paul Erdös was an interesting person, but I never would have imagined going into this whole other world."

Csicsery celebrates that world Monday and Wednesday at the Roxie Theater with Math Films Mathathon. Entries include Monday's Bay Area premiere of "Taking the Long View: The Life of Shiing-Shen Chern," which profiles the late co-founder of Berkeley's Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.

The filmmaker does not have a background in mathematics. "I try to not put anything into a film unless I can understand it," he says. "Mathematicians have to exercise great patience with me. I might have 20 or 30 people on camera telling me the details of the same problem or proof. Then I look for ways to translate that onto film. If I can get it, you can get it."