Barcas Untold Legends directed by Tibor Kocsis is one of the films participating in Hungarian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2014.
FC Barcelona is the world’s most popular and most successful soccer club with tens of millions of fans. 1956 changed the history of Hungarian soccer forever. Puskas went to Real Madrid, the left winger Zoltan Czibor and the Gold Team striker Sandor Kocsis, contracted to Barcelona, they also played a key role in the film, presented in Barcelona as Hungarian heroes.
The “rags-legged” Czibor, called as “crazy bird” quickly became a favorite of the Spanish crowd. László Kubala, in 1950 became the number one star of Barca. “More than just a club” – Barça’s slogan which signals the emotional, political and inspirational appeal to Catalans goes far beyond sport, and is reflected in the obsessive media coverage in the press and television. This is a story about power, ambition and identity as well as soccer.
Bijan Tehrani: What motivated you to make BARCAS UNTOLD LEGENDS?
Tibor Kocsis: I heard Kubala’s name the first time in 2008, while I was talking to a producer from Barcelona. When he realized, that I was Hungarian, he said: “Did you know, that our biggest hero in Barcelona was a Hungarian?” I didn’t know a lot about football back then, so I said “Yes, sure, you mean Puskas, right?” He almost killed me, because Puskas played for Real Madrid, the biggest rival of Barca. Then I started to do some research about Kubala, who is almost unknown in Hungary, but in Barcelona everybody knows, that the Camp Nou which is the biggest stadium in Europe was built practically for him, because of his successes. Everybody wanted to see him play. As we continued our research with my colleagues, co-writer Andras Dezso Horvath and football historian Krisztian Varro, we realized that there were more Hungarians in Barcelona, with incredible life stories, which were full of dramas and successes. For me personally, this is not a film about football. It is about how one can achieve his dreams, how to get over the difficulties of life with dignity. These three players are also great examples, role models. And last but not least, the story of these men is fascinating and entertaining, and a good documentary entertains the audience.
BT: Hungarian footballers such as Pushkas have been world favorites and loved by everyone, was there a give and take relationship between them and Barca?
TK: Kubala and Puskas were childhood friends, but Kubala was the first to escape from the communist regime. Kubala then helped Puskas, Czibor and Kocsis a lot when they arrived to Spain later, the story is included in the film. The surprising thing is that these players were all really big stars, amazing talents, but they were really good friends in all their life, until their death. And I mean friends in the true, original meaning: they always helped each other, even at the most difficult times.
BT: How challenging was to find the people you wanted to interview for BARCAS UNTOLD LEGENDS?
TK: Actually, our biggest problem was time. Most of the ex-teammates are unfortunately dead, or very ill. But we still found some of them, and these three names opened a lot of doors to us. If you say Kubala in Barcelona, everybody has a story they want to share with you. Probably they have never seen him play, but they heard the stories of Kubala from their fathers and grandfathers. It is the same with Czibor and Kocsis. Their sons were really helpful, and shared stories about their fathers they have never told anyone before, and this gives a very personal and moving layer to the film. But let me tell you a story to illustrate the legacy of this players: Josep Lluis Nunez, who was longest reigning president in the history of FC Barcelona (1978-2002) has not given any interview in the last 10 years. We had the email address of her secretary, and 10 minutes after we sent an email explaining that we do a movie about Kubala, Kocsis and Czibor, Mr.Nunez replied that we can visit him any time in his office and ask him anything about them. We met him in his office, and we talked for almost two hours. It was a great honor for us.
BT: The use of archive footage is very helpful to tell the story of your film, how did you go about getting the archive footage?
TK: MANDA, which is the biggest archive in Hungary gave us access to a lot of footages, just like NO-DO, the biggest Spanish archive. We watched many hours of these footages to be able to select the ones we need for the film, and we found real treasures, goals and matches that were never seen before. But at the same time, this was one of the biggest financial challenges of the movies, because archive footages are very expensive. The other type of archives were given to us by Sandor Kocsis junior, these are Super8 footages about his family and the era. Many of his footages were never seen before, they show personal life of the Kocsis family in sixties. These footages are really important in the film, because of the already mentioned personal layer of the whole movie.
BT: How important is this film for bringing awareness about the past to younger generation in Hungary?
TK: It is very important. Our football has declined, unfortunately the present of Hungarian football could not be compared to the glorious past. But nothing is impossible for a young player, if he works hard – as Kubala, Czibor and Kocsis did. But the film is not just about football. It is about personal values. These three players had literally nothing, when they grew up, they all came from working class families. They had talent, but they practiced a lot, they were never satisfied with themselves. They knew, that talent is worth nothing without practicing. But as Mr.Nunez says in the film, a great player has to be a great person at the same time. And these three were very generous, brave men, not only on the field, but in their private lives and throughout the difficult historical times they lived in, like the era of the 1956 revolution and freedom fight against the Soviets.
BT: How BARCAS UNTOLD LEGEND have been received by audiences so far?
TK: Very well. It is like a fiction movie: you get excited, you laugh, you cry. We get very positive reactions from audiences, most people say that they didn’t expect so many emotions from the film. But it is full of emotions and drama, and audiences tend to like it, which makes us really happy.
BT: Do you think Hungary Film Festival, Los Angeles could help with exposure of Hungarian cinema in US?
TK: I think this a great opportunity for Hungarian filmmakers. I have a very personal example: my previous documentary was presented at the Hungarian Film Festival here, this is where the leaders of IDA saw it and told me to go for the IDA Award. It was a great honor for me that they nominated the film New Eldorado for two prizes, for Best Distinguished Documentary and Pare Lorentz Award. It was a great honor for me to be nominated with films such as Enron: The smartest guys in the room, Murderball or March of the Penguins. I think this describes exactly how big the opportunity is for a Hungarian filmmaker.