Hungarian or Hungarian-related awards are not particularly famous, certainly there are not a lot of them, but Hungary is proud of all of them. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi is one of the few members of this group, with her documentary Free Solo (2018) she won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Vasarhelyi grew up in New York City, and is the daughter of a Hungarian father and her mother is from Hong Kong. She is the graduate of The Brearley School. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University.
She married Jimmy Chin on May 26, 2013. Their daughter, Marina, was born on September 25, 2013 and their son, James, was born on December 7, 2015.
Elizabeth started working as an assistant in 2004 to Mike Nichols’ film Closer. She also worked extensively with Emmy-Award-winning cinematographer, Scott Duncan.
Her first film, A Normal Life (2003), won Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2003. Her second film, Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (2008) was premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals and won numerous awards including the Special Jury Prize at the Middle East International Film Festival.
One of Vasarhelyi’s films as a director include the highest grossing independent documentary film of 2015, Meru (Oscars Shortlist 2016; Sundance Audience Award 2015). Variety magazine said: “Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi’s Sundance audience award winner is one of the best sports documentaries of its type in recent years.”
Her most notorious movie Free Solo, with co-director Jimmy Chin won the People’s Choice Award: Documentaries at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The film has recieved praise for being a riveting documentary and a profound story of human endeavor. In 2019, the movie won the Oscars for Best Documentary Feature.
Vasarhelyi has directed a New York Times Op Doc, an episode for Netflix’s non-fiction design series ABSTRACT, and two episodes for ESPN’s non-fiction series Future of Sports.