A fascinating new documentary about second and third generation Greek Americans was recently screened at Thessaloniki’s International Film Festival.
Narrated by Olympia Dukakis and produced by the Greek Heritage Society of Southern California, the film “The New Greek Americans” highlights the immigration and assimilation stories, as well as the achievements, of this special community.
“We wish the circumstances were different so that we could have been in Thessaloniki to attend our screening and the festival,” Shelly Papadopoulos, President of the Greek Heritage Society of Southern California, told Greek Reporter in a recent interview.
The film was an official selection of this year’s Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which took place in March. “Our director and I were on our way to Thessaloniki when we heard the festival was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The format was changed, and our documentary was available for viewing only in Greece,” Papadopoulos explains, and adds that the film was also an official selection of the London Greek Film Festival, which just ended.
The documentary is a chronicle of the modern Greek diaspora in the United States starting in the 1960s, when young Greek Americans, despite their conservative upbringing, began to embrace the social revolution of those years.
During each subsequent decade, this community experienced staggering historical events, from the Civil Rights movement all the way to Michael S. Dukakis’ presidential nomination in 1988, a benchmark for Greeks everywhere.
This heartfelt documentary unfolds the humorous and often touching stories of second and third generation immigrants, reflecting the multilayered aspects of “growing up Greek” in the United States.
As writer/director Anna Giannotis explains to Greek Reporter, the film is “the third and final documentary of a trilogy which starts with the immigrants, their assimilation and settlement in our first documentary, ‘The Pioneers, 1900-1942.'”
“The Promise of Tomorrow, 1940-1960,” the second documentary, “highlights the success and expansion of Greek communities with the first generation, the children of the Pioneers. Their struggle with duality: Greek at home, American outside the home — manifested into something positive: a bicultural identity as Greek Americans,” Giannotis explains.
Now in this third and final documentary, we come full circle with the second and third generations, in “The New Greek Americans.”
“The late 20th and new 21st century Greek Americans are born into a multi- cultural society and technology is rapidly affecting our existence. International communication is commonplace as well as consistent travel to the fatherland, fueling the flames of Hellenism at home here in America. Modern Greek studies in universities and youth organizations keep young people engaged, which ties into the church and their activities,” Giannotis notes.
The documentary was greeted with enthusiastic support from viewers.
“I feel ‘The New Greek Americans 1960-Present’ is the fitting conclusion to a masterful trilogy: so forward-looking and aspirational!” commented Mike Sakellarides, from 94.7 The WAVE in Los Angeles.
Nick Papadakis, also from Los Angeles, also gave a positive review of the film, saying “This film is a tribute to the Greek Americans of today who honor their ancestors’ sacrifices and have become successful thanks to those sacrifices.”
Giannotis says that the decision of the Greek Heritage Society of Southern California to create these documentaries “was to utilize some of the recorded oral histories and preserve them in an entertaining and educational vehicle.”
Collaborators in this project include writer/director Anna Giannotis; producer Antonia Lianos; and executive producers Shelly Papadopoulos, Zoye Marino Fidler and Harry Ratner.
The associate producers were Cynthia Daly Spears and Demetra Koris; the director of photography was Philip Georgious; the editor was Hughes Hall; and the composer of the music for the film was Bob Luna.