Greek-Australian Filmmaker Nicolaos Demourtzidis Talks to TNH about Istoria

The documentary film Istoria has won several awards. Photo by Brad Halstead.

NEW YORK – The film Istoria follows Greek-Australian filmmaker Nicolaos Demourtzidis, his father, Peter, and grandfather, Elias, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, as they travel from Australia to Greece to help Elias find closure.

The documentary is an important story not only for the Demourtzidis family, but for all families, and for anyone interested in Greek history and memory, as it highlights the devastating toll of the Greek Civil War even to this day. The film won a Best Documentary award at the 2017 London Greek Film Festival in May and the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award in 2016.

Demourtzidis spoke with The National Herald about the film, his family, and his upcoming projects.
When asked about the decision to share his grandfather’s story, he said, “Before my grandfather was diagnosed with the Alzheimer’s disease, I didn’t understand what the disease meant or what impact it had on families. Even when we were told he had it, it didn’t have the impact of bad news broken to me. Little did I know of what was to come.

Nicolaos Demourtzidis with his grandfather, Elias. Photo by Brad Halstead

It came to a turning point that we started seeing the impact on his daily life and what affect it had on his family and especially my Yiayia. My Pappou was drifting away from us, like a log slowly going down stream. Some days you wouldn’t see the difference and other days you would. I was losing my best friend right before my eyes and I couldn’t handle it. This is the part when the ‘bad news’ hit hard on me of his disease. I was going to lose my Pappou like it or not and his story… my story!

This was the catalyst that made we want to do it, so many people told me it was too late, and it should have been done earlier, but, of course, the stubborn Greek in me pushed on and made it happen! I do have to add, a lot of prayer was going on at the time; it’s quite hard to get the clearance from a doctor to let a sick, elderly man fly across the other side of the world. I didn’t want to do this story necessarily to share my Pappou’s story, his story is for me and my children. What he went through for me and my family is what needed to be shared.

The flyer for the documentary film Istoria. Photo by Brad Halstead

People need to know that their Pappouthes and Yiayiathes went through the same thing so the next generation could be who they are today. You can’t lose this. If we lose our story, our history, then what legacy do we have to pass on? Collectively what culture will we have to share? To answer your question in short, I decided to share the documentary and take it to the next level when I realized that we all need to find our Istoria in life. The world is one beautiful mosaic, but it’s losing its color, if we each can keep our piece colorful and bright, then our culture will exist onto the ages.”

Demourtzidis noted, “My entire father’s side is from Pelargos. My Pappou Elia was born there, grew up in the orphanage in Florina when both parents were killed during the civil war and then returned to Pelargos in his late teens.”

When asked what it was like working on the film, Demourtzidis said, “By far the hardest project we have done, when you are emotionally attached to a project it always makes it that one bit harder. We had to stay professional and let the story unfold and not letting any tears get in the way. There were scenes where my Pappou was crying his soul out and ripping down walls from the pain in confronting his past, we had to stay behind the camera and let it unfold. Very tough. The hardest part of working with my father was seeing him during difficult times, very rarely do you see your father cry as they need to be strong for the family, but him seeing his father go through it all was just too painful to watch.”

On what is next, he said, “We are hoping Istoria will make it into a handful of Film Festivals that are coming up. One in particular is the New York Greek Film Festival as well as my local Australian Greek Film Festivals. Once it’s done its film festival rounds I will focus on distribution to help fund my next project. The quality of Istoria has attracted so much attention I am being offered other stories to produce, it’s quite exciting and humbling at the same time. I really do hope we can get another Greek story off the ground some time soon, but again it all depends on the support you find earlier on. David Ockenden the Director of Istoria is a creative genius, how he manage to capture what he did without speaking one word of Greek amazes me and the audience till this day. It’s professionals like him that make dream stories come to life!”

More information is available online at www.istoriadocumentary.com and you can follow Istoria on Facebook.