Greek Films Shine at the 9th Annual Queens World Film Festival

Filmmaker Greg Sego with his proud mom, Theresa Vorgia Shapiro, following the screening of Yia Yia: A Portrait at the 9th Annual Queens World Film Festival. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

ASTORIA – The 9th Annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) ran from March 21-31 and screened over 200 films showcasing a great variety of themes, styles, and genres. QWFF once again celebrated diversity with films from a multiplicity of countries, among them Greece.

The special event entitled, Exciting Greek Work, was held on March 30 with the screening of five films celebrating the epic Greek imagination at MoMI’s Bartos Screening Room in Astoria. The screening began with the charming and moving documentary Yia Yia: A Portrait, directed by Greg Sego and continued with the short narrative films Vous, directed by Pari Antoniou; Play, directed by Vangelis Liberopoulos; Semele, directed by Myrsini Aristidou; and Fig, directed by Nicolas Kolovos.

Greek-American filmmaker Greg Sego who attended the event and participated in a Q&A session following the screenings told The National Herald, “I am thrilled to share my documentary film Yia Yia: A Portrait. Furthermore, I am honored to have it included in this year’s Queens World Film Festival.”

“This documentary was a collaboration between me and my late grandmother, Mary Vorgia, and since has become a cherished family item. On paper, Mary’s story may not read unique, being one of the millions of Europeans forced to flee their homes for safety during World War II, but it is in the experience of having her recount the details of her odyssey through life that makes it all so affecting.

Filmmaker Greg Sego participated in a Q&A session with the audience following the screening of his film Yia Yia: A Portrait at the Queens World Film Festival. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

“This project began as simple recording sessions between my grandmother and I, as I wanted to capture the definitive versions of certain stories that have become sort of family myths over the years. Soon I realized that I had a wealth of audio material that could be visualized in an interesting way.

“I encourage everyone to pursue similar projects, that being capturing family stories and history from older relatives. Any relatives. Even yourself. You and future generations will cherish them,” Sego said.

The film truly captures his grandmother’s spirit as she tells her story, recounting harrowing events and the turning points in her life with a charm, grace and a sense of humor. Mary was born in a village in Peloponnesus and eventually moved with her family to New York where her father, like so many immigrants, had been working and sending money home. There are poignant moments that bring a tear to your eye, but the film also leaves you with an uplifting sense of a life well-lived. Mary’s legacy, her story and her family, are a testament to her strength and character. We should all be so lucky to have a wonderful Yiayia like her and to cherish her for as long as she is with us and beyond, thanks to the available technology.

During the Q&A session which followed the film screenings, Sego, whose background is in writing and photography, again encouraged everyone to record their grandparents and family members’ memories. The film is his first documentary and through the process he became very aware of the fact and fiction in the genre itself. Sego noted that this was his grandmother’s story, but the motif of the tea cup was something they came up with together. When asked what’s next, he noted that he plans to continue making short films in different genres for as little money as possible.

The short films from Greece once again highlighted the tremendous filmmaking talents of the homeland, tackling serious issues and themes with powerful imagination, and creating a truly unique experience with each film. The screenings left the audience with a great sense of optimism about Greek film and a definite thirst for more.

Pari Antoniou stars in and makes her directorial debut with Vous which she also wrote. Vangelis Liberopoulos, who has been directing TV commercials, in Greece and abroad, since 1996, turns to narrative film with the dynamic Play.

Award-winning writer and director Myrsini Aristidou, born in Limassol, Cyprus, has created the remarkably moving short film Semele, capturing the father-daughter relationship in the midst of the crisis with heart and authenticity.

The screening concluded with Fig, directed by Nicolas Kolovos, which brings to mind traditional Greek folk stories and demonstrates the indomitable Greek spirit as a man attempts to fulfil his wife’s deathbed request for a fig. As Kolovos noted, “I made this film after my father narrated a story of a time he suffered the same consequences in his small village in Greece. Without a second thought I started to write. The film speaks to man, for the power of love, the respect, the need for contact, for generosity. Deep rooted values that we have forgotten in the trivial and passive life we lead. I wanted my film to highlight the man who has not forgotten to Love. The Man who did not give up even when things go wrong. The Man who loves unconditionally. The Man who risks and bypasses his own pain to fulfill the dying wish of his loving wife. This simple everyday person – the Hero who lives away from city noise.”