LOS ANGELES – On April 8, in front of a packed theater at UCLA, Producer Steven Priovolos screened the beautiful documentary, Life Will Smile, the story of the Jewish community of Zakynthos, narrated by Haim Konstantini, a survivor of the island’s Nazi occupation. The screening, which was co-sponsored by the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture, the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, the Consulate of Greece, the Consulate of Israel, and the American Jewish Committee, brought together members of LA’s Greek and Jewish communities.
The film traces the memories of Konstantini, who was ten years old when the island was taken over by the Nazis, and records his return to the island at age 83, one year before his death. The film praises the heroic actions of Mayor Loukas Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos of Zakynthos, and the courage of the island’s 35,000 inhabitants, who saved every member of the Jewish community.
Priovolos observed, “Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos of Zakynthos are a great example of true leadership. Their brave actions inspired every single one of the citizens of Zakynthos to do the right thing, every single person! These leaders put their lives at risk to protect their fellow Greek Jews. With racism and anti-Semitism on the rise, such an empathetic, compassionate, brave way to lead is very much needed in our world today.”
In 1978, Yad Vashem honored the two Zakynthian leaders as Righteous Among the Nations, an honor that conveys the gratitude of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to those who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust.
In her opening remarks, the Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles, Evgenia Beniatoglou, commented: “In the last twenty years, Greece has managed to coordinate all government branches so that their actions create a strong and permanent result, especially through legislation, its practical application, and education. The foundation of the Holocaust Museum of Greece in Thessaloniki in 2018 by the Israeli President and the Greek Prime Minister has been a milestone.”
Beniatoglou further informed the audience that Greece will hold the annual chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) for the year 2021.
Priovolos, in a question and answer session following the screening, urged the audience to pay attention to signs of intolerance, which could lead to the repetition of past events. He tearfully recalled his meaningful time with Konstantini who, despite his childhood experience of terror, found joy in the world. As Priovolos observed, “Haim on his own has 26 relatives who are alive. Think of the 275 Jews of Zakynthos and how many people are alive today because of the actions of the Zakynthians.”
Priovolos is currently engaged in screening the film in universities, churches, and synagogues across the United States.
The trailer for the film is available online: https://vimeo.com/222575171.