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Culture

Filmmaker Sossiadis Sisters Had An Epiphany and Brought it to Life in Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS, FL – Koula (Sossiadis) Kazista and Katina Sossiadis, sisters and filmmakers, embarked on a joint venture: the making of Epiphany, a motion picture set in the part of the United States with the highest percentage of Greeks per capita, Tarpon Springs, a quaint, idyllic, town on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“The idea for the film came from our summers in Tarpon Springs,” Sossiadis told TNH. “Koula began to visualize a story between two brothers who were sponge divers struggling with their personal lives. Kazista began writing a version of the script when she was seventeen.” The sisters completed a short film in 1999, Lynn’s Wake, and planned on doing Epiphany together as well, but finances were an issue.

“About a year ago, Koula and I came together to take the bare bones of the story and start from page one,” Sossiadis said. “In the industry, everyone knows that all good movies come from the script. We built a story around a little girl named Luka, who struggles to know her estranged father. Koula reached out to a woman she used to work with named Jane Kelly Kosek. Jane had worked in the film production industry with her but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an indie film producer. Because Jane knew a lot about small films, she was essential in helping us get this movie off the ground. “She highly recommended making the script shorter, making it a present-day story (older versions had the film taking place in the 1970s) and taking out any huge concept ideas. Having Jane’s support through the process, pushing the movie forward was everything. The finances finally fell into the place. The one thing about creating a movie that we would like to tell aspiring filmmakers is that you should form relationships. Movies are about connecting and rallying people behind you.”

The United States has no shortage of Greek communities. From New York to Boston to Chicago to New Orleans, there are Greeks in virtually every corner of the country. From all those Greek communities to choose from, why Tarpon Springs?

“We fell in love with the area as young children,” Sossiadis explained. “It was always a town that felt very familiar to us because of our upbringing. Tarpon Springs is majestic and picturesque. When you go to the downtown of Tarpon Springs, you feel like you are in Greece for a little bit. The town has still preserved the culture. The color of the buildings to the people and the man yelling for tours. The area is so powerful and beautiful for a film.”

The Greeks of Tarpon are friendly, but can be cautious of outsiders at first. Initially, when Kazista, Sossiadis, and the crews arrived, they were “apprehensive, thinking we were a reality TV show or a something superficial,” Sossiadis told TNH. “When we explained the story and what we were doing, the people were very welcoming. We tried to use many locations that would feature the town from the Sponge Docks to Mama Maria’s Restaurant. The one location near the Spring Bayou gained a lot of interest as we recreated the Epiphany, which takes place on January 6 each year. (One of Tarpon’s nicknames is Epiphany City.) We worked closely with the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral to create an authentic ceremony.”

Speaking of authentic, did they have any help from actual sponge divers?

“The one person by whom Koula was inspired for the story was Taso (Anastasios Karistinos), a pioneering sponge diver who owns the boat Anastasi. Taso was a consultant for the film guiding us on the accuracies of the sponge diving process. The crew spent two days on his boat to create the sponge diving world for our characters. Taso was a big help and without him we could not create this world. We also owe a lot to him since the summer is his high season and we kept Anastasi off the water to do our film. His addition to the film adds something that even a great deal of money couldn’t buy. He is an amazing man.”

Epiphany certainly seems like the kind of film that would be a hit with Greeks – in the United States, in Greece, in Cyprus, all over the world. But what about with non-Greeks?

“At its core,” Sossiadis explained, “Epiphany is a coming of age drama about a family and how people relate to one another. It is a universal story that every person can relate to on some level. Our film also focuses on the mythical and mysterious elements of history and culture. We have a story that focuses on family and the history of the family that has deeply affected their lives. The film appeals to not only Greek-Americans but Greeks in Greece and Cyprus even from other countries. We have recreated with great passion Cyprus in 1974 during the invasion. People that are affected by war and the outcome of it will relate to this film on a greater level. Also, our characters face the turmoil refugees do: uprooted from their homes and forced to reside in a new homes.”
Tarpon Springs was fortunate to have endured only mild repercussions of Hurricane Irma in early September. As TNH reported, the city was well-prepared under the leadership of Mayor Chris Alahouzos and Tarpon’s public service employees (“Irma Spares Tarpon Springs,” Sept. 16).

“Koula and I are deeply saddened by the storm down there,” Sossiadis said. “Everyone was so gracious and good to us and we hope it is a safe recovery.”
The film is in the editing stage and will tour film festivals before it released to the general public in 2019, Kazista told TNH. More information and opportunities to follow and support the film are available at seedandpark.com.

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