NEW YORK – Filmmaker Yelena Popovich spoke with The National Herald about her film Man of God and its upcoming U.S. release on 800 screens in 175 cities in 46 states on March 21 and 28. The film depicts the life of St. Nektarios of Aegina, a priest of the common people, whose popularity provoked the jealousy of the clergy in Alexandria and led to his expulsion from Egypt.
The film was shot in Greece, specifically in Athens, Lavrio, and Aegina where St. Nektarios established a monastery. Some scenes at the monastery were filmed inside the actual cell where the saint lived. Award-winning Greek actor Aris Servetalis, in a moving performance as St. Nektarios, leads an international cast including Mickey Rourke and Alexander Petrov. The music was composed by two-time French Cesar winner Zbigniew Preisner with special performance by Golden Globe winner Lisa Gerrard.
TNH: What inspired you to make the film Man of God?
Yelena Popovic: I read the story of Saint Nektarios in 2012. Even though I often read books on saints, his story felt as if every word of it was written in my soul. It was something very personal and familiar and that is the main reason that I felt that if given a chance I could bring his story to the hearts of the people.
TNH: What was the most surprising thing you learned in the process of making the film?
YP: The most surprising thing for me was to learn and experience how hard is to make a film. What I mean is to go through the process of not only writing, but also directing and producing at the same time. Many times, I felt like I was not going to make it physically and emotionally, but where there is a will there is a way. With God’s help, I managed to pull through.
TNH: How did Aris Servetalis and Mickey Rourke become involved in the project?
YP: As everything else that happened in connection with this film, Aris Servetalis and Mickey Rourke became part of it in a somewhat unique way (not to say mysterious). I met Aris Serevetalis in Patra at the screening. Father from a monastery of Vatopedi had introduced us. At the time, another actor was attached to play Saint Nektarios. A few months later things had worked out in a way that Aris ended up playing the lead role. I truly believe that Saint Nektarios wanted Aris to play him. I cannot imagine anyone else doing a better job. He was perfect for the role. Mickey Rourke came to my mind for the role of a paralyzed man very early on. Many years ago, I saw the movie The Pledge. Mickey had only one scene. I remember I was astounded by Mickey Rourke’s performance. The depth and power of his performance were staggering. So when I wrote Man of God I thought that Mickey would be perfect for the role of a paralyzed man. He had the chops to play the part and he is a believer. It took me more than six months to get the script in front of him. Once he read it, he identified with the role. He agreed to do it.
TNH: What was the most challenging aspect of making the film?
YP: The most challenging was having the responsibility of making a film about such a beloved saint and dealing with health issues while filming.
TNH: And what was the most rewarding aspect?
The most rewarding was working with so many wonderful people in front of and behind the camera who believed in the project and did it from their heart.
TNH: Following the release in the U.S. on March 21, will the film be available through other platforms in the future?
YP: The film will be released on March 21st and March 28th. Our distributor Fathom Events decided to add an additional date due to large presales of the tickets. After the theatrical run is finished, the film will be available on various platforms.
TNH: What are you working on next?
YP: There are a couple of scripts that I had written before I wrote Man of God that I would like to direct. One of them is ‘Loveless’ based on a life of Greta Garbo. I am also attached to direct ‘Dead Serious’ with Danny Glover. It’s a crime drama that deals with domestic violence. I’m also developing a couple of projects.
Find a theater near you and tickets online: https://www.fathomevents.com/events/Man-of-God.
Group ticketing for 25 people+ is also available online: https://bit.ly/36Gko5b.