NEW YORK – Swing Away, a film shot, edited, and post-produced in Greece, premiered in New York on Thursday, Oct. 12 at the SVA Theater in Chelsea. Produced by George Elias Stephanopoulos who also wrote the story, Swing Away stars Shannon Elizabeth, Manos Gavras, and John O’Hurley- best known for his role as Mr. Peterman, Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld.
Following a meltdown that leads to a suspension, professional golfer Zoe Papadopoulos, played by Shannon Elizabeth, travels to her grandparents’ village in Greece to escape the harsh spotlight of the international sports world. Between baking bread and eating baklava, she meets and mentors ten-year-old Stella who is determined – against all odds – to become the next golf sensation. Along the way, Zoe rediscovers her Greek heritage, her love of the game, and the hidden strength within herself as she inspires the townspeople in an epic showdown against a greedy American developer.
The title “Swing Away” is a golf term that means to hit the ball with ease and freedom. It also serves as a useful metaphor meaning it’s only in following the yearnings of our true self (like Stella does) or in rediscovering them again (like Zoe) that allows the universe, or golf gods in this case, to conspire to bring joy and unity into our lives. And it’s only through comedy that this theme can be adequately expressed in order to remind each of us to “swing away” in our own lives.
The film impressed many who were seeing it for the first time while others who had seen it at the New York City Greek Film Festival last year were happy to enjoy the film again, noting that the uplifting story and message of the film stand up to a second viewing. Even watching the end credits was a pleasure and a point of pride for the Greeks in the audience who remained in their seats until the very end, seeing all the Greek names rolling by on the screen. It called to mind the many times in the past, one audience member said, when she would watch the credits to see if there were any Greek names and feeling a sense of pride when seeing one or two among the hundreds of people, while the credits for Swing Away are almost entirely Greek.
Stephanopoulos welcomed everyone to the screening of the film and thanked his family, friends, and supporters who contributed to the production. He noted how it was years in the making from the initial idea to the production, film festival circuit, and the premiere. Making the film in Greece was of the utmost importance to Stephanopoulos who will undoubtedly inspire others to film in the gorgeous landscapes of Greece and work with the talented people there for post-production as well.
Director? Michael Achilles Nickles thanked his mother Olga, and his wife, ?Julia Wall Nickles who was also a writer on the film. He noted of his longtime friend Stephanopoulos that “George never gives up” and “he’s a stubborn, stubborn, stubborn Greek.”
Actor John O’Hurley spoke at the premiere, saying, “I never watch anything I do,” but made an exception for Swing Away, noting that the film took 7 years and “George emptied his wallet and the wallets of many in this room” to make it. O’Hurley also noted “the tenacity and vision of George” and the film’s “wonderful message” that “we are not our circumstances” and even in the face of public shame, “life is ultimately redeemable.”
Also in attendance were Producer- ?Stamatios Tom Hiotis, Writer, Executive Producer- ?Paul Robert Lingas, Composer- Tao Zervas, and many others who were involved in the production and funding of the film.
An after party at Mykonos Blue followed the premiere. Swing Away will eventually also be distributed in Greece, Cyprus, and worldwide. The movie will run for 1-week in Kew Gardens Cinemas, 8105 Lefferts Blvd in Queens, NY and several other major cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.
Swing Away is in theaters and VOD on October 13. Photo: Greek Press Office
Swing Away Producer and writer George Elias Stephanopoulos with Yanna Darilis- President and Managing Partner of New Greek TV. Photo by Eleni Sakellis