When two sisters, Koula and Katina Sossiadis, combined their love for film and culture, the result was an award-winning independent film called Epiphany. A celebration of Greek-American culture, Epiphany takes a deep-dive look at one family’s journey, from its heartbreaking flight from war-torn Cyprus, to the struggles of two grown brothers trying to make a living in the dying sea sponge industry.
A coming of age story about redemption and multiple familial relationships, the film captures the Greek-American culture in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and the traditions of the Greek Orthodox faith, including the inspiring Epiphany ceremony, the largest such celebration in America.
Dating back to the early 1900s, the evident Greek culture in Tarpon Springs is what the Sossiadis sisters said inspired the film itself. Growing up visiting the location every year, they did not exactly understand why it was so important to their immigrant father that they be so surrounded by elements of Greek culture, but it all became clear to them later on in life.
Epiphany, Koula said, is the sisters’ gift to their father. “It is an ode to our Greek heritage…it really is what defines us.”
After 28 days of filming and many more of editing, the film debuted in April of 2019, and went on to win several awards at the International Christian Film Festival, the London Greek Film Festival, the Hoboken Film Festival, the Tarpon Arts Film Festival, and the Southside Film Festival.
After Epiphany’s success, the sisters are currently writing their second script, titled Searching for Artemis, centered, unsurprisingly, around a Greek family living in the United States.
Koula and Katina Sossiadis spoke to TNH about their experience bringing Epiphany to life.
The National Herald: What has working on Epiphany taught you?
Koula and Katina Sossiadis: We have learned a lot from making this film. It was our first feature. We had heard that making a feature film on a limited budget was like going to war. It was so difficult. We were disappointed when we left for home after the shoot because we felt like there were things that we didn’t get to shoot that we really wanted. We didn’t have enough time or money. But then everything seems to work out in the editing room. Things work together that you didn’t think that would. Our editor was like a magician.
TNH: What was your inspiration to pursue the creation of the film?
K & KS: Our father is a Greek immigrant who traveled to Pennsylvania when he was 24, not speaking a word of English. My sister and I used to know our father just as a working man, rarely home.
When we went to Tarpon Springs as a family, he always seemed so much more relaxed to us, like he was at home there. In Tarpon, it is like being in Greece. So for our father, he was comfortable and it helped my sister and I connect with him in a way that we couldn’t while we were home in Pennsylvania.
He also would always try to shove being Greek down our throats and we hated it [but] you mature and want to know your roots and you appreciate them.
We also loved seeing the Epiphany ceremony in Tarpon. It is a very cinematic, beautiful ceremony and we wondered why no one else had ever featured it in a movie. We wanted to share it with the world.
TNH: What was your greatest challenge in producing this film, and how did you deal with it?
K & KS: Money is always an issue on independent movies. We had a 28-day shooting schedule and had to get a lot done in those 28 days. We were very rushed all the time. There were many times that we had to scratch a scene because we just didn’t have the time to do it. We had also watched movies our whole lives and had big dreams about what we wanted certain shots to look like. We were disappointed when we realized that because of budget constraints we couldn’t get certain shots.
TNH: What would you like to tell people who do not know about the process behind the scenes?
K & KS: A lot of the stuff in the script either doesn’t get shot or gets cut in the editing room. There was an entire storyline that never made it into the movie. It just didn’t work.
TNH: How would you define Luka’s character?
K & KS: Luka is very strong. She is bold. She desperately wants to connect with her father and know him, and she’s not afraid, and I think she’s a great role model for young women. Luka doesn’t understand why boys are given advantages over girls in the Greek religion. She is willing to go to great lengths to change the narrative.
She is also a broken character, quite lost. The only female/mother figure she ever knew has died before we start the story. Luka is looking for the love and guidance of a parent and is not finding it in the two male lead characters of the film, Theo and Peter.
TNH: How important would you say it is to keep Greek tradition alive abroad?
K & KS: It is vital to keep Greek tradition alive abroad. As Americans, when we come across someone else who is of Greek heritage we automatically feel a connection to them. There is a familiarity. And we have to say the Greek film festivals here in the U.S. have been very supportive of the film.
We got into every Greek-American festival we entered and each festival was amazing at celebrating us. The Greeks in Chicago especially came out when we had a week long theater run at the Pickwick Theater. We were so appreciative of that.
TNH: How have your Greek roots been an inspiration to you?
K & KS: Our Greek roots were essential in this film. They are a huge part of it. We wanted to share with the world who Greeks really are. Many times in cinema, Greeks are portrayed in a very stereotypical way…either the diner owner, the crazy dancing maniac who breaks plates, etc.
It was very important for us to keep the Greek part of the film real. And by making our leads Cypriot, we were able to incorporate the Turkish invasion of the island in the 1970’s and comment on immigration and refugees in America. Our ancestors are from Asia Minor and were pushed out by the Turks so this is something that is very close to the heart for us.
About the creators:
Koula Sossiadis Kazista received her Bachelor of Art in Journalism at Lehigh University, where she graduated with honors in 1995. She landed her first New York feature gig as a production assistant on the Sylvester Stallone/Robert De Niro film Copland.
Koula and her husband presently own and operate their own company, Monster Remotes, a specialized film equipment rental company.
Katina Sosssiadis attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Master’s in Fine Arts. She moved to NYC where she worked at the Guggenheim Museum for director Tom Krens. She studied film at New York University’s School of Continuing Education and trained with acting/directing coach Andrienne Weiss.