Mimi Denissi, screenwriter and actress, at the press conference before the special screening of Smyrna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)
NEW YORK – More than 700 dignitaries and invited guests filled the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) to capacity on November 29 for a special screening of the award-winning historical drama, Smyrna. Screenwriter and leading actress Mimi Denissi introduced the film. The Met event was held under the auspices of the Greek Permanent Mission to the United Nations and hosted by Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations Ambassador Maria Theofili who gave the welcoming remarks at the screening.
Ambassador Theofili offered greetings to the many international dignitaries present, pointing out that it was a “full house” as she shared some brief historical background about cosmopolitan Smyrna and the events depicted in the film. She highlighted that “through knowledge and understanding of our history, we can live more humanely, face the challenges that are arising, and shape a better future.”
She then introduced Denissi who told the audience that she wrote Smyrna because she understands that politicians have to be diplomatic, “an artist must be independent, must be free, and must tell the truth.”
In the press conference before the screening, Denissi noted how rare it is for a film to premiere at The Met, especially a Greek film, “it is a great honor for the homeland and for Smyrna, that one of the greatest museums in the world which has many ancient Greek artifacts in its collection is showing the continuation of that history even if it is at times tragic as with Smyrna.”
“It is a historic film and it is a blessing for it to be shown here under the auspices of the Greek Permanent Mission to the UN,” she continued. “It is a significant night for us and it is significant that Smyrna will be released on Thursday, December 8, for one night only, in more than 700 theaters across the United States and Canada through Fathom Events, a first for a Greek film.”
Denissi noted that “stories like that of Smyrna are sadly repeated over and over in a variety of ways, it seemed timely to begin in 2015 with Syria, then other countries appeared later, what the film tells us is not only for us to learn the history of Greece, as we know about the Holocaust and what happened to the Armenians, but we should also know what happened to the Greeks at that time, it is also a humanistic film that tells you not to ignore the immigrant, the homeless or the refugee because it can happen at any time to anyone.”
She also noted the extensive research that went into the film and not shying away from depicting not only what Turkey did but also the many mistakes made by the Greek government and the European powers that led to the Catastrophe. “If each nation refuses to acknowledge the mistakes it has made, we would never be able to move forward,” Denissi said.
Greek actress Natalia Dragoumi, who plays a supporting role in the film, also answered questions from the press, noting that she felt very lucky to be a part of the project and the team, as it was a team effort, and the film’s theme is sadly a timely one, not only about the countries depicted but concerning the whole world. “It is not only for the Greek community, it should be seen worldwide,” she said.
A trailer for the film is available online: https://bit.ly/3VnY1Gq. Tickets for December 8 are available at Fathom Events: https://bit.ly/3ueU7n2 or at participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change). For group sales information, click here: https://bit.ly/3ggrH8Y.
Smyrna won five Hellenic Film Academy Awards, and was nominated for seven more, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. It is based on Denissi’s acclaimed stage play, which ran to sold-out audiences in Athens for three years. The film received a six-minute standing ovation at BAFTA’s iconic Princess Anne Theatre in London.
Denissi leads an international cast including Leonidas Kakouris, Burak Hakki, Katerina Geronikolou, Jane Lapotaire, Susan Hampshire, Rupert Graves, Christos Stergioglou, Natalia Dragoumi, and Daphne Alexander. The film, directed by Grigoris Karantinakis, is in Greek, Turkish, and English, with English subtitles.
“This powerful drama tells the stories of families torn apart by war, as a once proud people were forced to flee their homeland,” says Joseph Samaan, President of Tanweer Universe. “It urges us to pay attention to similar refugee crises that continue to plague the world 100 years later.”
Smyrna was filmed in Chios, Lesvos, and Athens, Greece. The original city’s waterfront was meticulously recreated, and many ships of the era were used on set. The Sporting Club, the Opera, cafes, shops, and government buildings were constructed as exact replicas of the originals. To date, Smyrna is the highest budgeted Greek film in history.
Smyrna was produced by Dionyssis Samiotis, alongside Executive Producers Joseph Samaan and Mimi Denissi. In the U.S., promotional partners include AHEPA, Antenna 1 Satellite (ANT1) and Papadopoulou. Film Bridge International is overseeing the film’s international sales.
The Tanweer Productions film is a co-production with Central Stage, ANT1 Group, ERT, Greek Film Center, Tsiatlino, Finos Film, Barking Well Media, York Films, Europa with the support of the Ministry of Digital Policy and Media and the National Center of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME).
Grand Sponsors include Hellenic Foundation for Culture, Greek National Tourism Organization, Ε.J. Papadopoulos S.A., and C.A. Papaellinas Commercial. Sponsors include OPAP, Aegean Oil, Optima Bank, Athens Medical Center, M/Maritime, Protergia, Sun Spices S.A., Marina Giavroglou, and Petra & Fos. Smyrna is supported by the North Aegean Region, Chios Regional Unit, the municipalities of Chios, Western Lesvos, and Mytilene, the Maria Tsakos Foundation, Region of Attica, South Athens Regional Unit, Hellenic Ministry of National Defense, and the Embassy of Japan in Greece. Sponsors of the exclusive screening at The Met are Protasis and Metaxa.
Among those present were Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Konstantinou, Hellenic Medical Society of New York President Dr. Panagiotis Manolas, Dr. George Liakeas, Dr. Stella Lymberis, John Metaxas, Spiros Exaras, Marianthi Vlachos of Hellenic Aesthetic, HACC Board of Directors President Athas Ioannou, Nancy Papaioannou, Penny Tsilas, and descendants of George Horton who was the Consul of Smyrna at the time of the Catastrophe.
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