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Culture

Two Moving Films by Panikos Panayiotou Highlight the Women of Cyprus (Photos)

February 26, 2024

ASTORIA – The Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations (FCAO), the Pancyprian Association Theatre Division, PSEKA, and NEPOMAK sponsored two screenings of films by Panikos Panayiotou that celebrate the power of women- ‘Queens of Amathus’ on February 23 and ‘Queens of Cyprus’ on February 24. Both screenings were held at the Hellenic Cultural Center’s Thespis Theater in Astoria with free admission and receptions that followed with catering by Dionysos restaurant.

‘Queens of Amathus’, directed and produced by Panayiotou and featuring Christina Savvas as presenter, focused on Greek-Cypriot women who migrated from Cyprus to Birmingham, England. Beginning with the lace trade and later working in fish and chips shops, the women share their remarkable stories in this emotionally-charged documentary that highlights and personalizes the turbulent history of Cyprus through the enduring strength and spirit of the Cypriot women. Their immigrant stories remind us of our shared experience in the Hellenic diaspora, the great love of the homeland and the hope of returning some day, the importance of family and food, preserving customs, traditions, language and faith, while moments of culture clash offer comic relief amid the daily struggles for a better life.

Left to right: Eleni Sakellis, Yioula Skoufelis, Rea Varveris, Soteroula Karacostas, Popi Michalatos, and Lambrini Gantidis. Photo: TNH Staff

Antonia Michaelides, program manager, gave the welcoming remarks before the February 23 screening, noting that the film highlights “the resilience and power of our Greek-Cypriot women” and the audience “will learn about what happened in Cyprus from the Second World War all the way up to the Turkish invasion in 1974 and the aftermath, all from the perspective of the ‘queens’.”

She also introduced the LGK Productions team from the UK, including herself, director and producer Panikos Panayiotou, executive producer Ben Robinson, PR coordinator Petros Kkolas, photographer Gabriel Timotheou, and Pan Philippou.

The trailer for ‘Queens of Cyprus’ which had its premiere screening on February 24 and two short trailers for episodes in the ‘Queens’ series the team is hoping to produce next were also shown prior to the screening of the ‘Queens of Amathus.’

Antonia Michaelides, at the podium before the premiere of ‘Queens of Cyprus’, gave the welcoming remarks at both screenings. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Philip Christopher, Pancyprian Association and PSEKA President, noted how everyone can identify with the immigrant stories shared in the film and as this year is the 50th grim anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus and March is women’s history month, the film screenings were well-timed. He then thanked the new Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations Ambassador Maria Michail for attending, as well as Fannie Petallides Holliday, Cyprus-U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Maria Pappas who will be honored by the Pancyprian Association’s Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) as Woman of the Year on March 10, Dr. Dia Christodoulidou, Irene Stefatos, WIN President Savvy Asprou, Pancyprian Theatre Division President Effie Antoniou, past president of NEPOMAK Antonia Savvides, current NEPOMAK USA President Andreas Lambiris, and FCAO President Kyriacos Papastylianou.

“Thank you very much for hosting this, bringing us all the way over the Atlantic to show our film, we’re very passionate about sharing stories,” Panikos Panayiotou said in his remarks following the screening, noting that “it’s because of them [the women who shared their stories in the film] that we’re here, we’re all here because someone sacrificed in your life for you to be where you are.”

He mentioned the two new episodes they are working on and trying to reach a wider audience. “We think that the medium of film can put Cyprus on an international map,” Panayiotou said.

Philip Christopher at the Queens of Amathus screening on February 23. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Ambassador Michail hoped for more screenings to a wider audience, saying that “it’s a vey strong message that was conveyed tonight… the important thing is to get the message across to other cultures.”

FCAO President Papastylianou congratulated the filmmakers in Greek, noting the Federation’s support in getting the word out about the film through social media and other efforts, and thanked everyone for participating.

Among those present were Pancyprian Choir President Ismini Michaels, Artistic and Music Director Phyto Stratis, Queens College Professor and Hellenic American Project Director Nicholas Alexiou, and many members of the community.

‘Queens of Cyprus’ which premiered on February 24 expands on the theme of the strong women of Cyprus by reminding us that the island nation is a multi-cultural one and includes the stories of Armenian, Maronite, and Turkish-Cypriot women, along with prominent Greek-Cypriot women and men, activists, entrepreneurs, and politicians, as well as insights from the current First Lady of Cyprus Philippa Karsera.

Filmmaker Panikos Panayiotou. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

With poignant moments and beautiful footage of Cyprus, the film further highlights the way of life that was destroyed by the illegal invasion and occupation while also illuminating the great love of all Cypriots for their island home.

Antonia Michaelides also gave the welcoming remarks at the premiere of ‘Queens of Cyprus’ noting how all the participants in the film, Greek, Armenian, Maronite, and Turkish-Cypriot, “want the same thing, they want the illegal Turkish occupation to end, they want a peaceful and just solution fo all Cypriots, they want to go home.”

Trailers were shown of the upcoming episodes in the series, ‘Queens of Aphrodite’ and ‘Queen of Kormakitis’,  as well as for ‘Queens of Amathus’ which had been screened the previous evening.

Following the screening, Philip Christopher thanked everyone for attending and thanked the UK delegation, especially the director Panikos Panayiotou. He noted that the screenings coincide with March 8, International Women’s Day, celebrating the achievements of all women, and gave a tribute to all the women present. Referring to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation, Christopher pointed out that 40,000 troops remain on the island, keeping Cyprus divided. He added that in 1974 there were 120,000 Turkish-Cypriots on the island, “that were our fellow countrymen and our compatriots, and now there 500,000 from Turkey who have no common ground with the Cypriots whether they are Turkish, Armenians, Maronites, or Greek-Cypriots.”

The new Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN Ambassador Maria Michail. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

“Throughout our history, we have maintained our language, our roots, our culture, our Hellenic roots, our religion, and that is the power of the women of Cyprus,” Christopher said, noting that the theme of this year’s New York Greek Independence Parade, on April 14, is the 50th anniversary of the illegal and brutal invasion and continuing occupation of Cyprus with many commemoration events also planned, including the PSEKA Conference in Washington, DC, and demonstrations.

“LGK which is a nonprofit organization, that’s been doing all these films, is going to help bring people together and to bring the message that the Republic of Cyprus should be reunified,” he said. “One of the women said I want all the refugees to go back to their homes, the Turkish-Cypriots, Greek-Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites, should all go back to their homes and villages, and that is the future of Cyprus.”

Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations President Kyriacos Papastylianou. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Panikos Panayiotou in his remarks shared his family’s story, noting how his father had gone to work in England to pay off debts after a medical procedure and was planning to return to Cyprus the very week the invasion began. The family home was in the occupied area of Nicosia. Panayiotou noted that his father was also an artist and painted a picture of “the home he would never see again.” He then presented the painting as a gift to Philip Christopher.

Moe information about LGK Productions is available online: https://lgk.org.uk/productions/.

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