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article imageFilm-maker talks about Greek youth documentary 'Freedom Besieged' Special

By Markos Papadatos     Aug 4, 2018 in Entertainment
Award-winning Canadian-Greek film-maker Panayioti Yannitsos chatted with Digital Journal about his Greek youth documentary "Freedom Besieged."
On the idea for his Greek youth documentary, Yannitsos said, "I was having dinner years ago in central Athens with some of my friends, all in their late teens and early twenties. It was 2015. That summer, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned in August and then was sworn back in a month later. The nation was reeling economically and despite the euphoria usually brought on by the summer months, Greece was in a dark and confusing place."
"At dinner, I remember discussing next year's plans with my friends," Yannitsos said. "Schools, jobs, goals, and dreams. I remember one of my friends laughing and telling me: 'We don't talk about the future anymore. Let's stop wasting our time.' And the table kept laughing. The future was a joke. That's when I knew I needed to make a film that stated otherwise. And so I began searching for those stories that provided light in the darkness. Two years later, here we are."
He shared that Freedom Besieged will premiere in Athens after the summer and continue on to the rest of Europe, Canada, the United States and Australia. "I am producing several new projects in the United States and Canada as well as developing a new documentary taking place in Jerusalem," he said.
Inspirations and advice for aspiring film-makers
When asked what inspires his film-making, Yannitsos responded, "This constant quest in my life to find undiscovered stories of wisdom and create intuitive ways to shine a bright light on the unknown corners of the human experience. Illuminating the darkness. Even though this journey can be painful to endure, I feel as though cinema has a responsibility to provide audiences a path towards self-awareness and the analysis of the 'why' behind who we are. This path carries no end, which inspires me the most."
For aspiring film-makers, he said, "Don't wait for someone to open the door for your project to get made. It seems simple but a lot of great ideas spend an eternity in development hell waiting for someone else to validate their worth. Get used to you being the only one who realizes your projects worth, and go out there and make it on a shoe-string. The entire world of cinema has been blown wide open and is more accessible to the independent filmmaker than ever in the medium's history."
"Go build your reputation," he added. "In my opinion, the greatest currency you can have in this business is your ability to see ideas through to the end. The industry will see that and those doors will open but you need to be the first one to help yourself."
Digital transformation of the film and entertainment business
On the impact of technology on the film and entertainment business, Yannitsos said, "Technological leaps in cinema do wonders for a filmmaker's ability to tell the story they want to tell in the most enthralling way possible. The 'vehicles' we use to communicate a story have taken all sorts of twists and turns along with the ways in which we distribute our programs. The tools needed to create an A-list project and share it with millions of people across the world are more accessible now than they have ever been."
Yannitsos continued, "As an international documentarian, I am always trying to find someone. Social media in itself has given me intimate access to people half-way across the world and bridging this gap of communication has become instant. This is a priceless advantage for my development process when building a narrative. All of this development from a technical standpoint only amplifies an audiences requirement for great stories. The cinema world is a saturated one with endless content of all genres, but exceptional stories told by truly dedicated craftsmen and women will always separate from the pack."
On his use of technology in his daily routine as a film-maker, Yannitsos said, "The entire craft today is dependent on a film-maker's relationship with the technology needed to tell a great story and distribute a great story. Although a great story will always be king, technological advancement in cinema is a path that is intimately woven through my story-telling process on a daily basis. From the tools we develop projects with to the gear we produce it with. It is about shortening the gap between that which exists in a storytellers imagination and what is possible for the audience to experience."
For his fans and viewers, Yannitsos said, "Greece today finds itself at yet another crossroads: politically, economically, and socially. The one question we, as Greeks, haven't asked ourselves for a long time is: 'Who are we?' I have spent two years making a film about those who have begun to ask this question and present it to future generations. Greece needs to modernize its state and the beginning of that journey is answering who we are as Greeks in the modern age."
Greek-American community in the United States
On his concluding thoughts on the Greek-American community in the United States, he said, "The Greek diaspora in the United States and around the world hold communities full of incredible people, many of whom love the country immensely and have shown it through their preservation of the Greek culture and philanthropy from oceans away. Having said that, I find that in recent years there has been a divide between what Greece is in the minds of the diaspora and what it is in the minds of those living in the country on a daily basis."
Yannitsos continued, "On one hand, native Greeks have not done enough in the modern era to utilize the diaspora community, which numbers in the millions. To be frank, I find that many members of the diaspora community do not trust the ruling systems of Greece and in turn keep an arm's length away from engaging to their fullest potential in business, development. On the other hand, I find that diaspora communities are in places out of touch with the real issues that are important to Greeks on the ground."
"Greeks in the country today are hesitant to engage with the diaspora because they do not feel like a collective front going through a common struggle," he added. "There is us and then there is them. This is a crisis of identity unto itself. I have a humble and sincere hope that this film can assist in closing this gap because simply: we are better together."
To learn more about the documentary, check out their GoFund Me campaign.
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