Greek Americans have a tendency to wow at the celebrities and stars, “like” photos with famous actors and wealthy billionaires. We, like all of American society, marvel at celebrity, wealth and power. This is reflected in the awards we give, the people we recognize at our community functions and at organizations’ conventions.
Like anywhere else, celebrity attracts attention.
But allow me a moment to share a story about a team of REAL celebrities and real community heroes.
For a dozen years now Maria Nicolacakis, Kleon Skourtis and Katerina Mavroudi-Steck have been working tirelessly to share Greek films with the mainstream audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area via the San Francisco Greek Film Festival.
They’ve endured hundreds of hours of hard work, screening dozens upon dozens of films that have been submitted over the years and meeting after meeting, organizing and planning festival details— all for the benefit of Greek filmmakers and the general public.
Over the years they’ve also taken a few unnecessary hits here and there for so-called “controversial” films that have been selected to screen. Politically-charged films dating to the brutal Civil War in Greece when Greek fought Greek in a struggle for their nation’s future— and adult themes selections that some thought were too racy for the Greek American community.
They survived boycott attempts by certain elements of the community that didn’t agree with their selections and even boycotts of screenings by certain people and groups.
Yet they persist— and insist, again for the 12th consecutive year, in their efforts to bring almost 40 Greek-themes films to the American mainstream screen— some for the very first time.
In my opinion, Katerina, Maria and Kleon are among the real heroes, real celebrities of our community for the dedicated work they do and for their commitment to offer Greek filmmakers a chance to be seen and heard.
On both sides of the Atlantic, their impact is important. Some of the filmmakers from Greece have no other forum to share their art and message and on this side— Greek Americans and American audiences in the Bay Area would have no other place to watch films from Greece.
When I see a team like this, working so hard for a cause— the only thing I can do is smile, knowing that there are dedicated people who insist and persist, in order for their goals to be fulfilled.
The San Francisco Greek Film Festival started as a grass-roots movement of cinephiles and lovers of Greece. Today, thanks to Maria, Kleon and Katerina, it is one of the world’s major forums for Greek film expression with almost 40 films screening across 9 days in one of the biggest cities in the United States. No small feat.