I had the honor of meeting Panayioti Yannitsos from Vancouver a few years ago— a young Greek Canadian filmmaker who was participating in the Greek America Foundation’s short film contest with a film by fellow-Canadian Demetri Douzenis that he helped make called “O Tharraleos” or “The Courageous One.” I’ve maintained a friendship with Panayioti since meeting him and experiencing his passion and enthusiasm for filmmaking and for expressing his Greekness through film.
During my winter holidays this year in Crete, where I decided to bring my mom to spend time with her sisters, after being apart for many years, one thing struck me. That the most cherished memories I will hold on to forever from this trip will be the simple experiences I had— listening to her reminisce with her sisters about their childhood in Hania… The stories about my grandparents… and watching my two aunts help my struggling mother out of her chair.
I received an email from Panayioti while I was here— announcing his latest short film that he shot in Greece last year— a film that chronicles life and the “Grecian cycle of life” in his tiny ancestral village of Kiveri. I finally got a chance to watch the film— a beautiful love story to his past, to his family, and to the tiny village that played such an important role in his own development— even from thousands of miles away from his own birthplace in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
I don’t want to describe the film, or even share the synopsis. I’m a believer that the story must be told through the story… One scene, however, will stay with me forever. On Easter Sunday, Panayioti’s family had gathered for the Easter feast and his grandfather is seen— for a few split seconds— offering his brother a drink through a straw. Panayioti’s great uncle is elderly and ill yet the family insists on including him in the day’s celebrations.
As I now face a very personal situation with the declining health of my own mother, I can’t get that simple image out of my mind– of Panayioti’s grandfather, feeding his elderly brother with the straw, and the significance, yet simplicity, of that moment. It helped me realize that the simple moments— past and the ones that I create from here on, will be those to cherish.
And remember to cherish the simple things in life.
Congrats Panayioti for this beautiful expression of your commitment to preserving our rich, Greek heritage.
On a side note: The man being fed, Kosta Hasapis, is Panayioti’s great-uncle (brother of his grandfather). He passed away during the editing of the film and Panayioti dedicated the film to him. Panayioti’s grandfather, Nikos Hasapis (the man feeding) now lives in Canada and watches the film several times a day to remember his brother.