Sid Ganis, the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and one of Hollywood’s most respected executives has announced his attachment to a short film project about the survival of the Jewish community of Zakynthos during the Holocaust.
Ganis made the announcement via a video on YouTube.
Ganis, a former studio executive with five decades of experience in Hollywood including top leadership positions with LucasFilm, Paramount and Columbia, has also produced such films as Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, The Master of Disguise and the critically acclaimed Akeelah and the Bee.
From 2005 to 2009 he served as the President of the Academy, the organization best known for putting on the Academy Awards.
Ganis was drawn to the story of “No Man is an Island”— one he says he resonates with him both as a Greek, as well as a Jew. But above all, Ganis noted, it was neither of these elements that lead to his ultimate decision to get involved.
“This isn’t a story about ethnicity or religion. It’s a story of humanity,” Ganis says in the video where he announces his involvement.
Gregory Pappas, founder of the Greek America Foundation, and Steven Priovolos, are the main producers the film. The latter, a Greek-born Los Angeles-based cinematographer will also serve as the Director of Photography.
The dramatic short film will tell the story about a sleepy Greek Island during World War II, whose residents were faced with the ultimatum by the Nazi commander to hand over the island’s Jews. The story’s protagonists– Mayor Lucas Carrer and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos undertake what has been called, one of history’s most selfless acts of heroism.
Ganis will lend his expertise, as well as offer advice and support on how to overcome the challenges of shooting a complex period film in a foreign country.
Casting will take place in Greece in April 2014 and principal photography is scheduled to commence in the autumn of 2014, both on the island of Zakynthos, as well as in Hania, on the island of Crete. One of the challenges the filmmakers faced with locations had to do with the fact that nothing remains of World War II-era Zakynthos, since the island was destroyed during a series of earthquakes in the 1950s. Hania, however, still has an intact Jewish neighborhood and 15th-century synagogue and the architecture of the two islands was similar.
The producers have already visited Zakynthos, where they met local survivors who were part of the resistance that saved the Jewish population of the island. They also visited Tel Aviv and met Greek Jewish survivors from the island who relocated to Israel after the war.
The survivors’ testimony will serve as content for a parallel documentary project that will be filmed simultaneously that will share real stories from the people who lived during these epic times.