Apr 23, 2014

Cross-culture Orthodox movie: THE PRIEST SAN

THE PRIEST SAN is the latest film by Pyotr Mamonov, the actor who played Fr Anatoly in the famous Orthodox feature, OSTROV: The Island.

In this film, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (an actor who’s appeared in many films and TV shows in the US, including Star Trek: Next Gen and Heroes) plays Fr Nicholas, an Orthodox priest in Tokyo and the brother of a powerful Yakuza clan leader. Fr Nicholas saves a girl which brings his brother into conflict and an inevitable clan war. With Fr Nicholas in mortal danger, he’s sent to serve in a small village in rural Russia, but upon arriving discovers the people have some major problems to deal with. The village has been sold to a major developer and now authorities are forcing the people off their land. Fr Nicholas unites the villagers around the dilapidated church with the hopes of restoring the community and brining about peace.

The idea for the film was inspired by the history of the Orthodox Church in Japan and the story of the first Japanese convert. The film is a ‘coming full circle’ story, showing how the planting of good seed (Orthodoxy) in Japan comes to fruition and returns back to Russia in the form of a Japanese priest to combat evil there.

Thank-you to Elena Timofeeva for bringing this story to the attention of OFA and translating it into English.


The filmmaker behind Papou

Papou is an indie film by first-time director Michael Angelo Zervos, a Greek Orthodox Christian in the USA. He talks about his feature, life and challenges of working in Hollywood.

Written by Chris Vlahonasios
Edited by Kyri Fuss

“If a story sounds good, I'll consume it”, the words of Michael Angelo Zervos. A young filmmaker and founder of Mother and Midwife Pictures, a film production company based in Detroit, Michigan. He is also the creator of Papou, Zervos’ first feature-length which tells the story of a young boy dealing with the reality of losing his grandfather to cancer and his quest to live forever. For Zervos, Papou is the product of many long, hard years of working in the film industry, and a successful crowd-funding campaign.

Born in Michigan, Zervos was educated at Northville High School. He spent a year at the University of Michigan studying business management before transferring to Grand Valley State University to complete the degree. Although his intent was to work at his family's insurance agency, his interest in film production beckoned him to pursue additional schooling and in 2012, he attained a second degree in Fiction Filmmaking at Grand Valley. Zervos then moved to Hollywood to work as an intern at two companies, Anonymous Content and The Cimarron Group. It was then after this period of invaluable industry experience that he decided to take a leap of faith and make his first feature.

Inspired by the work of Stanley Kubrick, Coen brothers and P.T Anderson, just to name a few, Zervos is more interested in original stories than copying something done before. As in Papou, Zervos sees all his works as exploring important thematic truths. When asked about this aspect of his work he said:
“I never push themes onto story but rather if a story has a natural synergy with said themes, they are simply absorbed into it.”

Zervos wants to make films that encourage the audience to “seek truth rather than distraction”. Zervos films are about engaging with the audience and hopefully achieving his goal of creating a lasting and meaningful conversation enabling the audience to question their own lives, and this is reflected in Papou.

The idea for the film came from Zervos’ own observations of the death of his own grandfather, as experienced by his younger siblings. Zervos, like all Orthodox Christians, sees death as a time of reflection and prayer, but ultimately a time of joy, as the departed loved one has joined God. In Papou, Zervos expands and explores this grieving process. In the film, the grandfather reveals to his family that he has been diagnosed with cancer, but decides not to tell his grandson, Demetri. The grandson begins to ponder ways that he and his grandfather might be able to live forever together. Through the eyes of Demetri, a young boy with a wild imagination, we watch as he grapples with his own mortality.

As a Greek Orthodox Christian, working in the film industry has had its challenges. Since entering the competitive world of filmmaking and harsh-reality of Hollywood, Zervos sees constant conflict between Faith and film.
“People of Faith have had a hard time in Hollywood. They are often relegated to the outskirts, personae non gratae within The New Age Club. When they are portrayed in film, they are often [shown] extremely ridged, unchanging, uncompassionate people who find themselves at odds with more “likeable” characters. When they work in the industry, they cannot openly talk about [their Faith] without endangering their career, unless [it is] already established. Then it is viewed as a tolerated personality quirk (such as, Matt McConaughey or the hermit director Terrence Malik).”

However, despite the industry’s intolerant attitudes towards Christianity, Zervos still sees a bright future. He continues to work in the industry with the hope that one day he will obtain the position all directors strive for: uninhibited artistic freedom. Zervos, like many filmmakers, feels the film industry – like all creative industries – imposes too many creative restrictions and obstacles on the artist. Zervos hopes that one day he can break through these barriers. But Zervos is quite philosophical about the whole situation and even his reasons for becoming a filmmaker:
“One of the greatest challenges…is the balance between needing to create and wanting to create. We need to create because we need to eat, we need a roof over our heads…We want to create because it gives us meaning and allows us to express ourselves and engage with mankind. The two can and are often at odds with one another because what we need to create can be critically opposed to what want to create.”

When one watches the Papou trailer, without seeing the actual feature-length, one can tell it will be a powerful film. It deals with the emotional themes of terminal cancer, death, loss and grief all within a tight-knit Greek family. The fact that the film examines the process to losing a loved one through the eyes of a child will alter the audience’s perspective on how they view the topic of death.

Zervos hopes to distribute the film across the globe, and is now in the process of submitting to various film festivals.

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OFA blog would like to thank Michael Angelo Zervos for kindly giving up his time for this interview.
OFA wishes him every success in his film career and the launch of Papou.

To learn more about Zervos’ work, and to view the Papou trailer, click below:



Mar 19, 2014


Wake up!
The smell of beauty is wonderful
The Good is tasty and fulfilling
Wake up, open your windows, the smell of beauty can come in.

Clean out your heart, your head: make space.
Get rid off all this noise and nonsense.

I say it all the time, I’ll say it again.
Stop being silly
Open the door, open the windows, come outside.

Seek to be with the Good. No matter what, seek to be with the Good. When evil comes to sweep up and collect don’t let it count you as one of its.
When darkness comes be a light.
When death spills in, be a wall that protects an entire garden.

Make space in your life for Joy.
Clear the way for Goodness.

Cast your eyes upon the Beautiful.
Thereon incline your ears and heart.

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My inspiration for writing is the beauty and struggle of life. We work and we have hope; the hope makes joy; the joy makes labor a delight; and the rhythm of life become poetry. The air and the light embracing our neighborhoods becomes wonderful, and the myriad details of my life become worth knowing, and worth writing about. God our Creator made the world in an indescribable act of Poetry. Each corner and each moment is an act of Poetry.

How else could I respond to it? How else can I know the creation and engage with it? Is there any other way to participate? This is why I write. Because God made everything GOOD and I deeply desire to see it.

Thalia Zeniou – Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain


Mar 11, 2014

The Life & Love of the Woman

Performance by Christiana Aloneftis & Konrad Olszewski
Young Greek-Cypriot Australian soprano, Christiana Aloneftis, debuts for the first time at fortyfivedownstairs with concert pianist Konrad Olszewski.

Featuring music by Bellini, Piazzolla, Tchaikovsky and Gerswin with the centrepieces of the evening including Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and the Australian premiere of Manos Hatzidakis song cycle, Magnus Eroticus Op. 30 (1972).

The dynamic duo will take you on an eclectic journey through various repertoire which celebrate and define the woman, with particular attention paid to the rarely-performed and melancholic sounds of Greek Classical Art Song. Catch Christiana Aloneftis before she leaves our shores to study at the internationally-renowned La Scala in Milan.

Date: Thursday 27 March @ 7.30pm
Duration: approx. 75 mins (incl. interval)
    • Full $30
    • Concession $25

Online tickets: click here to buy