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Freedom Besiege, a film by PanayiotiYannitsos, was shown as part of the Hot Docs Canadian International DocumentaryFestival at the Ted Rogers Theatre on October 6, 2019. Yannitsos who directedthe film and is one of its producers was present along another producer Mr. RobertPeck, Canada’s former ambassador to Greece.

Mr. Yannitsos and Mr. Peck spoke about the filmand accepted questions from the audience.

It has often been noted that Greece’s greatestbenefactors have been from the people that left it. In other words, the Greeksof the diaspora. From the businessmen who formed the Filiki Eteria in Odessaand laid the groundwork for The War of Independence to the Americans andCanadians of Greek descent who sent substantial aid to Greece in the 1940’s,Greeks have reached across oceans and continents to help the fatherland.

Panayiti Yannitsos is from British Columbia,about as far from Greece as you can get when you live in Canada. Hisgrandparents emigrated from southern Greece. At age 25, Yannitsos went back to Greeceto produce an extraordinary film about the Greek financial crisis and moreparticularly about Greek youth.

According to Mr. Yannitsos, the film was shot ona shoestring budget financed by the people. He noted that if he receivedfinancing from any source aside from ordinary people he would be accused ofslanting the film’s point of view to favour the donor. He had invited Greekpolitical leaders to speak on camera and all of them declined except KyriakosMitsotakis. He was the leader of the opposition at the time and Yannitsos wasaccused of favoring the New Democracy Party of which Mitsotakis is the leader.

If he wanted to shoot a film about Golden Dawn,the Greek neo-Nazi party or about Greco-Turkishrelations, said Yannitsos, he would have had no problem finding the money.About a different view of Greece and its youth? Forget it.

When the finances were almost drained completely,workers on the film had to sleep four to a room in cheap hotels, he told us. Accordingto Mr. Peck, he learned about the film when it was under way and was so impressedthat he joined the team as a producer.

In his remarks Yannitsos addressed the other viewof Greece, the one that the film espouses, one of hope in individual commitmentand youth that may make all the difference. Political solution seems unlikelybut the people he showed, especially John, another Canadian, may make a hugedifference. He returned to Greece to organize and run basketball camps in hisvillage for two months every summer. John is a true inspirer, a dedicated manbuilding confidence and the joy of teamwork in the young. He is accused of preparingto become mayor of the little village, Yannitsos told us, and nothing canconvince some villagers that he has no such ambition. At one time John had tochoose between paying his electricity bill and buying trophies for the players.He had a dark house for a while, Mr. Yannitsos told us.

The film will be shown in Athens in mid-Novemberand Yannitsos said that he has invited Greek political leaders again and is notsure if anyone will show up. If they don’t, they will miss a damn good show.

October 11, 2019

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