Saturday, May 16, 2020

Interview With Yelena Popovic, Director of the Upcoming Film about Saint Nektarios, titled "Man of God"

In the video below is an interview with Director Yelena Popovic, with updates on her upcoming film about Saint Nektarios titled "Man of God". Currently it is in pre-production, although they were scheduled to be in production back in March, but due to the coronavirus outbreak production had to be temporarily halted, with hopes of resuming by the end of May. The video interview is followed by an essay she wrote on why she is doing the film. Then there are some photos with the star of the film, Aris Servetalis, who will play Saint Nektarios, at a talk he did in Greece back in December.

Why I am Doing a Film for Saint Nektarios

By Yelena Popovic

I was born in Belgrade to Serbian parents. We didn’t go to church. When I set out for a better life to a land of milk and honey I asked God to protect me and guide me on my path. Even though I believed in God I didn’t know who Jesus Christ was, who Panagia was, basically I didn’t know anything about the Orthodox Christian faith. I was 17 when I went to America and after the birth of my first son at the age of 25 in Los Angeles I discovered our Orthodox Faith and the Church became a big part of my life. As I was new to Church I began reading a lot of books on saints for they gave me strength, courage and faith to live and fight. Even though I enjoyed reading about them I never thought that I would make a film about a saint. I wrote scripts and wanted to make films to share light, to give hope to people, to help those who suffer, but I never had a story of a saint on my mind to make into a movie. In the summer of 2012 I read about Saint Nektarios. Like any other story about a saint it was a beautiful and powerful story but there was something about his story that resonated within me, there was something that I understood on a very personal level and had to share it, and I thought that his story would make a good film especially in the times we live in. In the summer of 2013 I visited Greece and his Monastery in Aegina with a synopsis of the story and I asked him to bless it. I came back to Aegina in 2014 with a script and did the same. In 2015 I told Abbot Paisios and Elder Ephraim of St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona that I wanted to make a film about Agios Nektarios. With their blessing I came to Greece in June of 2016 and started to work on the film.

At that time a wonderful actor and a friend Rade Serbedzija was attached to play the role of Saint Nektarios. As I started my journey in Greece actor Manos Gavras introduced me to Costas Lambroupolos and Costas joined the team in 2017.

Originally I tried to get funding from the Greek Film Center with Serbia and Croatia being co-producers, but unfortunately GFC denied to fund the film. Finally I got private funding and started pre-production in June of this year. The filming is scheduled for the beginning of 2020 and the theatrical release worldwide is set for November of 2020 which will mark 100 years from the repose of Saint Nektarios.

The film is going to be shot in English for a global audience. Aris Servetalis will play Saint Nektarios and I am extremely pleased that he will portray the saint as I feel that he is the best possible choice for the part. Tonia Sotiropoulou will play the nun Maria and Marthilia Svarna will play the nun Euphemia. We are also casting other roles with international actors.

I was disappointed to see that some Greek tabloids mentioned the names of Mr. Hanks and Mrs Aniston amongst others as they have no connection with this film. We have not confirmed any international actors as of yet but once they are cast I would be happy to share the information. This film in particular is a project that shouldn’t be promoted by its cast level, as the biggest star of this film is Saint Nektarios himself and his story alone is the power that should and will drive this film forward.

We are going to shoot the entire movie in Greece. I am very excited to work with our DOP (Director of Photography) Simos Sarketzis.

This story will naturally resonate with Orthodox Christian and other Christian audiences, but what I like the most about it, what prompted me to write and direct this film is that the story of Saint Nektarios will resonate with everyone.

In December of 2019 at the Church of Saint George in Nea Ionia, Aris Servetalis spoke to the parishioners about his upcoming role as Saint Nektarios in the film "Man of God". Among the things he said were the following:

"People in general have weaknesses. What comforts in the Church is that we recognize our weaknesses and we ask our Creator to strengthen us."

When asked about his relationship with God, he said:

"My relationship with God is personal. God approaches you at your own pace, slowly, and there lies absolute freedom. Only God can create a being and make it so free that it can deny Him. It is a unique and majestic thing and there you realize what freedom means. We have not yet learned what Orthodoxy means. Most people think that the Church is conservative. Orthodoxy is so subversive that we cannot comprehend it. The Church is freedom."

To the question of how he got to know God, he replied:

"God is a Master. It is enough that you seek to find Him. If you find Him, He won't let you go. The most difficult thing is getting to know yourself. If you begin within yourself it is a revolutionary path. We are people with passions, which are tied to our evolution. The only way to get rid of them is to get in touch with our Manufacturer."

Asked about playing Saint Nektarios, he said:

""You do not play Saint Nektarios. The Saint is alive! You just allow it."