The untold story of the Greek Holocaust.
Paragraph Synopsis: More than 60,000 Greek Jews perished in the Nazi concentration camps, and yet in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Greek Jewish wartime experience was relegated to an attic of denial and neglect. Following Shira's Journey uncovers a sorely neglected and tragic aspect of Jewish history, featuring interviews with Holocaust survivors, second and third generation survivors, and other community members, all of whom are fighting to keep their tradition and culture alive.
Current Status: Completed and on festival circuit.
Writer: Carol Gordon
Director: Carol Gordon & Natalie Cunningham
Editor: Natalie Cunningham
Producer: Carol Gordon for Shira Productions
Distributor: International distribution through JMT Films
About the directors: CAROL GORDON is a Melbourne-based writer and filmmaker. Training as a film editor in South Africa and working in the film and television industry there for many years, Carol moved to Australia with her family in 1995. With an Honours Degree in Communication (Media Studies), Carol has completed several courses through the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.
Carol Gordon has devoted more than twenty years to the research of the history of Greece’s Jewish communities and their near-destruction during the Holocaust. Carol is looking forward to presenting the Shira’s Journey project to local and international audiences of all ages, and sharing the all too unknown history of these once vibrant and dynamic communities.
NATALIE CUNNINGHAM is an award-winning writer and director based in Melbourne, Australia. She is focused on engaging and inspiring storytelling and has an affinity for creating works that explore cultural diversity and celebrate difference. Completing her studies at the Victorian College of the Arts (MA Film and Television 2013), Natalie’s films have screened at festivals including Palm Springs International ShortFest, Melbourne International Film Festival and Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
Looking for: Australian distribution, buyers, media interest and funding for DVD release.
Congratulations! Why did you decide to make this film?
(Carol): I had been researching this topic of the Jews of Greece for over twenty five years and my passion and interest in the story continued to grow. I believed that a good way to tell this untold story was to make a documentary on the subject. I traveled to Greece with a small crew including our project photographer Emmanuel T. Santos who captured some remarkable still images throughout the shoot.
Why is it called Following Shira’s Journey?
(Carol): Shira is the name of the fictional character in the screenplay that I wrote about the Jews of Greece and their Holocaust history. The documentary follows the journey that this character experiences in the screenplay.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Following Shira’s Journey tells a story of a two thousand year old community that is almost completely decimated during the Second World War. This is a story of human brutality and human survival. Watching this film will open up an unknown piece of history that is sad yet enlightening and optimistic at the same time. The lessons learned by watching this film are very relevant to the conflicts we all face in the modern world.
How did you find the main characters?
Connecting with survivors and their families took several years. It was a slow process assisted by various cultural organisations and individuals across Australia, Greece and the US who helped to point us in the right direction.
I’m grateful to many good friends including Marcia Ikonomopoulos, museum director at the Kehila Kedosha Janina synagogue in New York and also to the wonderful people at the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece who played a key role in connecting us with participants.
There were also so many generous and helpful people within each of the Greek Jewish communities we visited. As word spread about the documentary, we gradually had more people reach out to us and express their desire to help and take part.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback from every screening held has been extremely positive and in many cases, deeply moving. Audiences have reported that they definitely learn something they knew nothing about before. In 2015 we screened the film at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in Greece and it was very special to bring the film back to Greece for its international premiere.
This was followed by community screenings in the cities of Larissa and Athens, and audiences took great interest in the film and the research that went into it. We were joined by various participants at our screenings in Greece and this was a very moving and powerful experience.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The intensity of the feedback has often been surprising and sometimes challenging – especially in Q and A sessions. At our world premiere in Melbourne and Sydney at the Greek Film Festival in 2014, several Greek audience members shared recollections of losing many Jewish friends during WWII.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
We still have work to do to edit all the valuable interviews and community profiles gathered during the shoot. This rare and precious footage needs to be preserved and put into a format that can be used by educational institutions, museums and cultural organisations.
We are hoping that by having the film on this platform, we will be able to garner support to complete the project.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify the message of this film?
The Project would benefit greatly by having buyers, sales agents and journalists on board in order to maximize the message and scope of this film.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
We would like this film to be used to make a difference in the world. The message of the film is about the horror of Genocide and we hope that the film will influence people to think more deeply about this subject and the fact that there are potential or actual genocides happening all over the world with very little action from the rest of the world.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this film?
What would YOU do to stop this from happening again?
What are the directors working on now?
The directors are working on several different projects and in particular, a documentary about another untold story of World War II.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This entire project has been independently produced and financed and it would be of great benefit to the Project to create new avenues of interested people or organisations. We would like to extend our thanks to all who have supported the project thus far and encourage people to follow our project on the film’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FollowingShirasJourney and on Twitter @shirasjourney.