“Tha Sou Po Tin Alitheia”: Authenticity and truthful storytelling

As a Greek-Australian, I believe our stories are important and can be a narrative for our migration, and settlement.
Image of director Cam Mitchell and myself on set of ‘Porcelain’. Photo: Supplied Image of director Cam Mitchell and myself on set of ‘Porcelain’. Photo: Supplied

Not long ago, my pappou passed away at the age of 92. He left us as many did during these COVID times – in a hospital bed, away from loved ones, alone.

We sometimes fail to appreciate the gravity of this ‘new normal’ in our country. The period of isolation arguably bred a form of depression unprecedented in human history. We are social creatures, and therefore to deprive the human spirit of familial bonds and community is – quite bluntly – a pernicious recipe for creating hell. We can only do what is within our power to change, and in the case of my pappou, we did absolutely everything we could to ensure his departure from this world was peaceful.

My grandfather was diagnosed with COVID after many spouts of dizziness and shortness of breath at home. He was brought into hospital and eventually developed a terminal case of pneumonia.

His memory lives on for eternity. All the times we shared with him, the laughs and the tears, will all be cherished. But what else lives on? What constitutes my grandfather’s legacy? Is it his house, the life provided for his children and grandchildren, is it the village he left behind so many years ago – is it all these things?

Yes, indeed, it is all these things; but there is something more. Something far more foundational, I believe, that made my pappou who he was.


Image of my pappou, Dimitri, dancing on a table during a function. Photo: Supplied
Image of my pappou, Dimitri, dancing on a table during a function. Photo: Supplied

When he felt something deeply, he expressed it openly. When something was on his mind, he never hesitated to speak boldly.

No matter who was at his door, he welcomed them with open arms. When music began playing, no matter the occasion, he leapt up and danced.

No matter his financial situation, nothing could stop him from slipping a 50-dollar note into his grandchildren’s pockets.

This was the driving force of his personality. A genuine and abiding enthusiasm for everything around him – his wife, his family, his neighbour.

How do we honour a man such as my grandfather, now that he is gone? Well, we relay memories, we share photos and we keep him in our prayers. However, this can only bring us so far.

His spirit must live on in the raw, reality-driven, new stories we create.

As an actor and filmmaker, I firmly believe that the most impactful films are those that reveal the truth of things.

This emphasis on authenticity resonates with audiences as we know, deep down, that we are not being taken advantage of. We don’t want life to be sugar-coated, rather there resides within the human soul a desire to tackle the complexity of existence head-on.

This form of storytelling takes courage. It takes bravery to enter into the suffering of humanity and transform it into something marvellous. The best films, in my opinion, attempt to do this.

Image of my pappou, Dimitri, dancing on a table during a function. Photo: Supplied
Image of my pappou, Dimitri, dancing on a table during a function. Photo: Supplied

For example, it would be easy to shy away from the pain associated with my pappou’s passing, but in the end, we would be missing out on an opportunity to grow deeper in our relationship with tragedy and death. Ultimately, we would be hiding from the truth.

Very recently, I co-produced a film with OneHouse Productions called “Porcelain” by director Cam Mitchell. The narrative follows the life of a young Vietnamese immigrant named Hanh, who along with her family, struggles to adapt to her new environment down under. It explores the themes of reconciliation and belonging, while the compassion of our protagonist shines through as the plot develops.

The film itself is based on the experiences of our director’s mother upon her arrival in Australia. On set, each scene felt immensely important, knowing that we weren’t simply telling a story – but representing someone’s real, lived experience.

This may sound pretentious, but there was no embellishment involved. It was art mirroring life, and hopefully once the film is completed, the final product will accurately reflect the love poured into this story.

As a Greek-Australian, I believe that stories in this vein are the way forward for preserving and continuing our culture. Historical, authentic, truthful storytelling – revealing the ups and downs of Greek-Australian life and the plight of our forefathers upon their immigration to the land of milk and honey. We won’t just stop there; every story needs an arc, a redemptive upturn that provides the audience with hope. This is where philotimo comes into play.

Let’s be real. Let’s be honest. Let’s not conceal our wounds, but rather by exposing them, they will be transfigured. Let’s give the next generation of ellinoaustraloi something to aspire to. Whoever wants to join me, I await with open arms.

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