Alexandria Sightings – Ed Askinazi: Last Greek standing

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The assimilation of immigrants into the overall American fabric is a double-edged sword. Ethnic group members become a part of a society in order to succeed, yet, somewhere in that process, succeed in losing their own uniqueness to the greater cu

lture. 

Local documentary filmmaker Ed Askinazi explores this dilemma in The Last Greeks on Broome Street, his very personal tale of New York Citys Greek Jews, a culture that once thrived in Manhattans Lower East Side. Ed will be presenting his film at the Alexandria International Film Festival on Sunday, Sept. 30 (call 703-838-6348 or go to www.alexandriacommissionforthearts.org for time and location). 

Who better to tell the story of the dwindling number of Romaniotes with its own language, food, and customs than a man whose great-grandparents helped build this community eighty years ago?

In my mind, this film is about the price of that assimilation, explains Askinazi, an Alexandria resident since 2004 and a producer/editor for local PBS affiliate WETA-TV in Arlington.  

This is the story of so many immigrant groups. Whether its a good or bad thing depends on who you talk to and your perspective. But for better or for worse, this is what happens in America Perhaps individuals or even individual families are better off; maybe theyre now living in a big house in the suburbs instead of with 10 people sharing a tenement apartment. But, whats lost in turn is the original culture and what bound this community together in the first place.

The pursuit of the American dream shaped Askinazis own family experience, as Eds grandparents left the Broome Street neighborhood for (literally) greener pastures of Brooklyn when his father was a teenager. The 28-minute film recounts the sixty-year-old patriarchs first homecoming in almost forty years.

In some important ways, Eds film answers the question why have an international film festival? explains AIFF coordinator Patti North-Rudin. Its a glimpse into another world few of us would ever see were it not brought to us. Though Ed happens to be a local filmmaker, his work is emblematic of the kind the selection committee was looking for.

A personal touch
I discovered this special community when I was in my 30s, replies the forty-five-year-old Long Island native when asked why he wanted to make this film (which can be purchased on DVD at www.lastgreeksthemovie.com

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