Dean Metropoulos, Simon Kassianides, Marianne Metropoulos and Costas Mandylor, at London screening in February 2019.
Cliffs of Freedom, a true passion project for Executive Producer and Co-writer Marianne Metropoulos, a longtime member of Leadership 100 along with Dean Metropoulos also an Executive Producer of the film, was developed over several years as a story that would bring the Greek War for Independence alive for modern audiences. “As a proud Greek-American,” explains Metropoulos, “I wanted to produce a feature film depicting Greece’s fight for freedom after 400 years of occupation by the Ottoman Turks. This pivotal period in Greece’s history is less known to many, and it tells of the Greeks’ commitment and perseverance to achieve freedom or choose death rather than to live enslaved.”
The film opened in March in select theatres throughout the country. For current screenings, tickets and viewing, go to websites https://tickets.cliffsoffreedomfilm.com/ and http://www.cliffsoffreedomfilm.com/videos.
Cliffs of Freedom is the story of an ill-fated romance between a young Greek village girl and a conflicted Turkish officer during the dawn of the Greek War for Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. Twenty-year-old Anna Christina is smitten by Colonel Tariq, a rising star in the Turkish army who has growing doubts about his countrymen's brutal methods of governance, and who had once spared her life on a cliff-top when she was a child… but their budding romance brings tragedy to her family and her village. Swearing revenge against the Turks, Christina joins the Greek rebellion and inadvertently becomes a local symbol of the Greek resistance movement, inspiring her countrymen and attracting the ire of the Turks, who place a bounty on her head. Having believed that she could leave her feelings behind, Christina must face off against the man who still loves her and wants to keep her safe, but who has now been tasked with her capture. Their encounters and skirmishes inevitably lead to a tragic confrontation during a pivotal battle between the Greeks and Turks that will change the course of history.
Starring in the film are Tania Raymonde, Jan Uddin, Raza Jaffrey, with Patti LuPone and Christopher Plummer. It is directed by Van Ling, written by Van Ling and Marianne Metropoulos & Kevin Bernhardt and produced by Casey Cannon and Marianne Metropoulos. It is an Aegean Entertainment Production.
Set during the Greek War for Independence against the Ottoman Empire, Cliffs of Freedom blends ageless themes of hope, love and sacrifice with a timely narrative about one woman’s struggle to overcome oppression and shape her own destiny. An epic adventure in the tradition of Dr. Zhivago, Braveheart and The Last of the Mohicans, the film leverages historical context to pose contemporary questions about the meaning of family, the limits of patriotism, the dangers of intolerance and the price of freedom. “The two most important elements of my story,” says Metropoulos, “are the love and loyalty given to family; to honor their memory even at the cost of one’s own future happiness, and to realize and accept that even historic enemies can bridge religious, cultural and language differences which separate and drive hatred and war.”
Following the lengthy script development period, Metropoulos enlisted a seasoned team of entertainment industry talents to realize the sweeping story as a feature motion picture in the classic Hollywood tradition. “After meeting with various producers,” says Metropoulos, “I found a producing partner in Casey Cannon, who had the experience, ability, determination, and shared the vision that I had, to bring this story to the screen.”
Along with veteran producer Cannon, the production brought aboard co-writer and director Van Ling, whose over thirty years’ experience in movies, including nearly a decade working with legendary filmmaker James Cameron, made him uniquely suited to translate Metropoulos’ story into a compelling film narrative. “I was impressed with Van’s command of storytelling,” she says. “Along with his visual ideas and his many years of experience in the film industry, I appreciated his enthusiasm for the project and his understanding of how I wanted the story to be portrayed on film. I credit both Casey and Van with bringing my ‘passion project’ to life.”
“One of the things that drew me to Cliffs of Freedom was the opportunity to do something different,” says Ling. “When modern audiences think of Greek portrayals in movies it’s usually in terms of ancient gods or Spartans battling it out, or as a family-centric comedy a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Mamma Mia. Other than a few pictures made specifically for the Greek cinema, the critical period of the nineteenth century hasn’t been explored to any significant extent. As a filmmaker, it was my goal to do so in a way that would be compelling and accessible to both Greek and international audiences.”
Cannon agrees, pointing out that “our characters span both sides of the cultural divide between Greeks and Turks. To varying degrees, they struggle with the same issues we all do: innocence vs. naiveté, selflessness vs. selfishness, love vs. hatred, trust vs. suspicion, faith vs. superstition, loyalty vs. betrayal. Like in real life, our characters are layered with doubts and contradictions that make them vulnerable and human.”
Although Cliffs of Freedom is a historical drama set in Greece, the film represents a uniquely American production. Shot almost entirely in New Mexico, it features an international cast and crew. “The goal,” says Ling, “was to keep the bulk of the production work in the United States while portraying a relatively modern period of Greek history in a way that would be accessible to contemporary American audiences.” In its own indie-film way, Cliffs of Freedom is meant to be an homage to classic Hollywood epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Gone with the Wind. “The Greeks are a proud and passionate people,” Ling notes, “so it felt fitting to match that level of drama to capture the spirit of Greece in that period in history.”
As Cannon observes, “In our post- modern culture of self-reference, cynicism and irony, a more traditional ‘Hollywood’ approach distinguishes our story as something refreshing and unexpected.” Filled with romance, emotion, tragedy, epic battles and true patriotism, Cliffs of Freedom is a sweeping adventure that captures the spirit of Greece during a tumultuous time in its history.