Filmmaker Harry Mavromichalis takes us up close and personal with his beautiful documentary about the late-great Olympia Dukakis.
Olympia is an intimate fly-on-the-wall verité documentary which tells a poignant story of a woman. One who found her own voice on her own terms to assert a gigantic creative force into the world. Olympia Dukakis models how to live life with blazing courage. She rebelled against her suspicious Greek mother to assert her strong sexual drive. She fought the feeling she was “too ethnic” in Boston. And she started her own theatre company in New Jersey instead of waiting for the phone to ring.
Olympia has an engrossing story that seamlessly blends past and present. Dukakis opens her heart and exposes her truest self to Harry Mavromichalis’ unobtrusive camera. The raw honesty with which Olympia leads us into the core of herself is what makes this film luminary. She shared the limelight with many actors. They include Laura Linney, Diane Ladd, Whoopi Goldberg, and Armistead Maupin who all testify for her. Olympia is “totally open and crazy”, which is what turns out to be the marker of her absolute sanity.
We see Dukakis exhibit both candor and vulnerability, we see her deal with age, grief and sexuality. Meanwhile, she opens up about her past struggles with depression, suicide and drug addiction. This is intimate portrait of a working class professional and a scholar actor of intuitive power. She was also a woman who the world loved. And this portrait culminates on the steps of the Dukakis’ humble ancestral home in Lesbos, Greece. Olympia has brutal honesty and sincerity. She compelled us to confront our own shortcomings and differences by letting go, and move forward with defiant conviction.
Dukakis’ television credits include: Big Driver, Sex & Violence, Forgive Me, Bored to Death, Last of the Blond Bombshells, Sinatra (Golden Globe Nominee), Joan of Arc (Emmy Nominee), Tales of the City, More Tales of the City (Emmy Nominee), Further Tales of the City among more than 40 others. She has performed in over 130 productions on and off-Broadway and regionally at theatres including the Public Theater, A.C.T., Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare & Co., and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where she also served as Associate Director.
Dukakis was a founding member and Producing Artistic Director of the Whole Theatre in Montclair, NJ, for 19 years; also a founding member of the Actor’s Company and the Charles Playhouse in Boston. She continues to teach acting at NYU and master classes for professional theatre companies, colleges, and universities across the country. The National Arts Club bestowed her Medal of Honor. And Los Angeles placed her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.
Olympia is Harry Mavromichalis’ directorial feature documentary debut and he is currently in post-production for Yankee Restraint; a character driven piece that examines the intricacies of a gay relationship. And that relationship spans decades and tackles issues of love and resentment. He had a long career as a modern dancer with his own dance company in New York. After that, he pursued a Masters in Film Directing from New York University. He wrote, directed and produced multiple short films, music videos and commercials. Harry is the curator of the inaugural LGBTQ Film Festival. He is also a key organizer of the historic first-ever Pride Parade in Cyprus which attracted over 4,000 attendees.
Olympia is available on Apple TV, Digital & ON Demand now.
Our Bonnie Laufer spoke with Harry Mavromichalis about how the documentary came together. They also talked about the precious time he got to spend with Olympia Dukakis her before she passed away.