Greek Film Festival in Sydney screens documentary on Nelson Mandela’s lawyer George Bizos

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“You either succumb or you fight back” – These are the words audience members were left with on Sunday, October 22 from revered human rights lawyer, George Bizos, who defended Nelson Mandela during the relentless apartheid regime in South Africa.

On Sunday afternoon, empty seats turned full at Palace Cinema Norton Street in Leichardt, Sydney as a large crowd watched the official premiere in Australia of the documentary, George Bizos ICON.

The screening was part of this year’s Greek Film Festival in Sydney and was organised by the Greek Festival of Sydney, proudly supported by Bank of Sydney, and in collaboration with the Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association of NSW.

cinema
The cinema was full of people to watch the new film on George Bizos. All photos copyright: The Greek Herald / Pamela Rontziokos.

The screening was followed by a Q+A hosted by Themi Kallos and George Georgiou who, alongside his brother, Basil Georgiou, provided generous funds to help produce the documentary.

“It was a privilege for me to be invited to participate in the movie,” Georgiou told The Greek Herald on the day. “George Bizos was a man of sacrifice, and a very courageous man to fight a political system.” 

During the Q+A, Georgiou spoke about how Bizos was always wise, never impulsive, and a very thoughtful lawyer. He added how the Greek community dealt with the apartheid regime, saying many generally steered away from politics.

George Bizos movie
The George Bozos documentary launched as part of this year’s Greek Film Festival. Photo: Supplied.

“The Greeks with their commercial instincts concentrated on being successful and were not involved in the politics of the apartheid,” he told the audience. “There were very few who were activists against the apartheid regime and George was one of them.”

The 90-minute documentary gave audiences an insight into Bizos’ personal life and how he migrated from a remote part of Greece in 1927 to South Africa as a teenager.

Audiences learned that Bizos would struggle to attain a South African passport, opened a South African Hellenic Educational and Technical Institute known as SAHETI in 1974, and also saw archive videos of the lawyer with his family in South Africa and Greece.

George Bizos movie
Official guests at the screening.

Bizos represented numerous black activists including Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela accused in the 1963 Rivonia Trial, which was known as one of South Africa’s most influential trials.

Scheduled to attend the event was George Bizos’ son, Alexis Bizos, and the creator of the documentary, Jane Thandi Lipman, however the pair were unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances.

Maree Andresakis attended the screening and told The Greek Herald the film “was fantastic.” The 31-year-old from Sydney said that as a person with a legal background, the film was a “good way” to understand the work Bizos did in South Africa as a barrister.

“It was really touching and really moving,” she said. “That story of being a migrant and making your way in a new country is something we can all relate to.”

audience members at movie premiere
Maree Andresakis attended the screening and told The Greek Herald the film “was fantastic.”

She said the family aspect of the film was a highlight, where even though the children grew up in South Africa, they still felt inherently Greek.

In attendance at the screening was the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Yannis Mallikourtis; the Chair of the Greek Festival of Sydney, Nia Karteris; members of the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOCNSW); and many other members of the Greek Australian community.

The Greek Film Festival in Sydney is presented by the Greek Festival of Sydney and the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW, proudly supported by Bank of Sydney. This year’s screenings will return to Leichhardt’s Palace Norton Street Cinema from 19 to 29 October 2023. For more details visit: https://greekfilmfestival.com.au/sydney.

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