Ed Askinazi wasn't sure if the Alexandria International Film Festival was for him.
"I initially wasn’t going to submit anything to it, because I figured it would be films about our community in Alexandria," he said. "But a friend encouraged me, and apparently they’re showing work from filmmakers that are local, too."
Askinazi relocated to Alexandria in 2004, but his family is rooted in New York City; specifically, a neighborhood on Manhattan's Lower East Side that was once a thriving community of Greek Jews. Askinazi's documentary film "The Last Greeks on Broome Street" deals with that dwindling ethnic community and its traditions.
"It’s about a community in New York City that’s been disappearing; a community that my family’s been connected to for four generations," said Askinazi, whose great-grandparents were founding members of the community nearly 80 years ago. "It’s about the disapperances of communities in America — what happens when they assimilate, and the price of that assimilation. The loss of culture in that process."
In the film, showing Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the Madison Building, Askinazi takes his father back to that community for the first time in 40 years. Together they explore the "Romaniotes" culture — a branch of Judaism that has connected generations of their family. The Kehila Kedosha Janina synogouge, the only Romaniote synagogue in America, acts as that community's hub.
Askinazi said his film speaks to universal themes for any ethnic group.
"It’s true with so many different ethnic groups: You have a first generation of immigrants that come here and form a very tight community. Within one or two generations, those communities start to scatter and disperse," he said.
Askinazi, who is also volunteering at the Film Festival, counts many directors as influences. But while he admires filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, he's a bigger fan of the documentary format.
"Quite often, documentary is the most interesting work being done. Filmmakers can tell very personal stories, and they can introduce audiences to very interesting places they haven’t seen before around the world," he said.
Visit www.lastgreekthemovie.com for more about his film, and e-mail Askinazi at firstname.lastname@example.org.