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Journey to a new land is personal story

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nick Gaitatjis writes from life experiences.

It’s no wonder the screenwriter and director looked to his personal experience for inspiration for his film “Without Borders.”

“I was on my own personal journey from Greece and I felt like this was a story to tell,” Gaitatjis explains. “It took me a couple years to write but I think that it came out really well.”

If you go
WHAT: “Without Borders” screening and filmmaker’s reception
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5
WHERE: New Mexico History Museum auditorium, 113 Lincoln Ave. in Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: $30 at or Plaza Cafe Southside, 3466 Zafarano, or Santa Fe Film Festival Office, 60 W. San Francisco, Suite 307

The film follows Thanasis, played by Yorgo Voyagis, who gets help from his eccentric cousin Plato, played by Georges Corraface, on their journey to the United States from Greece. Thanasis wants to find his adopted daughter Melissa, played by Veronika Vassilakopoulou. Thanasis has cared for Melissa since she was an infant and her mother moved to the United States.

“Thanasis doesn’t have a visa,” Gaitatjis says. “He doesn’t speak English, nor does he have money. He has never traveled outside of Greece, but Plato has offered to help him get across the border. There are no borders for him and he’s going to work hard to get back with his family. There’s no stopping him – and we’re along for the journey.”

Also starring in the film are Peter Nikkos, David Millbern and Seymour Cassel. The music was composed by George Theofanous.

Gaitatjis says it was his trip from Greece to the United States a few years ago that inspired him to write the story.

“I had to come into the United States through Mexico because I wanted to be here,” he explains. “It was an experience that stayed with me. For the movie’s sake, I wrote in the family element into it to make it a stronger story.”

“Without Borders” was released in August and has played to sold-out audiences at the Los Angeles Greek Festival, as well as the LA Femme International Film Festival in Hollywood.

The film was shot over the course of eight weeks in Illinois, Mexico, California, Greece and New Mexico.

Crews set up for nearly two weeks in and around Las Cruces last year.

“We filmed quite a few scenes in Mesquite,” he explains. “We also built a border fence near Sunland Park and El Paso.”

Gaitatjis explains that the most difficult part of creating the movie was getting a new crew together with each move.

“We filmed in five different locations and each time, we had to hire local crews,” he explains. “The great thing about this film is that we were able to hire those local crews. Each one of those crews were happy to be working on the film with us and help our vision come to life.”

“Without Borders” is being brought to audiences by the Santa Fe Film Festival. The screening is part of the festival’s fundraising efforts.

Alex Pattakos, a SFFF board member, says he’s a relatively new member to the board and wanted to create an event that not only raises funds, but also brings awareness to Greek heritage.

“Because of my Greek heritage, I had connections to a number of filmmakers,” he explains. “The film had never been screened anywhere else besides Los Angeles, so I proposed a Southwest premiere for the film and it works.”

Instead of just a screening, Pattakos worked hard at getting some of the cast and crew together for a special question-and-answer and meet-and-greet session.

“It’s been a lot of work, but I think it’s important for this story to be told,” he explains. “The border is always a hot topic for this country and the film is told from a different perspective. I think the film will resonate with the audiences.”

Pattakos says when he found out the film was partially filmed in New Mexico, it was like icing on the cake.

“It’s a powerful thing for someone to bring a crew to film here,” he says. “Not only does it give our local crews experience, but it also gave them jobs for a short while. I’m very supportive of the film industry in New Mexico and am happy to be showcasing one of the movies that filmed here.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter at @agomezART.