Chris Emmanouilides has lived away from Rolling Hills Estates for many years, but he and his four siblings had the difficult task of selling the family home when their mother Akrevoe passed away in 2018.
Their father, Dr. George C. Emmanouilides, had been a well-known pediatric cardiologist for more than three decades in the South Bay, including Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, before his retirement.
“I thought it was a really right subject to talk about, the pain I felt about losing our home,” said Emmanouilides, who graduated from Rolling Hills High School in 1979 and now makes his home outside Philadelphia.
Emmanouilides said the film idea percolated for a number of years, but there was not a focus until his mother’s death.
“Then I realized, wow, we're moving out of this house, why don't I shoot on my multiple visits back from the East Coast?,” Emmanouilides said during a phone interview. “Why don't I just start shooting the process of my sisters and my brother, and as we go through that and see what might come of it.”
The documentary “The Wooden Heart” traces his parent’s early life to their family life in the South Bay to the sale of the home that had been in the family for 53 years. The documentary made its debut at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, which in its 14th year, and is screening online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film festival runs though Oct. 15.
Emmanouilides said in the documentary his family lived in “privileged insulation” which included siblings Nick, Elizabeth, Martha and Sophia. They had lived in Torrance before moving in 1965.
“We were the first to live in that home and the only people who lived in that home until we sold it,” Emmanouilides said.
But the five siblings had carved out their own lives across the country, so when their mother died, Emmanouilides said there was no choice but to sell the home.
“Our lives have changed and none of us could really live in that house and have our life the way we want it, much less afford a house in Rolling Hills Estates these days,” Emmanouilides said.
Emmanouilides, a documentarian and essayist, would come to Los Angeles for business and to see his parents regularly. He had shot footage of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the past, but in March 2018 when his mother died, he brought his camera when he returned several times that summer to document the sale of the home and many of the objects that were part of the family’s history.
When he died in 2013, the doctor left behind a wooden model of the human heart that he had used for the parents of his patients to describe what the surgery entails.
“There's a heart, there's a home, there's Los Angeles … how can I make connections that are more than just personal and maybe more universal, to a much larger human experience about letting go of home?,” said Emmanouilides of how his father's model impacted his work.
Emmanouilides added he would like the viewers to “think about our elders sometimes” and honor them as well.
“Listen to them as we go through a lot of changes in our lives today,” he said. “But there’s wisdom, there’s wisdom in my father’s life.”
For more information, visit lagff.org/the-wooden-heart/