TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT
Written and Directed by Christina Eliopoulos
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Yianni is the celebrated star and host of TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT, the talk show that plays in his own beautiful but fractured mind. On one fateful day, Yianni who suffers from dementia, wanders out of his house and comes to the aid of a lonely and lost little boy.
TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT
— longer synopsis
Yianni (Joe Cortese) is an older gentleman whose memory, grasp of rationality and health is failing. He has dementia. He drifts in and out of a drab, sometimes humdrum world. Yet in the realm inside his mind, Yianni is the host of a gloriously colorful, fun and whimsical Talk Show featuring his witty sidekick Announcer (Stephen Badalamenti) and other “special guest stars” from his life and old workplace — his little diner — including Lanetta (Tara Murtha) and Charlie the Egg Man (Mark Gindick). Yianni is powerful, persuasive, handsome and truly admired. He is the consummate host and thus the center of attention and affection.
On this particular day, unbeknownst to his beloved wife, Plousia (Janis Dardaris), Yianni has slipped out of the house, in search of a special someone. Yianni is roaming the streets when his reverie is interrupted by a lost and lonely little boy, who Yianni calls “Boss” (Azhy Robertson). Boss, who is a little bit of an odd duck, has wandered o from his school’s aftercare program and discovers Yianni meandering about downtown. Boss recognizes Yianni as the kindly man who lives down the street from him and believes that Yianni can help him find his way home — aer, of course, they make some time to play.
Yianni and Boss head out on their odyssey, a short-ways-down-the-road trip. From moment to moment, they switch roles. e adult is the child and the child tries to convince himself that he can act like an adult. There are times when Yianni’s sense of reality evaporates, and he returns momentarily to the Talk Show in his mind. Boss simply accepts that his new friend is not himself for a few minutes. In the waning hours of the day,
Boss grows anxious. He and Yianni are nowhere near home, and Boss fears that his Mother (Katherine Sigis-mund) will be worried about him. Somehow Yianni reaches into his fractured memory and he remembers that special place where everyone knows him — a place where he and Boss can go for help. Once reunited with family and friends, Yianni’s memory is stirred, and he recalls a heartbreaking event in his past. Boss, whose real name is Jackson, comes to
understand why Yianni has been calling him Boss, and responds with love and affection, offering Yianni the gift of friendship.
TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT to World Premiere at
Dances With Films Festival
Acclaimed actor Joe Cortese
delivers a tour de force performance as Yianni,
the host of a talk show that plays in his own beautiful but fractured mind
Los Angeles, May 10th...Inspired by a daughter’s love and true-to-life events, TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT, a narrative short film about the power of love over dementia, will have its world premiere at the Dances With Films festival in Los Angeles at the Chinese 6 Theater on Saturday, June 3rd at 5PM.
In the film, veteran actor Joe Cortese portrays Yianni, who hosts a talk show that plays in own mind. On one fateful day, Yianni, a humble diner owner who suffers from dementia, wanders out of his house, and befriends a lonely and lost little boy. The narrative short film, written and directed by Christina Eliopoulos, was inspired by her father’s life.
“I loved that the subject matter was so personal,” says Cortese, who has played his share of tough guys, romantic heroes and “bad cops and good cops” over his 40-year career. “The director entrusted me to play her father. A man she loved very much who was stricken with this disease. I felt I knew this man. He seemed like my own father, a hard-working son of immigrants, who put his family first and made his own success. And then once I read the script, I was all in. This issue is so prevalent and so central to our society. I felt an obligation to bring this character to life. And for me, it is the most inspiring and challenging role I have ever done.”
Cortese leads a stellar ensemble cast that includes talented newcomer, 7-year-old Azhy Robertson, co-stars Stephen Badalamenti and Tara Murtha both of New Jersey, the celebrated actress Janis Dardaris in the role of Plousia, Yianni’s beloved wife, and award-winning performers Mark Gindick and Katherine Sigismund in supporting roles. The film was shot on the Jersey Shore, in the boardwalk community of Asbury Park, NJ, Eliopoulos’ hometown.
In the film, the television screen becomes a metaphor for a “window into the mind,” says director Eliopoulos. “The past and present, the real and the imagined, the rational mind and the troubled mind, stardom and fandom are co-mingled,” she adds. “We all tell ourselves stories and create little myths to soothe our troubled conscience. The Yianni character looks for solace in a bright and happy world inside his mind. In his imagined world, he is virile and powerful. He is a star.”
In preparing for the role, Cortese found himself reflecting on how television often becomes “a best friend, the only friend sometimes” for the elderly and homebound. “I grew up watching Johnny Carson. And the TV, the talk show, became Yianni’s way of relating to the world and to his life. And it’s so sad, to think of Yianni in a dark room, with just the clicker and the TV. He doesn’t recognize his family, so that’s all he’s got left.
The story evolves beyond that sadness and offers up a life-affirming message. Yianni finds someone, this little lost boy, and they learn what they have in common and they relate to each other. He is finally able to offer help, to offer safety, to express love. And that’s the miracle of the story and the miracle of life, the power of love.”
The film, lyrical in its storytelling, visual metaphors, cinematography and pacing, was lensed by cinematographer Russell Swanson, with New Jersey producer Elizabeth Kinder, serving as Executive Producer. Christina Eliopoulos is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker whose previous work includes the documentary features “Greetings from Asbury Park” and “Demon on Wheels.”
For Cortese, the film became a “special homecoming“ of sorts. “My first lead in a movie was in 1976 and filmed here in New Jersey That film was the cult classic “The Death Collector (Family Enforcer). Here I am 40 years later, in another leading role. My body might have been in Los Angeles, but Jersey is my home and my first love.”
TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT will be shown on Saturday, June 3, 5PM, at the Chinese 6 Theater. The theater is located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA, 90028. Tickets can be purchased online at https://danceswithfilms.com
My father’s life was the inspiration for this film. And my beloved hometown — the little city by the sea that he emigrated to as a young man — became our setting. But our story is universal. One in four families have a loved one who suffers from dementia or age-related memory disorders.
I am profoundly interested how in times of sorrow or distress, each of us retreats to the consolation of
memory. But what happens when that safe and comforting place — the reservoir of all our learning, our frame of reference, the evidence of the evolution and maturation of our identity and personality — is no longer available to us? Or if we discover that memory is unreliable.
As his condition worsened, my father retreated more and more into the confines of his mind, and especially the television. He would applaud each TV star and then somehow make himself part of the program.
He was always the host andstar of the show, just like he was the host and star of his business — his
little diner. In a way, like many senior citizens, the television became his vital connection to the world. In this film, like in my previous work, I cannot hide my love for lonely people; those who feel like they are on the fringes, or the child who knows that he’s a bit of an odd duck, or those people who feel they are forgotten. Memory, whether it is a safe haven or a cruel joke, is a vibrant and rich “story-scape.” I believe my film offers a window into how society relates to elders and older loved ones, especially those with cognitive impairment.
For many of our elders, despite their illness, a rich, emotional intelligence and a deep reserve of love remains intact. They desire to feel useful, productive and respected. They seek connection and friendship. This film celebrates our loved ones in all their beautiful complexity — their identity, dignity and past experiences, as well as any newly discovered reflections, eccentricities or expressions of themselves. Even if memory sometimes fails them, they recognize the value, goodness, and grace of everyone in their lives. They remember love. And all of us can take inspiration from that. — Christina Eliopoulos, Director
JOE CORTESE — Yianni
Joe is an accomplished veteran. His early stage work led to his first leading film role in the highly acclaimed cult classic, The Death Collector with Joe Pesci which eventually lead him to Hollywood where over the last 30 years he has established himself as an actor/writer and has
starred in roles such Windows with Talia Shire, Monsignor with Christopher Reeve, American History X with Edward Norton, and Against the Ropes with Meg Ryan and Kerry Washington. Joe has also done eclectic and amazing work on numerous TV shows and movies.
Joe has received accolades for his numerous top-rated television projects including The C.A.T. Squad, a trilogy of two-hour movies for NBC and producer/director William Friedkin. The highly rated mini-series Something’s Out There for NBC, Exclusive with Suzanne Somers
(ABC), Assault and Matrimony (NBC), Just Life with Victoria Principal (ABC), Letting’ Go with John Ritter (ABC), Born to Run (FOX), Sidney Sheldon’s mini-series If Tomorrow Comes (CBS) and Jackie Collins’ Lady Boss (NBC).
In 2017, he had starring roles in several independent films include Doobious Sources and The Bronx
Bull. He did Abel Ferrara’s Go Go Tales with Willem De Foe and Bob Hoskins, which had its World
Premiere at The Cannes Film Festival’ and later that year it had its American Premiere at the New
York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. Joe won the Best Actor award for at The New York Hip Hop film festival for his starring role in the comedy, Shut Up and Shoot, and also starred in You Got Nothin, for director Phillip Angelotti. Other outstanding performances include starring roles in Malevolence portraying a character based on James Earl Ray. Lucky Town with James Caan and Kirsten Dunst, The Shipment with Matthew Modine and Elizabeth Berkley, and Ruby with Danny Aiello. He also received kudos for his role as Johnny Roselli in HBO’s critically acclaimed movie, The Rat Pack. Joe also starred in the PBS Vision series special He Wants Her Back, written and directed by Stanton Kaye. His other recent TV appearances were with Danny Devito in Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Joe is a lifetime member of the Actor’s Studio.