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Pihos: A Life in Five Movements

Melissa Pihos

Pihos: A Life in Five Movements is a documentary about the life of Hall of Fame football player, Pete Pihos. The story is told through the eyes of his daughter who seeks to understand what made her dad the man he was.

Pihos: A Life in Five Movements is a feature length documentary about Pete Pihos’ life and Melissa Pihos’ journey to rediscover it. Pete Pihos is a Hall of Fame football player, WWII veteran, and first-generation Greek immigrant. He is also in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  It is unclear if any of the other memories still exist.  

Melissa searches for her father’s memories in the places of his past. The film is a visual exploration documenting Melissa’s literal exploration of the places and spaces from her father’s past. Melissa returns to Orlando, Florida where Pete’s father was brutally murdered while Pete was still a child. She returns to Fort Wayne and Philadelphia where Pete played football. She returns to her own childhood home and the homes from Pete’s previous homes.  

Exploration helps Melissa intuit the man her father used to be.  The style of the film is visually and lyrically expressive. Instead of explicit explanation, life’s stories and life’s emotions weave in and out of thoughts and memories and spaces. The film mimics the fleeting nature of memory.  

One of Melissa’s primary ways of dealing with this insurmountable task is through her chosen art form—dance. The tears, the anger, and the questions are too profound to tackle in words so she expresses herself through her choreography.  The film is anchored by recurring dance sequences that introduce the chapters of Pete’s life and thus Melissa’s journey. Through the abstracted lens of dance we then transition into the tangible, concrete world of life.  

Five dance sequences will serve as five prologues to the five movements. These sequences will involve one day of shooting. The dances will be shot on a stage with an accompanying projection behind the dancers.  

After each of these prologues the “movement” is presented. Each movement will be the filmed exploration space, time, and narrative of a significant period from Pete’s life.  

The first movement is the story of Pete’s father’s murder. Melissa travels to Orlando, Florida in an attempt to grasp the impact that must have had on the tightly knit Pihos family and on Pete, as a child.  

The second movement is Pete’s story in World War II. He served under General Patton and also took part in the D-Day campaign.  Pete's experience as a soldier in WWII initiated him into a fraternity of not only other veterans but a tight-knit group of professional athletes that also fought for their country.

The third movement is Pete’s incredibly successful career in football, both collegiate and professional. This movement will involve trips to Indiana University and Philadelphia where he played for the Philadelphia Eagles. This movement will include images from is locker rooms, his home fields, his stadiums, the places he spent many of his greatest days. And, lastly we will explore the Hall of Fame where is bust hangs, frozen in space and time. Both this movement and the World War II movement will include considerable amounts of archive footage.  

The fourth movement in his life was as a father and a husband. Pete had four failed marriages and never achieved the same success in his personal life that he did in his career. However, his relationships with his children, specifically his daughter Melissa, were incredibly strong.  

And, it is at this point that we move into the fifth and final movement: his fight with Alzheimer’s. But, it is also about his daughter’s fight to reconcile the life that her father led and his growing inability to remember it. This movement blends the clinical and the procedural with the human and the universal.  

In the end, the aim is to create a film that captures the inexplicability, the power, and the complexity of human relationships and memory through the touching story of a daughter and her dad.