Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 5:7

Film Synopsis

Simon's Agony is a short film about vocation. A meditation on the first Beatitude and inspired in varying degrees by personal experience, Jungian archetypes, and cinematic mysticism, the film's trajectory follows Simon, a middle-aged sickly sculptor, who begins a commission to create a massive sculpture (to be cast in bronze) without the commission having yet been funded. Simon has neither the strength, nor the physical space, nor the resources to take on the project, but he is driven forward by an inexplicable desire to complete the piece.



Written and Directed by Deniz Demirer
Produced by Richard Zane
Director of Photography: Joe Foley


Team Bios


Deniz Demirer, a Polish-born filmmaker, has been making films for over a decade—first as an actor, then as a cinematographer, and now as a writer and director. His unusual blend of intimacy and hardscrabble urban existence has never yielded the stories we expect. Demirer’s filmography includes five feature films as writer and director including Nocturnal Jake (2009), Not I (2010), American Mongrel (2014), Ezer Kenegdo (2016) and Chinaroom (2016). His work as a filmmaker and actor has been exhibited at the Mill Valley Film Festival, Portland Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival, Varna International Film Festival, Syracuse International Film Festival, and Conrad Festival in Krakow, among many others. Recently, Demirer was cinematographer on the award-winning short film Forest Born. The Academy-Award winning Director of Photography Roger Deakins wrote, “Forest Born was extremely well made. I particularly liked the night work! So simple and effective.” Demirer's films have explored such subjects as exile and self-destruction, often with an eye toward the fragility that these conditions can reveal within human relations. Demirer seeks to establish verisimilitude by means of an immediate relationship between audience and story. Dialog is often improvised and situations are frequently presented in medias res, without the pre-formulated fanfare and plot exposition that typically introduce scenes and events in Hollywood movies. Deniz Demirer completed his tenure as artist-in-residence at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in New York City earlier in the year and recently played a small supporting role in Woody Allen's new film, "A Rainy Day in New York." He is currently developing his sixth feature film, Strangers, as writer and director.



Zenon Zeleniuch is delighted to be working with the cast and crew of Simon’s Agony. It is a privilege to be playing the role of Simon. Zenon has worked extensively in film,television and theatre see link: He has also had a career as an architect working on various projects in the Northeast as well as teaching architecture in Boston and New York. Zenon enjoys traveling with his family seeking new destinations and cultural experiences. 



Christopher Alles is a sculptor currently residing in New York. He began drawing at the age of two, but it was not until sixteen years later that he began to take art seriously. This ultimately led him to Florence, Italy, where he apprenticed for six months under sculptor Dony MacManus. There he discovered the beauty and power of the Italian Renaissance masters, and in the presence of the raw energy of their work, he encountered the need to become a sculptor.
After his time in Italy, Christopher returned home to Portland, Oregon, and continued his studies with Polish sculptor Tomasz Misztal. Under Misztal’s guidance, he discovered how to link the influence of the past with those of the present. Consequently, his work often references and quotes the artists ranging from the Renaissance to the early to mid -Twentieth Century. His primary process behind the creation of his art consists of a study from the past and its development to now, then responding to the contemporary world in light of this study.
Christopher has done work around the US, most notably the restoration of the statuary at St. Malachy’s Church, (The Actor’s Chapel) in New York, and has several sculpted portrait commissions for clients around the world.



After pursuing a career as a fine artist for over twenty years, Jeff Kao turned to motion pictures to better express his thoughts, emotions, and visions. His films consistently draw on a cherished childhood in the midwest. Through film, Kao was able to more deeply explore the fascination he had always held with his own memories of growing up.  He had found a medium where he could illustrate the alchemy that happens in a child’s mind when its thoughts evolve through wonder, prediction, and observation, and to this day is mesmerized by his own recollections of early and curiously charged social encounters. These semi-sacred memories end up being sifted through the film maker’s adult perspective into narratives of a fevered, slightly absurd dreamscape.



Richard Zane was born in Kingston, PA and grew-up in Frederick, MD. Richard was brought up in a family-lifestyle of restaurant entrepreneurs. In most recent years his passion for acting was re-discovered by a random casting phone call being asked to be a featured waiter on House of Cards. At that point he knew where he needed to be from there on out. Quickly, he moved forward with his career in the DMV Region (DC, Maryland, Virginia) studying the craft of acting in DC and Baltimore while receiving castings as a Lead Detective on several True-Crime Series, a Series Regular as Sam Tempe on the "Chance Web-Series" and various supporting roles in Featured Indie Films. Pursuing onto his next career level; Zane, has now made the move into NYC honing in on the Art and Craft of Acting at the William Esper Studio, studying with Bill & Suzanne Esper.



Elly Kouri is a singer, lyricist and composer. She began her music career writing lyrics for the Finnish jazz and classical composer Heikki Sarmanto. Overtime Elly's songwriting expanded to include rock and roll.  She was a lead singer in the band Citizens, sharing the stage with Mark Lineberry, Benny Harrison, Nikki Buzz and Nir Z. The band produced two CD's of original material. In 2013 she released her first jazz CD I Love You Too Much a musically intimate reflection of songs on love, heartbreak and hope. Her stage work led her to the William Esper Studio where she returns to an early love of acting, studying the craft with Barbara Marchant. Elly grew up in the Hudson Valley.  She raised four beautiful children in CT, CA and Finland.  She now claims her place among all the other New Yorkers.



Richard Rampolla is excited to begin this new phase of his career.  After 40 years in education, Richard has taken up acting and voice over work.  He has worked with David Cady, Peter Pamela Rose and Roger Becker, among others.  He is grateful to Deniz for offering him the part of Monsignor Bartell. 



Joe Hoover is a Jesuit brother who works as a writer, actor and teacher of drama at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He is also poetry editor at America Magazine.