Lamprini Thoma is a journalist in Athens, Greece. She speaks to GreekTV about her documentary, “Palikari: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Masacre,” and her upcoming 2015 U.S. screening tour.
Q. You recently wrote and produced the documentary, “Palikari: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre.” Can you tell me about your background leading up to the creation of the film?
A. We used to say (me and my partner in life and crime, director of the documentary, Nikos Ventouras) that our documentary is a credit-card-financed labor of love. The first time we went to visit Tikas’s grave in 2007, we decided that something had to be done. We did an article for the Sunday magazine of a Greek sports newspaper and wrote about it in our blogs. As time passed, we became mentally and sentimentally involved and around the turn of the decade, we began thinking about a documentary to introduce Louis and the Massacre to a bigger audience, especially in Greece where he is not as well known.
“The story was so amazing, so heartbreaking, so tragic, that it stayed with us. We were not able to forget Louis after that. We had to do something.”
Q. When and how did you learn about Louis Tikas, and what was it about the story that resonated with you so much to devote time and energy into making a film?
A. I learned about Tikas about 30 years ago but the story didn’t stick. When we were traveling to the US to do a story on Jack Kerouac and “On the road” for a Greek magazine in 2007, a friend of ours, Mihalis Panayiotakis, wrote a blog entry under the title “Who remembers Louis Tikas?” And we remembered Louis Tikas. As we were passing through Denver, we found a way to Ludlow through a small bypass and visited his grave along with Frank Manning, the musician who wrote the song about Louis that we included in the movie. Frank introduced us to poet David Mason, whom we interviewed. The story was so amazing, so heartbreaking, so tragic, that it stayed with us. We were not able to forget Louis after that. We had to do something.
Q. What was the creation process like for the film?
A. We started reading and preparing in 2010. I still have the first email I sent to Zeese Papanikolas, the historian and writer who brought Louis’s memory to life. Before Zeese’s research, Louis Tikas was just a ghost. It was “Buried Unsung”, Zeese’s book, that brought Louis to us, gave him his name, his voice, his heritage and his legacy.
I read everything I could find on Ludlow— Mother Jones, the Coal Wars, watched documentaries and films (I have to mention “Matewan” by John Sayles and “Harlan County, USA” by Barbara Copple), and searched the Internet. The next step was finding the money, which we didn’t find. And as time was passing and the Centennial was approaching and the financial crisis was making the story more and more relevant, we decided it had to be done, for Louis and for Greece. We borrowed some money from our (unemployed) friend Panagiotis Andriopoulos and used our credit cardsto buy a new camera, the tickets, rent a car and pay an assistant. We got in touch with the historians and the coal-miner descendants who appear in the film and hit the road in October 2013.
We returned to Athens and started working hard, with a lot of help from our friends Menelaos Tzafalias, Yannis Nikolopoulos, and my son, Otis Doudos. Nikos’ brother, Manos Ventouras, a classically trained composer, wrote the original score for the film.
The great people at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival gave us the first green light by officially selecting our documentary for the international branch of the festival. We didn’t expect much to come out of it from then on, but it seems to have had a reception beyond our expectations—from grassroots and labor groups and from the academic world.
Q. We have reached the centennial anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre. Why is this story so important even 100 years later? How can we still learn from the story—not only in the United States but also in Greece where labor rights (under pressure because of high unemployment) and immigrant rights are serious issues?
A. What happened at Ludlow touches on too many issues. The most obvious connection of then and today, is that Elias Spantidakis, Louis Tikas, was murdered because he fought for the same things we are fighting for today, and not only in Greece. He was an immigrant who wanted to become an equal, who became an American citizen, who faced all the problems and monstrosities that immigrant workers were facing at the time. And he was a Palikari, who fought for justice and for his fellow man, Greek or not, and became a martyr to all of us. The story is so obvious that we actually decided not to add any narration, to let the people get their own conclusions out of what the historians, artists and descendants of miners say.
Q. Can you share a few words about how the first screenings have gone? You are now about to begin your second screening tour in North America. Can you give us more details about that?
A. The documentary had a reception beyond our expectations. We have had screenings all over Greece– at festivals, universities, labor centers, in squats, and even in a coal mine.
We were awarded the Best Documentary of 2014 award at the Doc Fest of 2014 in Chalkis. People were really touched and encouraging. And then came the interest from the Greek-Americans who see an important part of their history in that film.
Our first North American tour began in mid-September—screenings followed in NYC; Detroit; Norfork, Virginia; San Francisco; Chicago; and Kansas City.
And now we are preparing for the second tour, which will start from Toronto in the first week of March and will continue to Boston, MA; Ann Arbor, MI; Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh and possibly Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Q. Can you share a few words about your media sponsor?
A. We were lucky enough to be contacted by Michael Nevradakis of the Dialogos Media Group, a very enthusiastic journalist who stole our hearts with his interest and devotion. His enthusiasm encourages us and his help was valuable in deciding to embark on the U.S. tour.
Q. Where can people find more information, purchase the documentary and plan events?
A. For more info they can visit both our website and the company’s at www.nonorganicproductions.com or the documentary’s at www.palikari.org. They can also contact me at Lcthoma@gmail.com to organize a screening.