By Eleni Sakellis
NEW YORK – The New York premiere of the award-winning documentary Ludlow: Greek Americans in the Colorado Coal War, a 2016 production directed by Leonidas Vardaros took place on Thursday, March 9 and drew a crowd of film enthusiasts to New York University.
The non-profit company “Apostolis Berdebes,” producer of documentaries on the history of Greeks in America, produced this remarkable film. In attendance at the premiere, Co-Producer and researcher Frosso Tsouka who spoke with The National Herald about the film, noted the tremendous appreciation it has already received in Greece and is now receiving worldwide.
There was barely an empty seat at the premiere which drew Greek-Americans from all walks of life including supporters of the film from Kefalonia and the Kefalos Society of America, its President Nikos Alissandratos, friends and family, as well as non-Greeks who appreciated learning about the little-known chapter of American history and the labor movement.
As Tsouka told TNH, “Ludlow tells the story of Greek immigrants who found themselves in distant Colorado working for many years under inhuman conditions of semi-slavery. They eventually united with thousands of other immigrant miners and took part in a long strike that started peacefully in 1913 and developed into an armed confrontation in April 1914, after the Ludlow Massacre and the murder of the Greek leader, Louis Tikas.
The film has received awards at all the documentary festivals in Greece and has been embraced by the public of Greece and of the Greek Diaspora. The film has been shown in Zurich, Munich, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and Australia.
Here in New York, we have the honor of being included in the Spring 2017 film series Greek Cinema Today, an important cinematic event curated by visiting professor Eleftheria Astrinaki, and organized every year by the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at NYU, under the direction of Dr. Liana Theodoratou.”
The National Herald contributor Dan Georgakas is one of the historians who appears in the film and offers his insights into the Greek-American experience. Georgakas noted that due to the success of the community, many Greek-Americans would prefer to leave the past behind, but it is important to remember the struggles the immigrants suffered.
The history is not well-known, even in the United States, Tsouka noted, but the film resonates powerfully in Greece wherever it is shown because Greeks, from Crete especially, were in the leadership roles in this landmark event of the labor movement. Their heroism inspired the movement, and led to the passage of laws protecting workers from unsafe conditions.
Tsouka observed that after seeing the film, Greeks in Greece were surprised that there was such a strong labor movement in the United States, “they want to know more about it, and ask questions.” She also told TNH that the films are made in Greece with Greek filmmakers, but the support of the Greek-American community is essential to the process. Tsouka noted the dedication, “Ludlow is dedicated to the Greek American Community whose support made this film possible.”
Poster of the Ludlow Documentary
Including the testimony of witnesses to the historical events and their descendants, Ludlow is a poignant reminder of the struggle for a better life that immigrants suffered in the early part of the 20th century and about how much they fought for that we take for granted today.
At the conclusion of the film, the audience applauded enthusiastically. A Q&A followed the screening and many simply offered their thanks for bringing the story to their attention, noting that young people in the community should definitely see the film, and if Hollywood had any sense, they would make it into a movie.
When asked about upcoming projects, Tsouka said the next project on the Greek-American experience in the 1950’s through the 1980’s is just getting underway. Alissandratos noted that the Greek-American community is ready to support the wonderful work of Tsouka and the team and the audience responded with more applause.
In March 2016, Ludlow was selected as Best Historical Documentary in the 18th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. In August 2016, the film received the 2nd Award for Feature Documentaries at the 3rd Ierapetra International Documentary Festival and in October 2016 it received the Best Editing Award at the 10th Chalkis Documentary Festival.
The film team, consisting of director Leonidas Vardaros, cinematographer Prokopis Dafnos, researcher Frosso Tsouka, editor Xenofon Vardaros, sound engineer Andreas Gkovas, and narrator Rigas Axelos, gave its best in this truly collective effort. The production management was carried out by the members of “Apostolis Berdebes” non-profit, Stefanos Plakas, Frosso Tsouka, and Lina Gousiou.
The producers give special thanks to the music group Romiosyni for the first ever professional recording of the Colorado strike song The Union Forever. More information about the film, is available online at www.ludlow.gr and on Facebook.
More information about the film series Greek Cinema Today is available by phone 212-998-3979, email: [email protected].