18th TDF: Press Conference - Leonidas Vardaros (LUDLOW, Greek Americans in the Colorado Coal War), Dimitris Pliagkos (Shadow οn the Soul)

18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival –

Images of the 21st Century

11-20 March 2016



As part of the 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the director Leonidas Vardaros and the head of research and production Frosso Tsouka of the film LUDLOW, Greek Americans in the Colorado Coal War, as well as the director Dimitris Pliagkos and the scriptwriter Thomas Sideris of the film Shadow οn the Soul attended a press conference on Saturday March 19th, 2016.

The documentary Shadow οn the Soul, directed by Dimitris Pliagkos and Marios Polyzogopoulos, focuses on the adventure of the refugees who participated in the Asia Minor population exchange in 1923, on both sides of the Aegean. Christians and Muslims narrate their stories on camera. Dimitris Pliagkos explained that the film was based on an idea of ??Thomas Sideris, upon which the script was developed. “We thought that it is a very interesting subject, which at the same time is not well known to the general public. What we learned from books refers to the period until the destruction of Smyrna. Usually this is where our knowledge ends. Making this film, we wanted to record testimonies from both sides and show how this event shaped their lives”. For his part, Thomas Sideris noted: “The basic idea was to make a documentary that focuses on the human factor and show how these refugees rebuilt their neighborhoods in their new places of residence, but also the racism they received on both sides of the Aegean. We had advisors from Greece as well as from Turkey; filming took place in three countries and lasted three years. First and second generation refugees from the population exchange tell their stories on the camera. Three of the film’s heroes are significant individuals who are no longer alive. The documentary takes on a clear political stance, but its character is anthropocentric. Moreover, what becomes particularly evident is the deep love that the Turkish participants in the Exchange carry for Greece, however strange this might sound”. As for the connection of the film’s subject to the current humanitarian crisis, Mr. Sideris noted: “I am currently studying for my master’s degree in human geography in Lesvos, the place where this tragedy unfolds. The testimonies of the people in the film, could apply directly to the present”. On the same issue, Mr. Pliagkos added: “We were surprised during filming to hear the same words from Turks and Greeks; we came to realize that they shared the same pain. The same happens today and I fear that it won’t end”.

The Colorado Coal War in 1914, the most violent and bloody page in the history of the labor movement in the U.S.A. and the unknown contribution of the Greeks, is at the heart of the documentary Ludlow, Greek Americans in the Colorado Coal War by Leonidas Vardaros. “15 years ago, I had tried to put on a play based on narrations of Greek immigrants in the U.S.A. Thanks to the testimonies included therein as well as the documentary Greek-American Radicals: The Untold Story, a production of the non-profit company “Apostolis Berdebes”, I was able to do some introductory work on the subject”. Referring to the contribution of the Greeks during the Ludlow massacre, Mr. Vardaros noted: “We are talking about economic migrants, who entered the country cutting the wires in Mexico or escaped the hurricane in Cuba and went to Florida or arrived covered in a blanket, on Ellis Island. These people came to the U.S. and became miners. We have an obligation to bring to light the memories that shaped labor history in the U.S., even more so as our compatriots helped in the struggle for labor rights which affected the whole world”. Frosso Tsouka, who did the background research and produced the documentary, noted: “The film goes beyond the Ludlow massacre. For various reasons, the 10-Day War that followed has remained in the shadows. The discussion about Ludlow usually stops at the massacre, to present the strikers as victims. We wanted to show that they were fighters, who successfully responded to the violence during the strikes. The poor people of Europe came to the U.S. as slaves under contract. They had their tickets paid and they were brought to the country to repay their debt, which they could never manage to do, and so they remained slaves forever”. Ms. Tsouka stressed that the Ludlow story is little known even in the U.S. “The Americans aren’t taught about the story. Only recently, some articles were written and there was some interest, in view of the 100th anniversary of the massacre in Ludlow. Only people involved with labor law know about it. And that’s because this battle has affected the course of development of labor law, setting the basis to establishing certain regulations”. Finally, the director of the film also made a reference to the financing difficulties that Greek filmmakers are faced with: “This film was made with the help of friends. It is difficult to make films nowadays in Greece. The government must restore the 8% tax, or find alternative ways to finance filmmaking. Otherwise, in a few years, we will no longer hear our language in the cinemas”.