A quick update before we leave town this morning.
We showed the film again yesterday afternoon and evening at the Calumet Theatre. The Saturday matinee crowd may have been the biggest of the three. About 1500 people came to see 1913 Massacre over the course of the weekend.
As Ken says, the circle is complete. We both feel as if this homecoming for 1913 Massacre was not just a fitting end to the journey we’ve been on as filmmakers, but an essential part of the filmmaking process. I understand in a new way why George Stoney thought filmmakers should bring their films back to places where they were shot and back to the subjects they filmed. The film wasn’t really finished until now.
Being with those Calumet Theatre audiences, and being in them, as filmmakers, was like riding a wave: the film carried us all, buoyed us up, plunged us down, hushed us, made us laugh, made lots of us cry, took us into dark places and then into the sunlight again; and the wave then carried me and Ken up on to the stage, where we were able to look out and see where we had just been.
We hadn’t all had the same experience of the film — that was evident from the discussions that followed each screening — but we’d all had a shared experience of the film. And maybe that shared experience, the sharing of this story, is what matters most. I know it matters more than our differences.
Congratulations on a job well done. I wasn’t sure what to expect prior to my viewing the film Saturday evening, but I can say that it exceeded my expectations. It was thought-provoking, emotionally moving at times and evidently documented with care and respect. I wish you well on your journey with this film.
I was encouraged to post this ‘review’ of the film I did for friends, so forgive its length…
I found a good seat in the balcony. Finding a close parking space to attend this film had not been so easy. It was packed in the Calumet Theater. 2:00 turned into 2:15 and folks were still filing in. While waiting, I again thought of my dad, as I do each time I’m in there, and imagine him watching an Al Jolson silent film. (Did he sit in the seat I’m in?) Now, a hundred years since he was a boy, I am there to watch the new film about an old story, and one that he was familiar with.
The lady introduces the two young filmmakers and they spoke briefly. When the show began, the emotions did as well. It was a surprise to become so emotional right in the beginning, as it also seemed to be for the full-house patrons. The stark facts began the story, and the desolate wintery scene of downtown Calumet introduced the setting for the film.
At this point, I am thinking of my involvement in the commemoration of this tragedy with the ‘Annie’s Legacy Project’ and the surrounding stories. I thought of all the years since I first came here, and how in my travels, I never quite found any other place where I identified with its character – as I knew the Keweenaw, and how much this character ‘is mine’.
These fellas described their intent with this film, during the follow-up questions. They wanted it to be known that this is “the towns story”, a film for the people of Calumet and a story that includes questions from a story that remained a mystery. They said it is a “living film”, not a “film of facts”.
A question was posed to these filmmakers about distribution, etc. and they quickly pointed out that they are just a couple ‘guys’ and not an industry. They were turned down by ‘Sundance’, and Michael Moore never answered. The audience responded with call outs like, ‘we’ll fix that’.
U.O.P. who ‘inherited C+H was asked for input (or, for any comments to include, or funding, I believe) and they responded that they would want full editorial control. So,, there was no assistance from UOP in this project.
These guys appeared humble and excited over the warmth of the audience, and the standing ovation had them looking at each other in amazement.
The footage of Arlo Guthrie walking around the IHMS, this son of the songwriter who inspired the film, was superb. The message from him was the reminder of the part that music and poetry can play in the preservation of the emotional impact of a tragic event. On that, Oren’s folk music was a perfect musical backdrop in many places.
The ‘flavor’ of this film is surprisingly artsy in its presentation, and personal in the content. Much of the film seemed tricky to create as I thought of all the hard work they must have done, on a small budget. And much of it is charmingly ‘home video’ style. Overall, it is ‘copper country’ in how things have been done here – and they accomplished their goal. I felt I was ‘home’ in my Calumet Theater, viewing this film about my community.
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the discussion afterward! My husband, Dave, is a descendant of a survivor of the tragedy (Axel Heikkinen, his grandfather). Axel’s three brothers, Eino, Edwin, and Eli, died that night in the Italian Hall. We appreciated the different points of view and the information given in the film, and especially the Heikkinen family photos that were used. We hope that it will be shown on television in the future. We will be buying a copy when it is available! Thank you very much for bringing this film to Calumet.
Thanks for all these comments — we really enjoy reading them and we love hearing about how you all connected with the film.
Joanne, we just read your review aloud and we’re very touched by it. Only one correction: we definitely didn’t ask UOP for funding, just for some people to interview. And in exchange for that they wanted editorial control.
Bringing this film to Calumet was an incredible experience. We can’t wait to come back.
What an emotional trip! I was the second grade teacher from Calumet (in the balcony) who asked if you might consider donating one DVD to our district. After watching the film, I immediately wanted to take it to our students. We need to develop a sense of “place” in our students. Regardless of whether or not students have blood ties to the victims or survivors of the Italian Hall tragedy, they all are tied to the history and aftermath. Thank you for your work!
Attended the viewing of this film last Friday evening and very much enjoyed it. The film makers achieved the goal of capturing the importance of the event for Calumet residents both then and now. However especially for those not connected to the 1913 disaster either by place or family it would be helpful to provide additional background information.
In the commentary after the film it was mentioned that historians were interviewed for the film but all that footage was left on the cutting room floor. Granted those historians are not tied to the event by family or emotions but this film will encourage many to learn more about Copper Country history. It probably beyond the objective of this website to provide a historical summary of the period but a suggested reading list would be very helpful to those wanting to learn more about the Italian Hall disaster as well as the economic and labor trends surrounding the event.
A list of suggested reading is a good idea, George. And who knows — maybe some of that material that didn’t make its way into the film can have new life on this site.
I would like to know from anyone when a DVD of this film will be available and who to contact.
We are working on getting the DVD ready for sale in 2013. Please check the website for updates and we will add your name to our mailing list.
I was at the 2:00 showing in Calumet. My family lived in Calumet and mined the copper mines during this time. I am sure none of them were in the Italian Hall that Christmas Eve, but I am sure it was a big part of them leaving the area for Lansing not long after. It gave me a sense of what life was like, what the area went through. I have never been able to explain why I feel so ‘at home’ when I am in the area, but maybe because it is such a unique area, and it really is ‘home’. I was impressed by the film and how well it was done. Caring in a way that only someone who can feel the tragedy can do a story about it can do. Thank you to Ken and Louis as well as the community for helping those of us ‘back home’ to be part of our history. I also want to be contacted when the film is for sale, I think it would be a great thing for teaching my children about family history, and even my sisters.
What are the chances of us “down staters” having a chance to view your film? What I’ve learned from your website is fascinating- a fresh,poignant look at history which will bring personal closure to all concerned.
I’ll be following your progress through Joanne Thomas. Best Wishes.
Downstaters have two chances to see the film in the next month or so. First, the film is showing in Detroit at Wayne State as part of the North American Labor History Conference on Oct 18th. See the listing in “News and Screenings.” We think it’s open to the public but double check. Second, the film is going to be in the East Lansing Film Festival on November 11th. We’ll post all the info for that screening as soon as we get back from our travels.
Please add my name to your mailing list. I want to purchase a copy of the DVD when it is available for sale.
I have to thank you again for doing such a fantastic film. The story of the IH disaster and Woody Guthrie’s song was told with respect and compassion for the people involved and the community. You allowed the story to tell itself through the people interviewed and by including old film footage. It was quite emotional watching the film and thinking what my grandparents must have endured by the deaths of their 3 young sons, Eli, Eino and Edwin Heikkinen. It was Edwin’s 7th birthday. Also what my father, Axel Heikkinen, who survived the disaster, must have experienced. It was very moving to listen to other survivors tell their stories. I also appreciated the footage of Arlo Guthrie. And my family photos. So, Ken and Louis, thank you for the hours of work that went into the making of this story. A job well done!