The name Talana Kreeger, whose life was cut short over 30 years ago because of anti-LGBTQ violence, isn’t known by most outside of Wilmington, or by many individuals from the area younger than 50.
“I moved to Wilmington in 1990,” recalls Tab Ballis, the producer of the documentary “Park View.”
“That was the same year that Talana Kreeger was murdered. I learned of her death from media coverage that was sensational in its description of the horrific details of her murder, yet somehow it left her identity as a human being unreported.”
Ballis identifies as a cisgender heterosexual male, yet he still felt a strong connection to Kreeger and the part of the story that was being overlooked, in all likelihood, intentionally.
“I sensed that the life of Talana Kreeger was at risk of being obscured by the horror of her death and its sensationalized coverage,” says Ballis. “I felt compelled to make sure that she was not forgotten.”
The film explores who Kreeger was and examines her horrifically violent murder on February 22, 1990.
“It struck me at the time there was very little information about Talana Kreeger and who she was,” Ballas recalls. “There were practically no photos of her.”
The filmmaker found the title for his documentary in the name of the bar Kreeger was working at on the night of her death: The Park View Grill, a now defunct but previously popular lesbian bar prominently located in a high profile area of Wilmington.
It was there she met Ronald Thomas, who asked to tag along with Kreeger and other women from the bar who were headed to Hardee’s for late night eats after the bar had closed. He offered Kreeger a ride and she accepted, but never made it to Hardee’s.
Following an argument concerning her sexuality, Thomas sexually and physically assaulted Kreeger and left her to die in a wooded area. In 1992 he was convicted of her murder and remained in prison serving two life sentences until his death on July 18, 2022.
Qnotes reported on a memorial service for Kreeger that was held nearly 20 years later in a March 8, 2008 addition of the publication.
Ballis feels that her case was mishandled by authorities and the media because she was a lesbian. At the onset of his efforts with the project, he had initially hoped to collaborate with other filmmakers. As the years passed, however, individuals working in Wilmington’s small film production community who had contributed to the project moved on to work with the industry in Los Angeles.
“So this is a project that’s been [many] years in the making,” he explains. “I eventually decided to do it myself.” Ballis taught himself the technical aspects of editing and post production and eventually finished the project.
The film’s first screening was on February 22, 2020 at Church of the Good Shepherd, which was the same church that hosted Kreeger’s funeral. Over the past two years it has shown at multiple festivals, and most recently, at UNCW in Wilmington.
Ballis believes the story of a 32-year-old murder is still very relevant today. “Much has been accomplished by the LGBTQ community, especially with the overturning of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Marriage Equality,” he offers. “But the danger and violence are still there. LGBTQ people have been targeted by violence at a rate that can only be called epidemic. Hate crimes have actually increased since the supreme Court decision on marriage equality.
“Violence aimed at gay men and trans people of color has become all too common in recent years, [but] hate crimes against lesbians are actually not well documented. Not because they are infrequent, but [because] law enforcement agencies have historically failed to inquire about the sexual orientation of female victims.”
More screenings of the documentary at universities and schools throughout North Carolina are planned for December and early next year. Specific dates will be reported as they become available. For additional information visit the “Park View” website.