A contemplative “portrait” of the grief felt by the unemployed in Greece today. How do they feel now? What do they think about the future? About the past? About others who have jobs? What is their relationship to their family? To their friends? To people around them? Does the future seem hopeful? Textile mills and garment factories, tobacco factories and warehouses, shipyards… Desolate spaces falling to ruin, machines now stand lifeless. And the jobless: at a loss, confessing, reminiscing, struggling, despairing. A journey into a painful landscape of today’s reality.
Giorgio Zervas’s, highly topical documentary, Grief: Little Tales of Unemployment offers a unique insight into the psychologically fraught world of the unemployed in Greece. Against the backdrop of Greek economic instability, the film astutely documents the emotional costs of financial insecurity for individuals and families. Structured around interviews with workers who have become unemployed, some after twenty-five years of service to their employer, the film delves into the philosophical significance of ‘employment’ for an individual, in addition to its monetary importance. Eschewing political and economic frameworks of discourse, Zervas comprehensively portrays the emotional costs being borne by the ever-increasing numbers of the jobless as the economy shifts course.
Greece has seen major changes in its economy since joining the European Monetary Union in1990. Restructuring of the Greek economy to meet the criteria for participation in the EMU resulted in a rapid rise in unemployment within the agriculture and industry sectors of the economy. Unemployment in 2009 reached nearly 10 percent, the brunt being borne by women and young, male workers. Youth unemployment and unemployment among women remain amongst the highest in the European Union. A study published by the University of Bath indicates that education does not seem to improve chances of employment; in fact the incidence of unemployment for men with only primary school education is half that of men with doctorates and post graduate degrees. Recent economic austerity measures have meant that expansion of public sector employment has also been curtailed. While Greece recorded economic growth in the last five years, prior to the global financial crisis, this was not accompanied by the creation of jobs. Several critics also allude to the flight of Greek industry and investment to lower cost regions in the Balkans adding to the jobless within Greece.
Zervas, criticised the situation by portraying the psychological effects of the economic situation on individuals. He draw his characters from both blue-collar and middleclass workers, presenting voices that range from factory workers and teachers to architects and academics. The distress of losing one’s job is similar amongst them all. The productive employees, whilst not extravagant, have lived comfortable lives, supported their families and planned their future anticipating steady employment. Now unemployed, the blow to pride and self-confidence, articulated by all as feelings of worthlessness, makes an impact. Work provides a means of reinforcing one’s value to society as a contributing and useful member. In young people, recent graduates from university, there is already a sense of hopelessness as they are unable to find employment.
An environmental architect voices her despair, helplessly unable to contribute her expertise to society after several years acquiring an education. Educated and qualified youth are usually an asset to nation building but youth in Greece find themselves rejected and devalued when jobs are not available to them. A worker hints that jobs are available only to those with the right connections. It is obvious though that jobs are few and far between; competition for scarce jobs has forced unfair means of selection to occur. This further reinforces the feeling of worthlessness as the qualified are rejected in favour of the unqualified. The anguish turns into feelings of self-reproach and guilt, articulated by a young teacher who now feels her unemployed state is due to her own shortcomings.
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