Golden Dawn Girls
Norway, Denmark, Finland. 2017
Urania is the daughter of the party leader’s Nikolaos Michaloliakos, and Jenny and Dafne are the wife and the mother of Golden Dawn MPs Giorgos Germenis and Panayiotis Iliopoulos respectively. The men are in jail at the time of the filming, facing charges including murder and participation in a criminal organisation. The camera follows the women as they try to deal with the situation and also bring the party forward in the upcoming elections.
The film is more powerful that it seems at first, and leaves a strong aftertaste. Set out to find the humaneness in the life of these women, what the films shows instead is that even those who promote hatred in society can have a very human face. “They told me they want to make a film showing that we are normal people”, Jenny says in the beginning, reassuring everyone in the party’s headquarters that the camera pointed at them presents no danger. The way they are portrayed in the media is almost an obsession for them, and being seen as human seems to be a goal of the Golden Dawn party in general. Angelique Kourounis’ 2016 documentary Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair captures a scene in which a party organizer forgets that the camera is on and explains to the other members that around journalists, they should carefully avoid the kind of terminology they usually use when they speak. When someone asks why they should accept being filmed in the first place, he answers that “The party wants people like her to show that we are not weird.”
«The Golden Dawn party have 18 representatives in the Greek Parliament.»
Weird and in Parliament
And yet, “weird” is a mild word to describe what the party stands for and the way its members behave. Nazi symbolism, flags, tattoos and aggressive postures are all visual props of Golden Dawn. Their marches look threatening. They walk with flags and torches while chanting slogans in voices that sound like barks. Despite the party rejecting the neo-nazi tag, Golden Dawn has all the characteristics of a Nazi group with a military-like structure and a lot of hate to fuel their efforts. Its members reject liberalism and socialism, advocating for nationalism as the only authentic revolution; they believe in racial supremacy, and in some sort of romantic belief that nowadays Greeks are the direct descendants of the ones who populated Ancient Greece, a civilization they idealize.
The party wasn’t always successful, but then it harnessed in the winds of the economic crisis in Greece, the unemployment and an unprecedented number of refugees and immigrants coming in that exact same period. Their support grew from 0,2 % of the votes to having 18 representatives in the Parliament.
«The film takes the notion of “behind the scenes” to a higher level.»
Golden Dawn gathers the disillusioned and the disappointed, the angry and the unemployed. They organize food donations, blood donations and create a support network for people – to receivers that have a Greek ID card. They are not driven by kindness, but by the understanding that there is opportunity in misery – their power depends on numbers and votes can easily be won from the most vulnerable.
Still, there are occasional glimpses of kindness in Jenny’s eyes. There is affection between all three of them and between them and their family members. There are also glimpses of kindness in Urania as she dresses a puppy and talks about her love for animals. Throughout the film these fleeting moments hold the possibility that perhaps this is these women’s true nature, and that things will take an unexpected turn – that their xenophobic beliefs will change and turn into love. But that never happens.
The film takes the notion of “behind the scenes” to a higher level. Looking behind the women’s public appearances could give the viewer a glimpse into who they are, but they never seem to take off their masks. So Bustnes enlarges the frame – capturing the moments when they don’t know he is filming – in search for authentic moments and expressions, even in the most common interactions.
But instead of revealing something true, the women hide behind the meaning of words – as if acting like a nazi, but then denying you are one, makes everything alright. They prove to be obtuse, defiant and unapologetic, and those initial glimpses of humaneness soon join the spectrum of the grotesque.
Impossible to relate
At the end, there is no bond between the viewer and the women on the screen. The search for their humaneness has failed, and what is left is the inability to understand who they really are. They don’t pass as “normal people” simply because they can’t be vulnerable and genuine. And perhaps the expectation that they should be vulnerable and genuine is wrong, and the assumption that there is something to understand and a way to relate fails from the start. In the world of Golden Dawn nobody is in search for meaning and vulnerability. If you have any questions, it’s because you question them. And that’s also wrong, because they’re not here to explain.