The economic fall of the country might have been foreseen (local and foreign political leaders, bankers and other “experts” didn’t need any supernatural foresight to see it coming) but for different reasons no one pressed the alarm button until the ship had already hit the iceberg.

However the crash came and everyday life as we knew it would change. Our expectations, our hopes, dreams and plans, our “wants and needs” are now all subject to change. Our individual lives would cross with history and – as the chinese proverb says – we would be unfortunate enough “to live in interesting times”.

The present time in Greece is a time of opportunities for documentary filmmakers. On the one hand, the state of the country’s economy and society has attracted global attention and often appears in the headlines of foreign media, while on the other, the middle class narratives of “boring” normality have now been replaced by narratives of dramatic insecurity and struggle.

DOX presents here a brief overview of Greek docs of the past two years addressing the subject of the crisis, to explore the main tendencies and finally express some concern on the balance between current affairs films against a more “creative portrayal of actuality” in the documentary production so far. A good source for research into today’s cinema is the annual Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival that just had its 14th anniversary this March. As the festival’s market indicated, commissioning editors, distributors and all kinds of documentary film professionals from around the world visited Thessaloniki this year with an expectation to watch first-hand accounts of a small country’s economic collapse that is affecting the prospects of Europe and those of the global intensifying war conducted by a handful of bankers and politicians against democracy

Most of the films were argumentative documentaries that were trying to make sense of how this happened, why, who is to blame and what could be a way out of the crisis. Addressing international audiences to a large extent, these films would fit in the generic description of “current affairs” documentaries. Different experts exchanging arguments, exploring the historical causes, the systemic problems of 21st century capitalism, the role of politicians and bankers, a generous use of archives, images of public demonstrations and homeless people on the streets of Athens, those are the main visual ingredients of many of these films.
Much like Charles H.Ferguson’s Oscar-winning Inside job or Michael Winterbottom’s The Shock Doctrine based on Naomi Klein’s famous book, some films pursued an activistic role, supported by extensive research in order to raise awareness on the catastrophic neo-liberal policies and the dominance of the financial industry’s profits over people’s well-being:

Debtocracy by Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou has been a groundbreaking case in Greek documentary, funded through crowd sourcing and distributed online under Creative Commons license to more than two million viewers! The film that has stirred much discussion in Greece explores the causes of the current debt crisis by studying similar cases in Latin America and points to a possible solution of declaring the debt “odious”.

Oligarchy by Stelios Kouloglou, an experienced journalist-filmmaker whose work in current affairs documentaries has been internationally well received. He shares the view that despite the responsibility of the Greek political system for this crisis, what is evident in this case is an intensifying war conducted by a handful of bankers and politicians against democracy. In the EU he aims his arrows at the “Frankfurt group”, presenting it as capitalism’s equivalent to the Soviet Union’s Politburo. This well-paced film was shot all around the world and includes interviews with prominent economists, analysts, politicians etc.

Departing from world politics and focusing more on the representation of Greek society in turmoil, one can find more documentaries still within the current affairs genre, aimed principally at foreign audiences.

Children of the riots by Christos Georgiou focuses on the effects of the crisis on the young generation that took to the streets three years ago when the police killed a 15-year-old boy in the centre of Athens causing unprecedented demonstrations and riots. We get to know four of these young people (two of them still teenagers) and their dreams and fears through indepth interviews as they recall the days that defined their identity and their opposition to an establishment that had already failed before its actual collapse. This film, produced for Al Jazeera’s documentary slot “witness”, gives a human face to the newsreel images of protests in Athens and is available online at the channel’s website.

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