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Current affairs dominate Greek documentaries at Thessaloniki


- Almost 150 new local titles are unspooling at the 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, and a handful are deeply political

Current affairs dominate Greek documentaries at Thessaloniki
Next Stop: Utopia by Apostolos Karakasis

Close to 150 local films are being presented at the 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which will see outgoing director Dimitri Eipides say his last farewell as the gathering’s curtain drops on 21 March. However, only a handful of these titles are getting any noteworthy traction, and the one thing they have in common is their focus on current affairs.

The scorching social and political issues of a country living through its sixth year of tight austerity measures are the order of the day in documentaries employing sharp political angles and methods of investigative reporting, often at the expense of polished aesthetics and cinematic qualities.

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Angélique KourounisGolden Dawn: A Personal Affair, which is quickly becoming the festival’s most talked-about local production, offers a unique inside view of the Greek neo-Nazi political party that has divided the nation over the past few years, as its voters pushed it all the way into Parliament in 2012, and opposers were left baffled when the local authorities and political leadership failed to find an efficient way of handling the fact that GD members had kick-started a brutal string of violence against immigrants and far-leftists, which culminated in the murder of Greek hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas in late 2013.

“The cradle of democracy was comfortable with it,” states narrator Alice Greenway in one of the film’s most harrowing scenes. The director went undercover for a series of years, posing as a member of the party interested in documenting and presenting its political views and organisational novelties. 

Political novelties are what Apostolos Karakasis’ lens focuses on as well, with his Next Stop: Utopia, chronicling a bunch of laid-off workers’ struggles to take charge of and restart local factory VIO.ME., following its closure due to insurmountable debt. After taking over the factory as leverage to recoup their unpaid salaries, the workers try to turn it into a self-managed enterprise, teetering between naive lawlessness, misleading political partisanships and the occasional bout of internal bickering, unknowingly offering a telling parable of many facets of the country’s current political status quo.

The nation’s political shortcomings are also brutally laid bare in Marianna Economou’s The Longest Run, a film focusing on a juvenile detention centre in Volos, where the director follows inmates suspected of being handlers of immigrants entering Greece illegally. Though these children regularly turn out to be framed, they often reach adulthood during their preliminary incarceration, thus being forced to jump through tighter hoops when they reach trial. By exposing the state of bewilderment in which the authorities find themselves, the film offers a tragic view of how the refugee crisis is crippling the country.

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