Saturday, June 11, 2011
An important film with a profound analysis of the EU debt crisis which has a particular relevance for Irish viewers, we are currently in some form of extended honeymoon for the FG/Labour government. In a haze of relief at seeing the back the FF gang, the Irish people are in a state of suspended animation, wowed by visits from the Queen of England and President Obama, and following a spate of funerals for leading honourable politicians, creating the effect of disarming false national unity, there is a summer ahead for us in Ireland, akin to the 'phony war' period the early stages of World War II in Britain. People know theres a crisis going on and looming larger and larger, but theres a sense that in some way its in some way gone away. The IMF has deliberately contributed to this with the repeated assurance that we 'are on track' by which it means we have only just BEGUN the process Greece has been on for a lot longer. This sense of inevitability and supine trust in Fine Gael/ Labour is encouraged by their politicians constant reference to the terms of the EU/IMF deal 'negotiated' by the previous administration, ie for that read 'we're stuck with it..nothing we can do about it'.
Labour lead by Gilmore could not be more pliable and passive, they have disarmed the trade unions appetite for resistance by a coded promise to 'watch the backs' of the trade union heavy public sector, when the hawks in the Dept of Finance, and Fine Gael, go for the welfare system and the pay of all workers in public sector jobs in December...Meanwhile the phony war goes on, with Labour and Fine Gael softening up a punch drunk Irish public for a merciless whipping at the end of 2011, convincing us with week after week of propoganda, that we in some way 'deserve' the pain...A sort of warped utilization of vestigial remnants of Roman Catholic guilt...
The article below appeared recently in the UK Guardian, and it in turn alerted me to the film which is worth watching for anyone in Ireland, as they say in Greece, Ireland is only six months behind us...I fear that despite all the spin about our 'Export Success', there is a lot more that unites us with Greece and Portugal, than distinguishes us from them...This is despite Pat Kenny making the ludicrously childish assertion that we in Ireland are the 'best boy in the class'...What this film shows is that in a classroom where the IMF/ECB "teacher" is the educational equivalent of a sadistic Christian Brother on acid, being the 'best boy' is no guarantee of fair treatment
"One might not expect a butcher in rural Greece to recognise Costas Lapavitsas. He is, after all, an economist, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. His research interests include the evolution and function of the Japanese financial system and his books include The Political Economy of Money and Finance – probably not staples of discussion among rural Greek butchers.
But when, just before Easter, the Lapavitsas went shopping for groceries in Kopanos ("A godforsaken village," apparently, "ugly as hell"), said butcher spotted his name. "I know of a Costas Lapavitsas," he said. "I have seen him in a video on the internet." On being told that video star and customer were one and the same, the butcher responded with more excitement than is desirable from someone wielding a cleaver: "Ah, Debtocracy!"
Lapavitsas does have a star turn in Debtocracy, a film whose success is as unlikely as the academic's celebrity. It's a documentary about the financial crisis that has struck Greece; the collapse of public finances; the €110bn loan from Europe and the International Monetary Fund; and the savage spending cuts to come.
Unlike other entries to the nascent credit-crunch movie genre, the film-makers do not go looking for guilty men and women. No Inside Job, this. Instead what you get is a polemic against the European system; an explanation of how Greece was always doomed to struggle against the likes of Germany. "So are we the black sheep of an all-successful Europe?" asks the voiceover. "Or has the system been ailing since its youth?"
Debtocracy makes a compelling case that the entire euro system was rotten from the start, with bankers in Frankfurt and Paris left with piles of surplus cash, and southern Europeans getting by on cheap loans. Made on a budget of €8,000 (£7,110) and with very little flashy camera work or fancy use of archive, this is still – I can confidently say, without delving too far into history – the best film of Marxian economic analysis yet produced.
Stuck up on a website and YouTube in early April, Debtocracy has garnered something close to a million views and has been broadcast on small Greek television channels, gradually building an audience. "At first, it was young Greeks with broadband connections," says Aris Chatzistefanou – who co-wrote and co-directed the film with Katerina Kitidi. "But then we heard stories of how small villages were screening it, and how old men in the countryside were asking their sons to download it on to DVDs." In the process, the film has become an artefact in the popular resistance to the austerity package imposed on Greece – and across southern Europe. In Portugal, the Left Bloc put on a showing of Debtocracy in a small cinema to launch its recent election campaign. The film was also scheduled to be screened to 4,000 protesters in Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya before the authorities broke up proceedings.
When I speak to Chatzistefanou, he is still recovering from showing his film in the central Syntagma square in Athens. The screening only got going at 2.30am "and then the audience wanted to discuss it. We still had 400 people arguing over the Greek financial crisis at five in the morning."
Timing has a lot to do with Debtocracy's success. Greece's economy has sunk deeper into crisis, buttressing the film's argument that the nation is being broken, not fixed, by the IMF and the eurozone. Yet the film's suggestion that Greeks should renegotiate, and refuse to pay some of its ruinous debts, still barely features in mainstream Greek politics or media. Which leaves one video on the internet to be passed around a swelling band of dissenters.
After returning from Kopanos to London, Lapavitsas received an email: "Greetings from the village!" began the butcher. "I just want to congratulate you on your film. When you come back we can have a proper discussion."