Exostispress (Greece – 16/3/2016)

By Sotiria Papantoniou

Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair – What’s in the mind of the neo-Nazi next door?

Angélique Kourounis’ documentary about the existence and the rise of nationalist party Golden Dawn is indeed a personal affair, but one which affects us all as citizens of the country and as citizens of the world. From the outset, the title of the film clearly indicates that the barrier of absolute objectivity is broken, as the director and journalist/creator relates the phenomenon to a personal level, but of course without denying its social dimensions. The main question the film sets out to answer is what attracts supporters of the party – from the unemployed youth to the affluent middle aged – to this sometimes politically weak party. Clearly, the project explores in depth the recent and rapid rise of the party in formal politics, as well as the attitude of the media and the authorities towards the party, with certain revelations that even the very informed may be unaware of.

Initially, it should be noted that the documentary brings together evidence that could be likened to a comprehensive political reportage. From the beginning to the end of the film the commentary of the creator is omnipresent, and her voice often explains the image and the unfolding events being shown. At the same time, the voice over is followed by the evocative theme music; and documentary evidence that demonstrates its journalistic basis. In several places this type of journalistic explanation seems redundant – the images are highly revealing, they do not need any further clarification. On the other hand, the commentary together with the images helps the viewer from the first moment to create a picture of the aggressiveness of the Golden Dawn, so that in many places throughout the movie viewers can laugh and feel mutual indignation at the illogical words and actions of its followers.

Indeed, the images are very strong, as they involve as well as material that has already been disclosed by television channels, additional material that is disclosed for the first time. The director has been able to investigate the far-right Party for many years, since the beginning of the crisis in Greece up until the current day, and there are references to their initial appearance, when members did not hesitate to express clearly their neo-Nazi core and their fascist ideology. Material from that period shows the party leader giving a speech in front of a flag with a Nazi swastika, and the testimony of a former member of the organization confirms its racist ideology, which led to physical attacks on people with contrasting views. Today, the party functionaries know much better how to protect themselves.

Alongside the historical background, we watch the attitude of the authorities towards the phenomenon of Golden Dawn. Perhaps unsurprisingly to most, the police, courts, clergy and executive seem to react positively or even in a friendly way to the organization, maybe as a result of  passive inertia, and without a sincere and coordinated effort at repression.

Certainly there are exceptions, which, however, prove the rule; priests involved in the blessing of the new offices of the party; police officers that did not intervene while witnessing violence against immigrants; a government that takes action belatedly, a court that acquits and releases offenders. And here arises an important question which the film seeks to answer; Are there any causes leading people to support a party that, to put it mildly, smells of fascism? Certainly, the financial crisis, the perversion of the ideals of home and family, xenophobia, unemployment and poverty are meaningful reasons, as evidenced by interviews and the observation of party supporters, but also scientists, journalists and researchers. Of course, whether or not this response can be justified is another story.

In conclusion, the documentary explores in depth the organization, its ideology, the “logic” of its voters and the reasons for the party’s rise, which clearly we have to look at, regardless of political beliefs. Maybe more of us should be watching how many of those who, fearful of the bleak future of the country, have placed their hopes in Golden Dawn, in a party that declares its solidarity with the distribution of food and donations – of course only to Greek citizens, but behind its glittering  façade hides something rotten and dangerous. Let’s not forget, moreover, that it continues to be the third biggest party in the Greek parliament. It becomes our duty, then, to reflect on our own responsibility for our tolerance for the incubation of this phenomenon. Because Golden Dawn is a personal matter for us all.

[Translated from Greek]