Victor Fraga / (31/05/2016)

Review published on

Can you be impartial when your family integrity is at stake? Documentary investigates the rise of the far-right in Greece, police complacency and the implications for foreigners and for liberal activists living in the Balkan nation.

Partiality is central to journalism. Even if you have strong ideological convictions and political affiliations, you should report facts from an unbiased and neutral perspective – or at least to pretend to do so – for the sake of credibility. Journalist and filmmaker Angélique Kourounis entirely shuns this principle when doing the documentary Golden Dawn: a Personal Affair. She establishes in the beginning of the movie: “how can you stay impartial, when your husband is a Jew, one of your sons is gay, the other one is an anarchist and you are a left-wing feminist and the daughter of immigrants” – all of these groups are despised by the deeply racist Greek far-right party Golden Dawn, the subject of the movie.

The extensive material, reaching a total of a 100 hours of video and audio, on which the film is based, is the byproduct of Kourounis’ survey and research into Greek far-right politics over the course of five years. The international media have often described Golden Dawn as a neo-Nazi and fascist party, though the group rejects these labels. Leading members have expressed admiration of the former Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas and of Hitler. They have also made use of Nazi symbolism, and their logo is strangely similar to a swastika. They are openly nationalistic and firm believers of Hellenism (a belief in Greek superiority: a party member cries out “Greece will cover the earth”), but they attempt to deny racism and xenophobia. A party member who was an aid volunteer in Africa explains the twisted rationale: “I like foreigners, I even help them, as long as they don’t come here”.

Before the economic crisis, Golden Dawn was just a small cult, with less than 0.2% of the vote. They have since seized the opportunity to donate food and blood to the poor under one condition: they must prove that they are Greek by showing their ID. This apparent Samaritanism combined with an inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric catapulted Golden Dawn to parliament, where they currently hold 17 seats, and are the third political in the country. They believe that the right-wing party New Democracy (the second largest in the country) has failed the nation, and that soon Golden Dawn will overtake them.

Golden Dawn uses both verbal and physical violence in order to get their message across. Most of their members are loud and boisterous, and they have attacked and killed both Greeks and foreigners – most notoriously the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas. Many of their members, including their leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, were consequently arrested. Once again, Golden Dawn seized the opportunity and played the victim card, thereby energising their membership and increasing their popularity.

The film makes some very concerning revelations: the Greek media has kept their silence and mostly refuse to denounce these violent crimes of Golden Dawn. The police are strangely complacent: they even arrested an Afghani victim instead of helping him claiming that the man was drunk. Korounis makes the bold assertion that Golden Dawn “lend a right hand” to the police by carrying out the dirty work that they do not want to perform.

The movie also investigates the dark past of the party, when leading members proudly boasted pictures of Hitler. Many Nazi values are still compatible with the party, such as the racism, the hierarchical structure and the use of classic Goebbels’ tactics of deception in public discourse. Their modern members dismiss Nazism as German, but they are not afraid of translating the ideology and values to the Greek sphere.

Despite setting out to be a “personal affair”, this movie fails to tell a personal story. Apart from the claim in the beginning of the movie, Korounis does not explain how the rise of Golden Dawn could affect her. We never learn where the director and her family live – even whether they are in Greece. Instead, the film feels like a straight-forward piece of investigative journalism. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was supported by Reporters Without Borders.

Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair is currently being exhibited in film festivals across Europe and the world.