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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 4:20 pm 
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ALEXIS TSIPROS IN THIS IS A COUP

A year of turmoil: the fluctuating fortunes of the Greek radical left Syriza party

Despite a certain slapdash quality at times, and less-than ideal citizen voices, on-the-scenes footage of government leaders reflecting unprecedented access and day-to-day events on the street make this TV-style (but free online) documentary one that's timely and exciting to watch.

The Greek financial crisis, which at one point seemed on the verge of bringing on an international disaster, well deserves a documentary miniseries like this one, though novices on the subject may need more explanation than provided here. Field of Vision's series of four 15-20-minute films with the Twitter-based hashtag title "#ThisIsACoup" takes a populist, pro-leftist stance. Director Theopi Skarlatos focuses on the mood and sufferings of the Greek people surrounding Greece's election early in the year of Alexis Tsipras and his coalition radical left-wing Syriza (ΣΥΡΙΖΑ) party. (Tsipras has been in office from 26 January 2015 to 20 August 2015 and then, after briefly being voted out, again from 21 September 2015 to the present.) In the documentary segments, footage of demonstrations and celebrating voters alternates with on-the-run interviews with workers, men and women on the street, and, most notably, the Syriza leaders themselves.

The key word is "austerity" -- the policy touted after the Great Recession began worldwide in the end of 2007. Austerity was imposed by the right and by the "Troika" -- the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB), which have bailed out the Greek economy in exchange for imposing brutal conditions such as increased taxes, hardening of retirement rules, layoffs of public employees, a massive cut in minimum wage and pensions. The theory of austerity is that if you call a halt to government spending, the private economy will revive. Keynesian and left-liberal economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz argue (and it makes sense) that reviving a country's economy cannot happen in arid soil and requires an injection of capital -- spending. Austerity reduces the public's ability to spend and hence perpetuates a country's economic stagnation. Thus the Troika's bailout conditions have maintained a vicious cycle in Greece. It must accept the bailouts to avoid even greater economic disaster, yet the austerity conditions imposed as a result of continuing bailouts have perpetuated the stagnation and unemployment that require the bailouts, and so on and on. All this is complicated by the European Union and the question: what would happen if Greece pulled out, dropping the euro? And the hate figure for Greeks: hard-nosed Angela Merkel, leader of the richest country in the EU, whose citizens may feel tired of bailing Greece out, especially since some of the trouble was due to widespread graft and cheating on taxes (an aspect not much spoken of here).

Once it won the election, initially Syriza, in the person of its Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, sought to say a big "No" to the Troika's austerity conditions. Specifically he voted against the terms of the third bailout package for Greece. But the strategy failed because the Troika was more unwilling to budge than he realized. and the film shows that Varoufakis was, after for a while, replaced by British-educated Euclid Tsakalotos, though Varoufakis remains in the government. (The Wikipedia article on Varoufakis is one that may help clarify the Greek situation.)

The story of Syriza's time in power in Greece told in this four-part documentary is a matter of the volatile changing reactions of an impatient public, fed up with economic hardship and eager for a quick fix. Jubilation and hope hope are followed quickly by disillusionment and protest. At the end of July, Tsipros decides on a referendum. Pensioners and the bourgeoisie want to bring them down. There is a run on the banks, which people are afraid will collapse if the IMF stops funding them.

Puzzler: great wave of support for an "Oxi" (No) vote on the referendum, meaning in favor of Syriza. Tsipras is mellow and beaming. He is modest, but exudes calm and confidence somehow. (His economic leaders in contrast seem strained and sleepless.) Nonetheless Varoufakis is forced to resign, blaming pressure from Europe. Tipros seems in a bind. Despite popular support, he must capitulate in another austerity-designed bailout, resulting in the titular Twitter trend designation "#ThisIsACoup." And so the series ends. Sum: zero. Greece is, it appears, back where it started before Syriza took over the government. But it's been an exciting ride.

All this is interesting, a most volatile tale of democracy in action. The British voiceover narrator and inter-title timelines of events maintain a sense of a chronology and a progression. For the public citizens' voice, the series relies a bit too much on a handful of speakers, such as the gap-toothed actress Dina Kaftarani, whose scraggly air and expletive-laced speech do not appeal, or the stylish Natasa Giamali, a reporter, who also uses expletives (in English) in a way that's too in-your-face. Another voice here, though heard from only a couple of times, so he hardly counts, is Ilias - a burly docker in Piraeus, a waterfront facing privatization. In compensation, the Syriza leaders are frequent and candid voices too. In addition to Tsipros, Varoufakis, and Tsakalotos there is the Greek Parliament speaker, experienced human rights lawyer Zoe Konstantopoulou.

All the Greek politicians speak good, indeed excellent English. If only their names were easier to spell, and remember!

Field of Vision is a film journalism unit co-created by Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack, and Charlotte Cook of The Intercept. It has done previous stories on LGBT rights, military surveillance, and the ongoing refugee crisis. Poitras won the Best Documentary Oscar last year for her film about Edward Snowden, Citizen Four, co-filmed with Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, a co-founder of The Intercept with Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.

"#ThisIsACoup" will be released for free in four episodes from December 15-18 on the Field of Vision website.

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Homeland Is Not a Series.

P.s. Dec. 20, 2015 Field of Vision presented "Homeland Is Not A Series," a short presentation by the "Arabian Street Artists" collective who "hacked" the set of the TV show "Homeland." When hired to provide Arabic street graffiti for an episode of the popular rightwing show, confident that the producers didn't know the language, they delivered derogatory graffiti saying "Homeland is not a series," "Homeland is watermelon," "Homeland is racist" and other such things. This video is here.

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GRAFFITI SAING "HOMELAND IS WATERMELON"

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