UK journalists Theopi Skarlatos and Paul Mason released their long awaited film #thisisacoup to the world last week, which chronicles what they called a “war” that began between Greece and the world financial markets in early 2015.
It all began with Alexis Tsipras’ rise to power on January 25th. The young, charismatic new leader of Greece promised change and an end of austerity, bringing along with him the first-ever left wing government in Greece.
Tsipras told Skarlatos and Mason that he should have been “braver” at the beginning of his government’s bailout negotiations with the European Union and he decided against being a “hero for a night” to avoid the collapse of Greece.
“If I walked away this night, probably I would be a hero for one night, maybe for two, three but it would be a disaster for the next days and nights – not only for me but for the majority of the Greek people… So my heart and soul said ‘go’, but my mind said that I had to find a solution.”
The film is an indictment against Europe and highlights the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU, leaving governments powerless to change economic conditions for their own citizens.
Many senior figures in the Syriza government were also interviewed, including former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, former speaker of parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou and current finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos. The films present a compelling behind the scenes account of how the first radical left-wing government in post-war Europe lost in its confrontation with the EU.
About the filmmakers:
Paul Mason is the Economics Editor for Channel 4 News and has led their coverage on the Greek crisis. He won the Royal Television Society specialist reporter of 2012 award for his coverage of the Eurozone crisis. He has a weekly column in the Guardian. He has a strong following of 191k on Twitter. For Channel 4 News and before that the BBC he has reported on social and political conflicts, including the Gaza war 2014, the refugee crisis in Morocco, ethnic conflict in Kenya and from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Theopi Skarlatos is a reporter, documentary film-maker, and founder of Kallithea Films. Her previous documentary “Love in the Time of Crisis” (2014) tells the story of the impact of the Greek crisis on people’s relationships. She has worked for the BBC, Channel 4 and numerous independent production companies. As well as covering the economic crisis in both Greece and Cyprus, she has reported from destinations as varied as Rwanda, Iraqi Kurdistan and Jamaica.
In January 2015 Syriza, a radical left party, won the Greek elections. With over 50% youth unemployment, massive public debts and ordinary people suffering under economic austerity measures, the new government had a mandate to change the system.
#ThisIsACoup tells the story of how they won, what they did, how they clashed with the global finance sys stem to whom the Greek state is heavily indebted and how it ended. We had extraordinary access to leading Syriza politicians through the nightmare of negotiations and compromise.
We filmed the elation and the despair. And we documented the lives of real people and communities: on the waterfront, in the countryside, and in tough neighbourhoods of Athens. The extraordinary resilience of the Greek people – in retreat but not defeated – is a key message of the film.
Episode 1: “Angela, Suck our Balls”
Syriza comes to power with Greece still deep in debt. Their supporters rejoice as Prime Minister Tspiras and the Finance Minister Varoufakis talk about defying the Troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund which organised loans to Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Cyprus after the crash). But an escalating bank run undermines their negotiating position and Syriza is forced to concede most of Europe’s demands. The the defiant street slogans – as quoted in the episode’s title – turn to bitterness as people realise how hard it’s going to be to resist Europe.
Episode 2: To Pay or Not To Pay?
With the clash with the lenders on hold for four months, some Greeks take to the streets to organise resistance themselves. Syriza’s most senior female MP Zoe Konstantopoulou tours Europe’s capitals trying to persuade people the debt is illegal and should be dropped. As the crunch looms, Tsipras opens up about his worries and predicts they will run out of money by the end of May. Almost on cue, in early June, Syriza defaults on its debt to the IMF and the “rupture” begins.
Episode 3: OXI – The Greek word for “No”
The crunch is here. A new bank run is draining the banks, while the state is almost out of cash. Varoufakis speaks privately about launching an offensive of debt defaults, but instead Tsipras calls a referendum, which leaves the government fighting for its life. Against all odds he wins a crushing victory, but as the minister celebrate, Varoufakis is sacked. What does Tsipras intend to do next?
Episode 4: Surrender or Die
Tsipras reveals his strategy – to seek a new compromise. As the government flounders, its supporters get worried – and angry. With Tsipras trapped in 17 hour negotiations a historic twitter protest takes place, involving up to a billion people worldwide, naming the lenders attack on Greece a “coup”. As Tsipras signs a new austerity deal and accepts defeat, his supporters are stunned. The party splits and the key players struggle to draw the lessons. Without debt relief Syriza will be left to impose yet another destructive austerity programme – the very thing it fought for years to oppose. In an exclusive first English broadcast interview since the climbdown Tsipras gives his own explanation of why things went wrong. “I’d have been a hero for one day, maybe two,” he says to critics of the u-turn, as without it the Greek economy would have collapsed.