Austrian filmmaker shows another side of the crisis in Greece
By Kathy Tzilivakis
Don’t believe everything you read or hear about the economic crisis in Greece because it’s not all doom and gloom, according to Fabian Eder, an award winning Austrian author and director.
“I’m absolutely positive about Greece,” he said after spending the entire month of April sailing around the country filming a documentary about this cash-strapped country for Austrian television.
According to Eder, his hour-long film “Greece in Bloom” contrasts all the negative (and sometimes shocking) media reports about this debt-stricken country, which he said has hit rock bottom in the eyes of Europe.
“All the economic and political stories reported by the media have in effect made people start to think negatively about the Greek people,” he said. “It’s a kind of discrimination.”
The idea for the film came quite spontaneously over breakfast with his wife, Katharina Stemberger, a well-known actress in Austria. The two were discussing how unfairly the media is reporting the crisis in Greece and how the Greeks are being portrayed as lazy tax dodgers who retire in their 50s.
A need to set the record straight was the reason Eder embarked on his month-long Greek Odyssey, sailing from Crete to Western Greece. He wanted to see first hand what life was really like in the olive groves, on the islands and in the tavernas?
Eder said the idea for the film was to speak with as many Greeks in order to give them a voice.
In their own words
On the island of Crete, Eder met Manussos Pollakis, a 28-year-old musician who said that money isn’t everything in life. “That’s the big realization of the crisis,” he said. “You know it, I know it, but the politicians still don’t seem to know it – not ours nor the ones in Europe. All they care about is money and banks. The people, like us, are last in line. We are all just ants to them!”
When Eder asked Pollakis why it is so difficult to see signs of the economic crisis on Crete (Greece’s largest island), he explained: “We’ve got fruit and vegetables, and thousands of goats and sheep on Crete. Even up here the olive trees grow. And when I am thirsty I will go down to that spring over there and drink water. In Athens you have to pay for a sip of water. We here on Crete, won’t die of thirst.”
On the island of Ios, some 60 nautical miles north of Crete, Eder spoke with 25-year-old Vivi who moved to the island earlier this year. “Ios is like a safe haven to me,” she said. “I came back here because I could no longer afford life in Athens.
“Nevertheless, I am optimistic,” she added. “We can and we will overcome this crisis.”
Maria, who lives on the island of Zakynthos, is just as confident. “We Greeks have to come to terms with who we are and what we can achieve. Then everything will get better,” she said. “I am proud to be living in Greece [even thought] things aren’t easy.”
In a small village deep in the Peloponnese, Stefanos, a 26-year-old police officer, said he will not let the crisis rob him of his dreams. “The worst is that the crisis is taking away our dreams,” he said. “But my generation has learned their lesson. We won’t make the same mistakes again. We still have our dreams.”
According to Eder, Greece is full of young people who want to rebuild their country. This was something that surprised him.
“Before coming to Greece for the film, someone in Vienna who regularly travels to Greece had told me that I was going to meet a lot of young people who wanted to leave the country,” he said. “But when I came to Greece, I met young people who said they don’t want to leave. Sure they had left Athens because they could no longer afford to live there, but they were returning to the islands and the regions. They said they want to change things.”
And they just might. “These are people who know about the problems and they know what needs changing and they are willing to do it,” he said.
“Greece in Bloom” was recently screened at the European Parliament. It was actually presented by Germany’s Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament.
According to Eder, the screening was a “positive event” because the European deputies were “so glad to see something like this”.
In fact, the response was so encouraging that Eder is now thinking about returning to Greece in order to visit the rest of the country. Another idea is to transform “Greece in Bloom” into a Europe-wide project.
“We can do something bigger by going to other countries around Europe,” he said. “My dream is at some stage, maybe in a few years, we can develop something that is Europe-wide.”