Greece on the Edge? The Film

The mood in Athens as Greece approaches the crunch.

Greece is being punished by the obstinate, pig-headed, anti-democratic plutocracy of the EU and the IMF for the crime of electing the wrong government, a government that opposes austerity as a misconceived and unworkable policy that creates unpayable debts and has indefensible consequences for the mass of the people. In May 2015, I went to Athens with the #DebtAction Group organised by Johnna Montgomerie of the Political Economic Research Centre (PERC) at Goldsmiths College, to meet activists, trade unionists, journalists and academics and gauge the mood at ground level as Greece approaches the crunch. The resulting film looks at the effects of five years of austerity on household debt, and visits the CommonsFest, a forum for alternative politics, while economist and Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas explains why the euro has been such a disaster for Greece.

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Starting ‘Money Puzzles’

Parthenon bis

The thought can hardly be original, but visiting the Acropolis during a recent trip to Athens, I couldn’t help but see it as a symbol of the condition of Greece: under renovation, but work currently suspended. At the end of April, the liquidity crisis forced the government to stop payment on public works because the European funding they relied on has dried up. Greece is being punished by the obstinate, pig-headed, anti-democratic plutocracy of the EU and the IMF for the crime of electing the wrong government, a government that opposes austerity as an unworkable policy that creates unpayable debts and has indefensible consequences for the mass of the people. Continue reading

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Election aftermath

Reports that Labour has lost its ‘soul’ may not be exaggerated. Whoever they pick as their new leader is probably beside the point, because judging from the opening salvos, they just don’t get it. In fact they never did. Five years ago, Labour took so long to replace Gordon Brown that the Tory/neoliberal media apparatus was easily able to induce a series of instant false memories that utterly distorted the truth about the 2008 crash. Pinning the blame on Labour’s economic mismanagement, they told lies about the deficit that disguised the real cause-and-effect of the financial bubble that burst when Lehman Brothers went bust (and Brown ‘saved the world‘ by bailing out the banks). Then, as if wishing to confirm Naomi Klein’s thesis of the Shock Doctrine, they imposed austerity. Which patently doesn’t work. Continue reading

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New government, shite

Farage, good riddance.
Greens, good vote share.
SNP, amazing.
Labour, pathetic.
Lib-Dems dug their own grave.
New government, shite.
Turnout, poor,
but UKIP vote share depressingly high.
So now, good people, brace yourselves.
And Europe, Scotland, watch out.

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Salute to Fernando Birri

There was something magical about the first time I met Fernando Birri, who celebrated his 90th birthday a few days ago. I had just arrived in Cuba for the first Havana Film Festival in 1979. Checking in to the Hotel Nacional in the late afternoon, I looked for a bar to quench my thirst, where I found this strange but very friendly figure—all the more mysterious in the dim light—with his long straggly beard and wearing the hat which I later discovered he never took off. I found out who he was—happily still is—over the following days. Three years later, he became a key figure in the documentary I made for Channel Four about the New Cinema movement in Latin America, of which Fernando is one of the founding figures. This portrait is drawn from those films (with a snippet—the short sequence with Fidel—taken from the film I made a couple of years later on the Havana Film Festival with Holly Aylett, also for Channel Four.) Enhorabuena, Fernando!


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Radical Film in Birmingham

One of the notable features at the inaugural conference of the Radical Film Network in Birmingham last weekend was the mix of generations, from new blood to survivors from the days of the IFA (Independent Filmmakers Association) in the 1970s. Speaking as one of the latter, it was pleasing to find that what the comrades did back then has not been entirely forgotten, but more important, that this new initiative has a genuine sense of history, of historical inquiry, and is disposed to look to past experience both in order to commend what was achieved and to mull over its weaknesses.

But of course the political conjuncture of post-crash times is markedly different from those days, and there’s been a signal change in the political modus operandi. Continue reading

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Arbitrary automated censorship at Edublogs

This term, I’m running a class blog for a module about Music on the Screen – not film music, but the representation of music making in different forms of film and video. Because the blog tools on the University’s digital learning platform (we use Moodle) aren’t very good, I’ve been using an external platform called Edublogs, which is basically a version of WordPress set up for ease of use in educational environments.

So far, so good. Until now. Continue reading

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Upcoming Screenings in London

‘Interrupted Memory’ at Birkbeck
Friday 9 January at 6pm

memory pointing (small)One of the interviewees in Interrupted Memory (Memoria interrumpida) (Michael Chanan, 2013, 116mns) recalls being detained in the 1976 coup in Argentina. She was beaten and raped. She began, defensively, to play a role. ‘Me, I know nothing about politics. I’m just a girl, I’m 17.’ Her captors let her go with a warning, ‘You don’t leave this place twice. Behave properly, don’t say anything.’ She was so traumatized that she went on playing the role of the naïve girl for years. Real life was suspended.

Michael Chanan’s film charts not just the public history of recent political violence in Chile and Argentina, but also the intimate and inner damage it has wreaked.

Free entry. To attend this event please RSVP: or just turn up!

‘Secret City’ at SOAS
Saturday 24 January at 4pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre

Aldermen and judges (small)

16:00  London is Burning (Haim Bresheeth, 2012, 45′)
17:00  Secret City (Michael Chanan, 2012, 72′)
18:30 Panel presentations and discussion:
Chair: Prof. Annabelle Sreberny (SOAS)
Prof. Costas Lapavitsas (SOAS): “Non-Productive Capitalism and its trail of destruction”
Owen Jones (Guardian) TBC
Prof. Doreen Massey (Open U): “The city of London: The invisible demon”

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