Photo: Ross Domoney
Athens. The name still speaks to us from a glorious past. Just ten years ago, the city’s classical legacy seemed to be undergoing a spectacular revival. Having just adopted the euro, modern Greece had finally decided upon its place in the pantheon of civilizations. Despite being perched at the intersection of three continents, the country now definitively belonged to Europe — and, much more than that, it had finally achieved the status of a fully integrated first-world economy. As a jewel in the crown of its modern civilizational prowess, Athens was rewarded with hosting the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad. In 2004, the Olympics finally came home.
But the spectacle quickly began to unravel when the global financial crisis struck in 2008. Now, an excellent new documentary – Future Suspended – tells the harrowing tale of what came next. In the past five years, as the Greek political economy has been thoroughly restructured into a full-fledged authoritarian-financial complex, the crisis has come to permeate and transform the very spaces of everyday life. Through a series of insightful interviews and a hauntingly beautiful cinematic traversal of the city, Future Suspended traces the rise of this new authoritarianism and the transformation of public space, as well as the unprecedented sense of anger and despair it has spawned.
The 35-minute film is the latest and most exciting product so far of a highly innovative independent research project called crisis-scape. The researchers behind crisis-scape — Christos Filippidis, Jaya Klara Brekke, Antonis Vradis and Dimitris Dalakoglou — are well known within the movements for their involvement in the independent publishing collective Occupied London and the eponymous anarchist journal, as well as the edited volume Revolt and Crisis in Greece and their blog, From the Greek Streets. For this research project, they teamed up with Ross Domoney of Aletheia Photos, one of the most talented independent filmmakers in Europe today. With spectacular music by Giorgos Triantafyllou, the result is a cinematographically brilliant film that goes to the heart of the contemporary crisis in Greece.
The film is divided into three parts, each of which deals with a specific theme. “Privatised” explores the legacy of mass privatization projects that preceded the 2004 Olympics and contextualizes them in the wave of privatizations occurring at present. What emerges is a shocking image of what geographer David Harvey has called “accumulation by dispossession,” allowing wealthy elites to snoop up prime properties at fire-sale prices, not least the city’s old airport Hellenikon. Needless to say, this neoliberal privatization drive has far-reaching consequences for the nature of public space — a theme that was recently highlighted by Giorgio Agamben in his speech in Athens.
The second part, “Devalued”, looks at everyday racism and the ever-shrinking spaces available to migrants in the city, leading to a grave depreciation of their lives. Fearful of persecution by police and neo-Nazi gangs, thousands of migrants and refugees are locking themselves up inside their homes, terrified of violent assault or arrest and deportation. The infamous police operation Xenios Zeus, sarcastically named after the ancient Greek god of hospitality, has led to the detention of over 60,000 migrants on the basis of racial profiling. As interviews with experts and migrants clearly show, the rise of neo-fascism in Greece is not just the story of Golden Dawn — it should be seen in the context of the institutionalized racism propagated by the mainstream parties and economic elite, whose xenophobic discourse contaminates the entire political spectrum.
Finally, “Militarised” looks at how this devaluation is turned into a generalized condition, with the rise of a militarized policing apparatus and the crackdown on migrants, social movements and any form of popular dissent greatly diminishing not just public but political space as well. Here again it’s worth noting the parallels with Agamben’s recent speech, which notes that we now live in a “state of control” where policing replaces politics and the democratic space of the polis is rapidly eradicated by state security systems that are no longer interested in maintaining order but rather in managing disorder. The symbolically brilliant ending of the movie — a powerful depiction of the death of the Olympic spectacle — also subtly overlaps with Agamben’s conclusion: that only a “destituent power” can set the modern Athenians free from the endless “spiral of security” to which they are being subjected.
Athens. The name now speaks to us from a terrifying future, suspended midway between the dystopian reality of everyday life and the everyday resistance of ordinary people. After five years of devastating depression, the city has already been transformed beyond recognition in many respects. Decay and destitution are visible everywhere, while the space for radical alternatives to the authoritarian-financial complex appears to shrink with the day. Still, life goes on and people will continue to struggle against the intrusion of state control into their personal and public spaces. As the flames of the Olympic spectacle die down, the flames of popular revolt may yet burn once more.
ROAR is very excited to present Future Suspended — and we would like to congratulate our friends at crisis-scape for their groundbreaking work in furthering our understanding of the dynamics of crisis and resistance in Greece today.
Future Suspended (2014)
Filmed and edited by Ross Domoney
Co-edited and script by Jaya Klara Brekke
Music composed, performed and recorded by Giorgos Triantafyllou
Assistant editing by Antonis Vradis, Christos Filippidis and Dimitris Dalakoglou
Research by Christos Filippidis, Dimitris Dalakoglou and Antonis Vradis