COMMUNITY

An Austrian documentarist asks how Greeks are faring

By Lina Giannarou

«Unemployment, poverty, riots, bankruptcy: In the eyes of Europeans, Greece is collapsing. But, what it real life like out there, in the olive groves, on the islands and in the tavernas, in Spring 2012??

In early April, the award-winning Austrian author and filmmaker Fabian Eder set off on a journey in a yacht to answer this question and to explore the emotional and mental impact of five years of recession on ordinary Greeks today. ?How are they faring with the crisis? What do the reforms means for them? What happened to good old Greece?? If these are the questions in the trailer for ?Greece in Bloom,? who wouldn?t want to learn the answers in the film?

?Greece in Bloom? is already well under way, as Eder -- together with photography director Richard Wagner and photographer Andreas Handl -- set off from Hania in Crete in early April and made his way to Ios in the Cyclades, to Monemvasia and to Pyrgos in the Peloponnese, and then to the Ionian island of Zakynthos and Ithaca, narrating his experiences along the way. His journey will end in Messolonghi in western Greece.

The objective of ?Greece in Bloom? is to put the material Eder gathers on his journey together into a 50-minute documentary for Austrian television, in order to depict a ?timely portrait of Greece, in contrast to the miserable daily economic reports, which shock us and frighten us -- because hate is a very short distance away from fear.?

The idea for ?Greece in Bloom? came quite unexpectedly as Eder was having breakfast with his actress wife Katharina Stemberger. Their conversation was revolving around the subject of how unfair the criticism against Greece could be in the Austrian and other European press.

?The Greeks need to be given a voice, here and now,? said Eder, and the idea was born.

While filming, Eder and his small crew are also keeping a blog (griechenlandblueht.wordpress.com), featuring photographs and comments of their experiences.

In Mani, they wrote about Stefanos, a 26-year-old policeman they found playing traditional music on his guitar. ?When I was still posted in Athens, a 19-year-old Pakistani man asked me to arrest him even though he had done nothing wrong, simply so he could get something to eat,? Stefanos said. ?Someone who reaches the point of stealing because of hunger cannot be considered a thief.?

On Easter Sunday on April 15, Eder and his crew were in Daimonia in Laconia in the Peloponnese. ?These are people with hearts of gold, who work hard and live in one of the most beautiful places. People whose eyes sparkled with smiles until not so long ago. People of irresistible beauty, who are so different from the front-page stories... And there we were, three strange foreign from the North, sitting in the middle, as though we always belonged there. True hospitality, the true spirit of Christianity,? they wrote in their blog.

Greeks are not defined by the crisis, according to the Austrian documentary makers. New terms other that debt haircut and gross domestic product need to become re-associated with crisis-hit country. Its culture, hospitality and Mediterranean lifestyle, even the departure of winter, they say, are pointing to the exit from the crisis.

?Sailing in Greece reveals a country that is worth exploring, a country that, in contrast to the daily media reports about it, emanates hope.?

Through the blog, ?Greece is Bloom? is already gaining popularity as hundreds of visitors from all over the world log in every day to read the crew?s comments.

?People need perspectives, ideals and a view of beauty. Where else, but in the cradle of our civilization, the foundation of our culture and our values, could we find these?,? Eder says in his online introduction to ?Greece in Bloom.?

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