Public Release of our Film – What We’ve Learned

It has been over a year since we have finalized our film „YourGreeconomy – Young Perspectives from Athens“. Today we finally release it to the public and would like to share some insights gained along our journey. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the full film.)

About the Documentary

The idea for this film originated in the question of how we could bring some “realism” into the theoretical subject of economics. With an economic crisis next door in Greece, we wanted to go there and talk to people who had lived through what we only knew from countless media reports. In that sense, our quest was one of economic empathy. Thanks to obtaining a “Creativity and Studies” stipend from the University of Göttingen, we received funding for our film project and subsequently flew to Athens in the summer of 2015 for ten days. We soon met many friendly Greeks and managed to film long interviews with six amazing young people: Maria, a theater actress, Eirini, an aspiring school teacher, Georgia, a social-policies graduate and an NGO founder, Antonis, a finance graduate, George a IT-systems administrator and Dimitris, who studies acting. Main themes recurring during our conversations were those of economic insecurity, the brain drain of young, educated people from Greece and the ambiguity of what a “common Europe” stands for?

Our Mistakes

First up, since none of us had produced a film before, we made a couple of mistakes. One of them: we didn’t manage to clarify our motivation enough. In hindsight, “bringing some realism” is a well-meaning thought but remains too vague for conceptualizing a film. This lead to unpointed questions in interviews and a wiggly narrative in off-screen text. A focus on empathy would probably have lead to much better conversations.

Our interviewees did describe their economic realities, yet we feel like we sometimes didn’t go deep enough. We didn’t ask Maria how she got by while working barely paid during her internship and how she found a job in acting even when the prospects for that profession looked grim. We didn’t ask how George – even though doing well financially – was coping with a family scattered all over Europe. We didn’t ask Georgia how she felt personally, when she learned that her promised funding was canceled.

Third, as our group was mostly scattered before the trip, some aspects of our planning were too shortsighted. For instance, we rented a camera online in Germany, which appeared to arrive to late. This resulted in an early morning rush to a logistical hub on the day of our flight; attempts to convince employees to open the container where the parcel should have been in; not finding the camera and arriving at check-in one minute before closing. As our efforts were unsuccessful, we had to rent another one in Athens and Till had to adopt very quickly to this camera model he had never used before. We also underestimated how difficult it was to set up the logistics for the interviews. For example, finding quiet places to shoot the interviews is astonishingly difficult, even in such a big city as Athens.

Critique and Feedback

We have screened the film in Germany seven times since releasing it and are very pleased to have been able to share our work and thought with such a large number of people. Discussing the film with our audience afterwards was very important to us and we were very pleased to engage in vivid conversations. Many viewers raised thoughtful questions about the crisis itself, like “What went wrong?” or “What can we do to alter the situation?”. In total, we received many praises but also some critique.

At one screening a young Greek spoke up afterwards and scolded us for portraying a rosy picture of the crisis. He said that our conveyed story was just too good when compared to the hardships other people faced in his country. And he might have a point. As we are discussing in the film, we only engaged people we contacted on social media and who spoke English. This of course resulted in a selection leaning towards young and educated young adults who were brave and self-confident enough to speak on camera(!). Nevertheless, our goal was never to look specifically for and display hardship in our film – since there is already plenty of reporting on that. We wanted to do something different.

One discussant at a screening in Berlin got up and said: „Well, thanks for the film, but couldn’t you have gathered the same statements here in Berlin?“  He explained that many friends of his are in a seemingly similar situation of economic insecurity. And he added, that they also have to leave the city to find better opportunities. We would however argue, that the main difference in this case is the magnitude of this crisis. It becomes clear throughout the interviews: the perceived outlook for Greeks seems grim for everyone. And media outlets remind people of these difficult circumstances every other day, announcing new austerity measures imposed by non-Greeks. On the other hand, the described parallels of the young and often well educated desperately looking for a better world are of course undeniable and are to some extend an increasing phenomenon in our globalized economy.

Moreover, after showing our film at Göttingen University, one student came to us and told us her story. She grew up in Egypt, studied in Bahrain and since her Bahraini degree isn’t valued as much internationally, she is now enrolled in another graduate program in Göttingen. And she said: „All the time I was watching, I thought this is filmed in Bahrein. What interviewees were saying could all be true of young Bahrainis.“

The Bigger Picture

We feel like all those stories from Athens, Berlin or Bahrain are interconnected and we need to tell them. There seems to be this globalized, well-educated young generation, striving for more, geographically mobile and temporary flexible. As Eirini puts it in the film, “our generation was raised with a way of thinking that you have to find a job that fulfills you… and makes you feel creative… and makes you happy”. And at the same time, our generation faces historically high challenges – which indeed have become more acute since our filming and tend to bring up populists answers. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution and national(istic) proposals will most certainly not be able to address these global challenges. On the contrary, we believe a transnational conversation is more than necessary and we hope to have motivated you to continue ours.

Here is the film:

 

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