By Stephanie Nikolopoulos
“To fight someone, you need to know the way someone thinks,” states director Angelique Kourounis, who infiltrated Greek neo-Nazi meetings for her documentary Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair. The powerful film screened on April 20 as part of the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at New York University’s Spring 2017 film series Greek Cinema Today, curated by Visiting Assistant Professor Eleftheria Astrinaki.
“Golden Dawn is the biggest challenge of the Greek society,” Kourounis narrates at the start of the 90-minute film.
Led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn is a far-right political party in Greece linked to carrying out hate crimes – including murder – against ethnic minorities, homosexuals, and political opponents. “How could I remain impartial?” asks the feminist documentarian about her film’s slant, as she explains that her husband is Jewish, one of her sons is gay, and another is an anarchist. Kourounis likewise contends that “Golden Dawn never hid its ideas,” though several times she documents its members coaching others how to dodge inquiries and accusations.
A fringe movement for three decades, Golden Dawn entered Parliament for the first time in 2012 when it won its first municipal council seat. Today, it is the third largest political party in Greece. The Radical Left won the election on the hopes of improving the economic crisis yet conceded to the EU’s crippling austerity measures. Feeling betrayed, the disadvantaged turned to Golden Dawn, calling the party’s representatives “authentic” and “not fake.” At a time when elected politicians struggle to solve the 35% unemployment rate in Greece, GoldenDawners distribute food to the needy. In another scene, Kourounis documents them donating blood to hospitals. “If there is hunger, misery, then they will seek out Golden Dawn,” says one man. All that one needs to reap the benefits is a Greek ID. The nationalistic party blames immigrants and ‘illegals’for taking Greeks’ jobs. Cut to video footage of a city wall graffitied with the words “foreigners out.”
GoldenDawners do not believe themselves to be racist but rather that they themselves are the persecuted. Kourounis followsHaris Mexas, a Municipal Councilor and candidate for Parliament, who shows off an original edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He believes himself to be a good person, as evidenced by his humanitarian trips to Africa.He says, “as long as he stays in his fatherland I can help him.” Assaults on minorities have been on the rise in Greece since 2009, narrates the documentarian.
Golden Dawn’s tentacles are far-reaching. Some in the Orthodox Church feel there is nothing they can do, while others refuse to give Communion to known Golden Dawn members. Interviewing several people who insisted upon being anonymous, their voices distorted in the film, Kourounis shows how the police has been infiltrated by the neo-Nazi movement. Michaloliakos, however, is currently on trial for allegedly forming a criminal organization.
Golden Dawn is not just a challenge to Greece, but to Europe and the rest of the world, Kourounis states. Though the film focuses exclusively on Greece, the party has already expanded to the Greek diaspora. As neo-conservatism in its various forms sweeps the world, Kourounis’ Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair is a must-see documentary.