Interview with director Aris Chatzistefanou for xpressed.org
x-pressed: What is the topic of your new documentary?
A. Ch: The night of the negotiations between Greece and its creditors in July 2015, when it became clear that the country was heading to a humiliating deal, the famous hashtag #Thisisacoup circulated on the internet. My first reaction was to tweet #ThisisNOTacoup – This is the EU. This is the topic of the documentary. We reckon that what happened was not an exception, but rather that the EU did what it was made to do: promoting the interests of Europe’s financial institutions and of the economic elites in all countries. In THIS IS NOT A COUP, after researching the cases in which the European Central Bank reached the point of overthrowing democratically elected governments in order to protect certain banks, we analyse the history and the structure of the monetary union.
x-pressed: What brought you to the idea of making a documentary about this? How is it connected to your previous ones?
A. Ch: We soon realised that in all our documentaries the EU and, especially the Eurozone was the common denominator of the problems that Europe was facing. In Deptocracy, we analysed how the structural deficiencies of the euro, which cause deficits and debt in Europe’s periphery, turn entire countries into colonies of debt. In Catastroika, we understood that the EU has become a mechanism that sells out the public assets of its member states while we also investigated its antidemocratic interventions (for example, through the imposition of technocratic governments not elected by the people in Italy and Greece). In Fascism Inc. we presented the way through which European institutions actively supported fascist parties and the extreme right in countries like Ukraine and Greece. Therefore, we had to go back to the root of the problem and investigate who created the euro, as well as the winners and losers of its implementation. In many occasions, the result surprised us – despite the fact that we have been following the EU for journalistic purposes for more than two decades. Behind every action there was a small group of entrepreneurs, bankers, and politicians who imposed the common currency to European nations.
x-pressed: Share with us something that you will never forget from your shootings.
A. Ch: At a political level, what surprised me most was how a big part of the European left was unable to disengage from the EU. Even people who clearly understood that the EU is a mechanism for the imposition of the neoliberal agenda, continued to think that they can reform it from the inside. The result is that they left ground for the extreme right and the fascists to capitalise on the genuine euro-scepticism that actually exists in Europe. It is frightening to listen to people criticising the EU and at the same time saying that whatever exit plan from the Union is an expression of nationalism. I am afraid that some people confuse Europeanism with the European Union and are ready to sacrifice the first in order to protect the latter.
x-pressed: How did you finance the production?
A. Ch: Like in all of our productions, the only sponsors are our viewers who support us financially through the webpage thisisnotacoup.com. This is the only way that enables us to reveal the names of business people and politicians. If we depended on ads, companies and political parties and followed the classic distribution channels, sooner or later we would have found a closed door. What started for us as an experiment became one of the most important crowdfunding examples in Europe.
x-pressed: Give us some info about your new job, for example in which countries was it filmed, how many interviews did you hold?
A. Ch: We travelled to seven countries and talked to dozens of people who were standing at the first line of the recent developments, ministers, heads of state or journalists and analysts. Some of them took the side of the “victims” and others were at the heart of the European decision-making mechanisms, like the Commission’s ex-vice president and president of Bilderberg club, Étienne Davignon. We consciously avoided some of the most famous names that normally attract the journalists’ interest and we focused on those who played a significant role in the developments behind the cameras. It was a very long adventure that lasted over a year with thousands of hours of interviewing and filming.
x-pressed: And what happens once the editing is over?
A. Ch: After editing, it’s a whole new story. The fact that we don’t depend on the classic production and distribution channels makes us dependent on our audience so that the documentary can reach as many people as possible. The difference with the previous productions is that we will try for the first time to send THIS IS NOT A COUP to cinemas and TV channels, before circulating it for free on the internet. In this way we are trying to reach a new public that does not know our previous work and that will not follow us if our documentary is not available by TV and cinemas.