Debtocracy (Greek: Χρεοκρατία hreokratía) is a 2011 left-wing documentary film by Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou. The documentary examines the causes of the Greek debt crisis in 2010 and advocates for the default of "odious debt".
The documentary has been distributed online under a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license since 6 April 2011, and the production said that it has no interest in any kind of commercial exploitation of the project. The documentary is available in Greek and English and is subtitled in French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. According to The Nation, half a million people watched the film in the first five days of its release.
The film was followed by a Greek-language book with the same title.
The production team has coined the word "debtocracy" (Greek "Χρεοκρατία"), defining it as the condition by which Greece found itself trapped in its debt. The term is derived from the words "χρέος" (debt) and the Greek "κράτος" (power, -ocracy). The title is meant to imply that the Greek government has been functioning mainly under the interests of the financial debt (at points superseding or even replacing the principles of Democracy and the Constitution of Greece), and therefore the debt has been elevated as a de facto form of government by itself.
The documentary opens with the statements of Greek Prime Ministers, starting with the dictator Georgios Papadopoulos and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and ending with some of the most prominent figures in Greek politics since the metapolitefsi: Andreas Papandreou, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Kostas Simitis, Kostas Karamanlis and current Prime Minister George Papandreou. The focus then shifts to the prelude to the recent global economic crisis and its origins in the 1970s. Interviews with prominent figures of the global philosophical and economic scene argue that the euro is non-viable and contributed to the worsening of the finances of Greece due to a systematic loss of competitiveness in the markets by the PIGS.
The documentary traces the roots of the Greek debt back to the revolution of 1821 and the British loans that were issued. The documentary criticises the notion of that the Greek population, since it enjoyed the country's prosperity produced by past loans, is now accountable as a whole for the debts. Debtocracy argues Greek politicians encouraged too much borrowing and corruption. The documentary praises Ecuador's decision to unilaterally default on part of its sovereign debt, on grounds of social justice. The solution suggested for the Greek crisis is the formation of a committee for the analysis of the debt in a similar way that Ecuador did. If the analysis proves all or part of the debt to be odious the people should not have to pay for it and therefore it should be erased.
Production and participation
The production team of Debtocracy have said that the producers are all those individuals that donated money in order to finance the project. Interviewees include:
- David Harvey, geographer and social theorist
- Hugo Arias, president of the debt analysis committee of Ecuador
- Samir Amin, economist
- Gerard Dumenil
- Costas Lapavitsas, economist
- Alain Badiou, philosopher
- Manolis Glezos, member of the Greek Resistance and left-wing politician
- Avi Lewis, journalist and film director
- Sahra Wagenknecht
The documentary has received mixed reviews, both for its use of economics and its political intention as a film, both by Greek and international media.
The documentary depicted scenes where Argentinian and Ecuadorian politicians had to evacuate the besieged parliaments by means of a helicopter. Iconic images and references to helicopters were adopted by the Aganaktismenoi movement who surrounded the Greek Parliament in 2011.
The critics against the film rely on four points:
- Accusation of propaganda
- The film is suspected to be only a part of a marxist propaganda
- False comparison of Greece with Argentina and Ecuador
- The purpose of the film is to say that Argentina and Ecuador where right to refuse to pay but that comparison has been found incorrect.
- Lack of opposing point of views
- Only people in favor of a Greek default have been questioned
- No alternative propositions
- Only a cancellation of the greek debt is invoked. Nothing about competitivity of the greek economy.
Writing for the British Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty said the movie's criticism of the euro was "compelling" and, despite its low budget, called the documentary "the best film of Marxian economic analysis yet produced".
Major Greek newspapers such as To Vima and Kathimerini have criticized the documentary as a work of political propaganda. To Vima argues that Greece's and Ecuador's economies have little in common, as Ecuador is a major oil producer for its size and population, contrary to Greece.
A similar critical review was published by Kathimerini, stating that Debtocracy is aimed at promoting political propaganda rather than objectively presenting a proposed solution to the Greek crisis. Kathimerini's review also fell in line with that of To Vima, saying that both the examples of Ecuador and Argentina are unfortunate as they bear no resemblance to Greece and come in full contrast with the documentary's line of argument.
Professor of Economics at the University of Athens wrote a letter to Debtocracy explaining the reasons for which he refused to be included in the documentary production team, and said among other things that he does not believe that Greece and Argentina have anything in common and that a default would be an easy[clarification needed] solution.
Former Aristotle University of Thessaloniki professor, and London School of Economics Doctor of Philosophy, Eleftheria Karnavou wrote a letter to the newspaper Agelioforos arguing that being completely against the documentary is unjustified, even though it is politically and scientifically unfounded, as it provides food for thought.
Response to criticisms
When asked about the one-sidedness of the film by the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia, the producers replied that they had made it clear from the start who was funding the project, that they used abstracts from documentaries produced by reporters of the BBC, and that those people that speak out against Debtocracy are the same people that find the television news broadcasts to be objective and credible.
- Διανομή (in Greek). Retrieved 11 April 2011.
- Όταν η δημοκρατία υποτάχθηκε στο χρέος (in Greek). Retrieved 11 April 2011.
- Debtocracy at VideoNation
- Vatikiōtēs, Katerina Kitidē, Arēs Chatzēstephanou ; epistēmonikē epimeleia, Lēōnidas (2011). Debtocracy : chreokratia. Athēna: Ekdotikos organismōs livanē. ISBN 978-960-14-2409-5.
- Ενα ντοκιμαντέρ για τη χρεοκρατία (in Greek). Ελευθεροτυπία. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
- Argyris Papastathis, Lina Psaila (17 April 2011). "Η "Χρεοκρατία" άναψε φωτιά στο Διαδίκτυο". www.tovima.gr. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- Aditya Chakrabortty (9 June 2011). "Debtocracy: the samizdat of Greek debt". www.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- Paschos Mandravelis (17 April 2011). "Ψέματα, μεγάλα ψέματα και ντοκιμαντέρ". www.kathimerini.gr. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- Thanos Dimadis (11 April 2011). "Η ειδεχθής πρόταση του "απεχθούς" χρέους". www.skai.gr. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- Eleftheria Karnavou (21 May 2011). "Για το ντοκιμαντέρ "Χρεοκρατία"". www.agelioforos.gr. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- Moisis Litsis (26 April 2011). "Debtocracy: Ο κόσμος διψά για διαφορετικές προτάσεις εξόδου από την κρίση". www.enet.gr. Retrieved 8 September 2011.