Photo: Guy Smallman
Into the Fire is an important film. As the UK media and government teach the population to hate and mistrust immigrants and asylum seekers, this film takes a look at the situation in Greece and tells a story that is not inconceivable here. The initial backlash against the Woolwich murder in June should serve as a bleak reminder of the possibility of a sudden surge in racism.
Austerity holds Greece in a gruesome stranglehold. Predictably, at a time of crisis, a polarisation takes place. Readers of this magazine will be familiar with the basic story of the rise of the left coalition Syriza and that of the fascist party Golden Dawn, the two sides of this huge rise in political stakes. Rather than focus on the characters involved in the different sides of politics, Into the Fire looks at the plight of those on the receiving end.
As the EU’s south-eastern corner, Greece is an obvious destination for many fleeing from conflict, economic hardship and human rights abuses outside its borders. Yet these refugees often find themselves in a similar, or sometimes even worse, predicament. Thanks to the EU’s restriction on asylum seekers moving country within the Union, many find themselves trapped in Greece. This restriction, the Dublin II Regulation, was drawn up in February 2003 with the declared intention of stopping EU countries ‘offloading’ asylum seekers onto one another.
It is a classic example of legislation intended to achieve one thing but actually hitting the most vulnerable in society. It means anyone seeking asylum in the EU must do so in the first country they arrive in. Yet the situation is so bad in Greece that the UK is no longer returning asylum seekers who arrive here via that country. As one refugee says to the camera in the film, ‘let us leave Greece’ is the simple wish of many of these people.
Although Into the Fire makes for uncomfortable viewing at times, it is not just full of despair. The fledgling anti-Golden Dawn movement is getting itself organised and onto the streets. Dimitris Katsaris, a lawyer representing anti-fascists, puts things succinctly. He issues a call to arms and declares ‘Fear is not an option’ – a necessary maxim for anti-fascists the world over. There are familiar traits on show in Greece: sympathy, if not pre-meditated collusion, between police and Golden Dawn; an asylum process that is intentionally intransigent and hostile to the people it is meant to serve; and inflammatory language used to scapegoat migrants for the economic woes of society.
The film is not highly polished or slickly edited; obliquely that’s a strength. This is a film made by video activists, and makes up for technical rough edges with a passion that shines through in every scene. That same passion has featured throughout the making and distribution of the film. Funded by donations, shot on a shoestring and edited on home computers, it is a testament to determination and dedication.
The distribution of the film is also notable. There have been a number of public screenings that have attracted good audiences. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has organised three such screenings in the UK – in a café, a university and a barristers’ chambers – all with excellent discussions afterwards. Many other groups across Europe are putting on similar screenings and most are being well received.
But the remarkable thing about Into the Fire is the online reception it has received. The film-makers organised a synchronised launch on a number of different websites, through YouTube and Vimeo. In the first two months, the film had just under 100,000 views – an extraordinary figure for a 40-minute documentary made with no budget for filming, let alone promotion.
This is a film made for the movement by a small part of that movement. It is shocking, it is unsettling, but it is essential viewing.
Into the Fire has been released under a Creative Commons licence and is free to show in any non-commerical setting. Watch it online or find out more about organising a showing at www.intothefire.org