Interview with a director of The Antifascists

On the 2nd of March the local group of the Varis network screened the new documentary film The Antifascists in Helsinki. A director of the documentary was present at the event and answered questions from the audience. We had a chance to make an interview with them on the same evening. The documentary will be shown in Turku on the 22nd of March. See also review of the documentary in English.

How did you get the idea for the film?

There are almost no documentaries about anti-fascists. Documentarists have instead focused on the fascist and far-right movements. We felt that there is a lack of focus on the counter-part to this, on the movement that organizes against these. So we wanted to portray the antifascist movement, lift it up to the surface and fill the empty space. I knew only one good documentary about the subject before making this film, the French Chasseurs de Skins. Otherwise there are not so many good documentaries on this topic, but there are tens and maybe hundreds of documentaries about fascism and extreme-right. Our main purpose was to to fill this gap.

The documentary has not been shown in Sweden yet, but in Greece there was already one screening. How did the audience take it there?

It was received very well. The screening was at a social center in a suburb of Athens. The social center helped us a lot in the beginning of the film project, and we promised to them that they could show the first screening. So we were there and they had organized it very nicely. Similar to here, they had put up posters and there were around 200 people present. People enjoyed it and had a discussion afterwards. They had a lot of comments and questions about the production and different aspect of the film.

In the film three pillars* of anti-fascism are presented. Is this division widely known and is it put in to practice in Greece or Sweden?

I hadn’t heard of the three pillars presented in that form before. In the film the pillar thesis is read by Spyros Marchetos, a Greek professor and antifascist. He got the idea from another author, Colin Sparks. According to Marchetos, the pillar theory is fundamental. I hadn’t heard of the pillars in that form, but I have of course taken notice of these aspects regarding how to confront fascism. If you want to confront them in the streets, you have to use one kind of method. If you want to do it in civil society, you have to use other methods. If you do it in the cultural arena, there are different ways of approaching the problem. What he means by it, is that you need to be in all sphere  all the time. Otherwise the fascists just change track and gain strength from that, I think.

In Finland there are attempts to illegalise the Nordic Resistance Movement. What you think about such a ban?

I wouldn’t say it’s a solution to the problem at all. Of course it can have some effect, but if you want to go to the root of the problem, I don’t think it’s a way to do it. It can turn out in different ways. Either it turns out that it becomes an underground movement, and that could make it even more dangerous, even more sectarian, and even more militant. Maybe it could stop them gaining popular support and stuff like that, but I think that is just a way to hide the problem. I don’t know about this proposal here in Finland, but this could develop to different directions as well. If they ban this movement, after that they can impose the ban on other forms of revolutionary and radical political groups on the same terms.

What new things did you learn about the Swedish and Greek antifascist movements during the film-making process?

A lot of things. Through this film I got to know a bigger part of the movement in a broader way. From knowing just a few different groups of a few different persons, I and all of us that made the film were introduced to a lot of people working on the same problem, in different fields and with different methods. We had a chance to see things from a broader perspective. I think it’s really important sometimes to – I try to come up with something that doesn’t sound like a cliche –  to step back and see the movement from outside. And see how to work to actuallyachieve something. And maybe take up different perspectives.

As you saw the movement from outside, to which direction do you now think it should develop e.g. in Sweden?

I don’t think I have an answer to what is right or what would make the best direction to go in, but the panelists in the Helsinki documentary event made really good points about the need to be more open, more inviting and to form broader movements. They also mentioned collaborating and being supportive to different groups. Even if you don’t always agree with all the tactics that everybody uses all the time, it’s important to build a real movement, to not sit in different corners criticizing others. If you have a critique, of course you should criticize but in a constructive way and from the point of view as a movement, and see how different groups can reinforce each other.

Openness is really important as well, to have more activities that are inviting to a broader population. The movement should be more attached with the times, using new platforms and channels that are available. Unlike 10-20 years ago, now it is simple to make your own films, your own channels and newspapers. You should experiment and try new things without being afraid of failing. For example in Sweden different groups do things that others might at feel skeptical about. But if something good comes out of these experimental things, it’s great. If it does not work, then all right, it was a good try. That’s the thing, you shouldn’t get stuck in one form and bang your head against the wall.

What were the most difficult things in making the film?

Originally it was two of us who started making the film with a really small budget. We couldn’t have any payment or salary for our work. So we had to beg friends to do things, everything from borrowing equipment to helping in filming something. For both of us it was our first movie in a longer format, and we didn’t have the experience in doing these things professionally. For both of us it was really fun to just try everything and do a lot of lousy things. Many things turned out bad, but it was fun to work with something like this that we felt was very important. We have worked on it now for 3,5 years and put in endless amount of hours on it. It’s been a full-time job besides other jobs, and I feel like it has come out quite ok in the end. We were lucky to find a very good editor. We didn’t know him before this. He has done a really fantastic job.

Another thing that was hard was to choose what to have in the documentary. It changed paths so many times. From only focusing on Greece in the beginning, to then focusing on both Greece and Sweden, and actually for a while I was thinking to only focus on Sweden. Eventually we took both.

What were the best parts in making the film?

It was so fun to be working with something like this that you feel is important, and to also find people that want to work with it too. When things start to roll. Several times we just stopped the film-making process, for example there were a couple of months that we didn’t do anything because we were so tired. And people have other jobs, and things happen in life. It felt like this film project would never end. Yeah, the best part was to meet so many people that were so open and wanted to take part and help with interviews, filming and introducing us to new and interesting people. Thanks to everyone’s contribution things got arranged even without funding or a huge budget, and in the end we succeeded. It was really great how many people we had never met before took part. For example, you guys who organized this very good screening. Everywhere we went we were received very nicely.

 

* Colin Sparks’ three pillars of anti-fascism according to Spyros Marchetos (2013):

  • “The first pillar is the refutation of the fascist slogans and propaganda, the battle for the mind and heart of the people, who in times of crisis are alienated by the system, but not automatically directed to the Left.
  • The second pillar is the massive mobilization: the battle against Golden Dawn must mobilize all available mass organizations, from the trade unions and local authorities, to scientific and parent associations.
  • The third pillar is the necessary control of the streets. There is no historical example in which the Left defeated fascism without organizing to conquer – against fascists and forces of repression – the public space. Nazis must be persecuted off the streets, and this is not done with prayers, but with militant organization.”

 

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