Interview with the PIIGS’s director, Federico Greco

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The documentary he made together with Adriano Cutraro and Mirko Melchiorre, now selected for the Indiecinema Film Festival, retains its destabilizing charge

Each screening of PIIGS – Ovvero come imparai a preoccuparmi e a combattere l’austerity or the more recent Once Upon a Time in Italy – Giacarta sta arrivando goes beyond the dimension, anyway appreciable, of the cinematographic event, becoming an occasion for debate, public confrontation, in-depth analysis of the situations and themes addressed in the film. While we are working to this interview, it is our belief that it will be the same on Thursday 5 January at the Circolo ARCI Arcobaleno, one of the venues of this edition of the festival, where around 9 pm we will screen PIIGS in the presence of the authors; film which in the meantime is already visible on our platform, precisely in the festival section. In any case, let’s hear what Federico Greco, one of the directors involved in the enterprise, has to tell us, since his intense creative activity was followed carefully by us for some years now!

The working team

Federico, in the meantime, a curiosity: you directed PIIGS together with Adriano Cutraro and Mirko Melchiorre, but how does the collaboration between you take place? Is there actually a division of roles? And together you have carried out other projects, right?

In writing and directing we work as one person, trying to compose the different sensitivities and opinions. We have always succeeded because all three of us have only one common goal: the film. From the mere point of view of the technical roles, however, we divided the work of photography (Mirko), editing (me) and sound (Adriano) and this allows us to always have mutual control of the stylistic aspects. Mirko and I later co-wrote and co-directed Once Upon a Time in Italy – Giacarta sta arrivando, basically following the same path as PIIGS: maintaining control over the photography and editing, delegating the sound and collaborating most strictly with the fourth musketeer, Alessandro Pezza, the executive producer.

When and how did you come up with the idea of ​​dedicating a documentary to such uncomfortable economic issues, viewed by some even with suspicion, such as those linked to austerity and the “Dark Side” of European Union?

It came about after we had separately attempted to make a film about those subjects. When we finally met, in 2014, we strengthened each other also because the consequences of austerity had by now become so tragic and evident that we could not avoid talknin about it. We had been studying the distortions of the European Union for years, dealing with dozens of groups, movements and associations that had arisen following the shock of the 2007-2008 crisis and the arrival of Mario Monti, the material executor of the mercantilist ideology that inspires the treaties Europe and monetary union.

Adriano Cutraro

Chomsky, Varoufakis, Barnard and othe Economists on the Heap

How difficult was to involve key figures as Noam Chomsky, Erri De Luca, Yanis Varoufakis and Paolo Barnard in the project, not to mention the availability also offered, in a different guise, by Claudio Santamaria?

With Barnard it was relatively simple, also because many of the things we had studied derive from his articles and from the now legendary conference held in Rimini in 2012 in which, with a handful of activists, he managed to bring to Italy, for three days, the best minds of the world’s heterodox macroeconomics, including Stephanie Kelton, collaborator of Obama and Sanders and leading name of MMT (Modern Monetary Theory which photographs the functioning of the macroeconomy in a sovereign country, we mean free to make its own economic policies and not subjugated by supranational powers).
With Chomsky it was necessary to swallow several nos in the span of six months, until a space was freed up in his agenda and we grabbed it on the fly: it was a question of interviewing him at MIT in Boston and so we did, albeit remotely, by hiring a local crew and directing it step by step from Italy.

In 2017, on CineClandestino magazine, we were among the first to underline the importance and topicality of such a cinematographic work. With an eye to what has happened in the world in the last two years, what effect does it have to rethink PIIGS, the warnings it spoke about, the possible links with the current situation?

We never imagined that Draghi, the great facilitator of the privatizations that devastated Italy, would take the field himself in government, abandoning his post at the ECB and his role as behind-the-scenes maneuver. It wasn’t a nice surprise.

Noam Chomsky

From “PIIGS” to “Giacarta sta arrivando”

Several people have told us that they discovered PIIGS later, thanks to RaiPlay channel. What was the life of your documentary in theaters, on certain platforms and possibly at festivals before arriving at the Indiecinema Film Festival?

PIIGS was in theaters for nine weeks in 2017, then it was purchased by RAI in December and finally it was released on DVD by Openddb. It is still possible to buy a physical copy, or in streaming, perhaps together with the book of the same name, here: https://www.openddb.it/film/piigs/. It has been on Nexo+ and Amazon Prime for a few months.

What are the possible links between PIIGS and your most recent work, C’era una volta in Italia – Giacarta sta arrivando?

From a purely communicative point of view, C’era una volta in Italia is the ideal second chapter of a trilogy on neoliberalism that began with PIIGS. In fact, we are already working on the third chapter.
The format is the same: we have the ambition to transform what would otherwise be mere journalism into epic, cinematographic narratives, treating the documentary form with the writing tools of wide-ranging narratives. In fact we are of little interest, in both films, in the investigations that revolve around corruption, malfeasance, evasion, criminals of small cabotage. We are interested in making small but universal stories of characters who struggle with very broad reflections in dialogue. Little Davids fighting giant Goliaths. The result of these associations is always very effective, we have noticed. The further you move away from journalistic investigation – which has never been our goal – the closer you get to cinematic storytelling. And therefore to an ever-increasing and more enthusiastic audience.

Stefano Coccia

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