Costa Gavras, one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in Europe, expressed his interest in making a movie based on Yanis Varoufakis’ book Adults in the Room, in which he details his encounters with the EU elite, in his efforts to negotiate the bailout programme imposed by Greece’s lenders.
Gavras left Greece in the early 1950s, fearing political persecution, and migrated to France where he rose to the status of one of the leading figures of political cinema. He made his mark with his seminal 1969 film Z starring Yves Montand and Jean Louis Trintignan, in a fictional account of the legal case after the murder of leftist MP Gregoris Lambrakis, based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos. The film’s international success made it a symbol of the anti-dictatorship movement in Europe. Gavras subsequently built a strong filmography with works such as The Confession (1970) and State of Siege (1970). Throughout his films he has tackled major issues such as: the missing victims of the Pinochet regime in Chile (Missing, 1982, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Hannah K, 1983), US white supremacism (Betrayed, 1987), antisemitism (Music Box, 1989), ruthless media sensationalism (Mad City, 1997, starring Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta), the Catholic church’s pro-Nazi stance in WWII (Amen, 2002), employment insecurity and the dog-eat-dog mentality rising in white collar jobs (The Axe, 2005), the refugee crisis (Eden is West, 2009), and the corrupt banking system that led to the global financial crisis (Capitalism, 2012).
It is no wonder that he would be interested in the Greek crisis, which he sees as part of European democratic shortcomings. Gavras’ interest in Varoufakis’ encounters with the political machinisms of the EU was announced by the former Greek Minister of Finance himself, who said he is “chuffed and deeply grateful”, that Gavras, “whose films shaped the conscience of the internationalist struggle for democracy everywhere” wants to turn his book into a film.
In his statement, the acclaimed director says that he has been gathering “material and information – published, filmic, and oral”, since the begining of the crisis, “the tragedy that the Greek people are still living through”, in an attempt to make sense of the reasons and the people”. After coming across Varoufakis’ accounts, Gavras says that he found “the subject for a film, a piece of fiction, about a Europe governed by a group of cynical people disconnected from human, political, and cultural concerns – obsessed with numbers and them alone.”
The director and his partner Michèle Ray-Gavras, producer and production manager, subsequently became friends with Varoufakis and his wife visual artist Danae Stratou.
“Meanwhile I read two of his books”, remembers the director. “I was impressed by the quality and originality of their content, as well as the prose.When we met we had long conversations, in the context of which he let me know that he was about to begin writing his own account of his tenure as Greece’s finance minister, a tale of being an outsider in politics, of the negotiations in the Eurogroup – that illegitimate but ultra-powerful EU body. I asked to read the manuscript. He agreed and began sending it to me chapter by chapter, as the book was being written. Immediately I was convinced by the text’s seriousness and the accuracy of the description of the behaviour of each of the tragedy’s protagonists. Reading it saddened me, and I found myself often angered, indeed enraged, by the violence and the indifference of Eurogroup members, especially the German side, to the drama and unsustainable situation in which the people of Greece lived, and live. I decided to make a film out of this tragedy.”