“Ever since I was a little boy, Greece had been my summer vacation paradise. I was shocked and wanted to learn more about how extreme political views – such as the ones expressed by Golden Dawn – had managed to become so common among the friendly Greeks I met during my holidays,” says Håvard Bustnes, director of feature-length contender Golden Dawn Girls.
“My initial idea was to make a film about how extreme nationalists raise their children,” he says. “About how they transfer their worldviews to their kids. I soon realized this idea was impossible to follow up, for ethical and practical reasons. So with all the Golden Dawn parliament members in prison at that time, I decided to follow the women, who had to take charge of the party.”
Bustnes homes in on these ‘leading ladies’ of the Golden Dawn – a wife, a mother and a daughter of incarcerated Golden Dawn leaders – asking increasingly probing questions from behind (and occasionally in front of) the camera. “My producer, Christian Falch, had previously included Golden Dawn parliament member and black metal bassist Giorgios Germenis in his film Blackhearts,” the director explains of how he was able to get such unfettered access to the inner circles of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party.
The result is a kind of dance of approach and retreat, acceptance and rejection, between the filmmaker and his subjects, who by turns seem welcoming, tolerant, indifferent or hostile to his presence and questions. “The ‘fog of war’ between me and the characters became a more important part of the film,” Bustnes says, “because it turned out that the characters themselves wanted to take control over what I was trying to do. I want to show how they use rhetoric and how they always seem to claim that someone else is behind everything, when Golden Dawn members or supporters are involved with assaulting immigrants or similar violent events.”
“I became more and more fascinated by their way of explaining away all the concrete evidence of racism and violence that appeared in the media and elsewhere during the period of shooting. Golden Dawn Girls turned into a film where I try to show an absurd and dangerous worldview based on conspiracy theories,” the director explains.
Bustnes’ increasingly confrontational approach to the subjects of his film was in part prompted by responses to some early test screenings, he reveals: “We participated at the dok.incubator workshop, where we did some test screenings of early versions of Golden Dawn Girls,” Bustnes says. “We soon realized there was a big difference between the way Scandinavians reacted and the way a Central European audience understood what we were trying to do. I think the Scandinavian audience has a more tolerant attitude toward exposing extreme nationalists without me, as the filmmaker, having to be very confrontational … [so] after a while we realized it was necessary to clearly state our own critical point of view in the film itself.”