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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 June 2019
DIASPORA 8 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 JUNE 2019 Greek American director’s film on tax evasion exposes why the problem prevails A funny approach in an otherwise boring subject of taxes MARY SINANIDIS Greeks living abroad manage to conform to the laws of their chosen countries and thrive in their new environments, however in Greece the law of the jungle prevails. A short documentary, 'Tax Evasion, a Greek National Sport', freely released to the wider public ahead of the 7 July elections, aims to explain the mentality of Greek taxpayers and their view on tax evasion. Los Angeles-based director Katerina Sarri told Neos Kosmos that her goal when creating the documentary was to document tax evasion for people worldwide to have a better understanding of the endemic problems in what appears to be a Catch-22 spiral of higher and higher taxes leading to even more rampant corruption – so much so that it has almost become commonplace. "I know Greece had or still has a bad reputation for not paying taxes so I wanted to examine this and then tell the story from a point of view that is not that wellknown to most people. I felt that there are some important facts that everyone needs to know before forming an opinion," Ms Sarri said. "Greece, apart from the beaches and the sun, is also related to corruption. Since most Greeks in the past would consider the government their 'enemy' they used to evade their taxes but nowadays this has become a necessity." The documentary exposes a number of underlying socioeconomic issues at play when Greeks choose not to pay their taxes. A number of those interviewed point to an extraordinarily high tax burden that makes it unsustainable for people to pay their full share of taxes in accordance with the law and survive. Business and employees alike point to having no other recourse when taxes are three quarters of their intake, while job seekers pointing out that they prefer being 'paid under the table' as their salary would not be sustainable otherwise nor would they be hired if they The screening of ‘Dogs of Democracy’ at the Cyprus Community Club on Wednesday night. Photo: Supplied Hellsoc co-hosts ‘Dogs of Democracy’ film screening, uniting Greek youth with older generations GEORGE MPLIOKAS Greek American director Katerina Sarri Although I know that it is not very popular for a “ woman to make a film about economy, that was what intrigued me the most to do it.” were to request an amount compatible with living costs. As a former Greek resident, Ms Sarri was able to get a unique, multi-faceted perspective to an ongoing Greek problem. Examining tax evasion today, she points to changes regarding EUenforced regulations since she left her homeland. "But unfortunately, the tax rates are so high that people now sometimes cannot afford to pay," she said, adding that the problem will persist for as long as the taxes are high in proportion to real wages. "There are a lot of solutions but the problem is that none of the effective ones take place. There has been a change. But not (enough) to prevent the problem and thus the situation worsens," she said of Greece's vicious spiral. A victim of Greece's economic crisis herself, Sarri has been living in LA since the summer of 2015. "I came to Los Angeles to study at LMU and get my MFA in Film & TV Production. I wanted to go to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and TV because in Greece this field is lacking and, especially after the crisis, the industry got affected very badly," she said. The documentary, which took a year to make, saw Sarri go through a long process that included two visits to Greece. "The post-production lasted longer than what happens with documentaries," she says. "During that process was when the film was actually shaped. It was pretty hard to do the research because I had no background in economics and then it was very difficult to find people to talk to me on camera. However, I manage to overcome any difficulties and create a piece that illustrates the core of the problem." Satisfied with the end result, Ms Sarri hopes that it could lead to a greater understanding of the plight of Greece's citizens. "A lot of people told me that after watching the film, they have a better understanding of the situation and that was my ultimate goal," she said. More than 60 guests made their way to the Cyprus Community Club in Stanmore to attend a screening of Mary Zournazi's documentary, 'Dogs of Democracy' on Wednesday night. Dr Zournazi, a philosopher and Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), co-hosted the hour-long screening with UNSW Greek lecturer Dr Efrosini Deligianni and the Hellenic Society of UNSW (Hellsoc). 'Dogs of Democracy', which also featured as part of the 2018 Greek Film Festival across the country, opens as an account of Athens' stray dogs and the people that accompany them on the streets of the Greek capital before winding its way through to a unique perspective into the Greek Debt Crisis. Themes of dignity, hope, and their antitheses feature under the backdrop of years of anti-austerity protests first in Athens, then moving location to the island of Lesvos where thousands of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan find themselves after fleeing from respective conflicts. A number of interviews with residents – including former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis – offer their viewpoints on the animals' plight on the streets and how they reflect the broader misery of the Greek people in the Crisis era. Hellsoc President, Panayiotis Kapodistrias spoke with Neos Kosmos after the hour-long screening and described how Dogs of Democracy offers a wel- come perspective into life on the ground in contemporary Greece. "It gives us an insight to that bigger picture," said Kapodistrias. "When we compare ourselves to how some of the young people are living in Athens and Greece, it's very different." Kapodistrias continued by highlighting the importance of student organisations partnering with artists and academics to bring these issues to the fore in an Australian context. "In terms of Hellsoc's values, we look at uniting Greek Australians [to] remember our heritage, where we come from," the Hellsoc President said. "A film screening like this is a perfect example of uniting not just the youth, but also some of the older generations as well." Greece’s brain drain can be reversed Since the economic crisis hit Greece in 2008, from that year right up to 2016 over 400,000 Greeks hav moved abroad in search of opportunity and greater stability. But this mass movement of people could very well be reversed, according to experts, if investments are made and the economy grows. This insight was presented at the annual E-Kyklos conference on Thursday in Athens. Fay Makantasi, a research analyst at diaNEOsis, presented a survey on the country's social mobility during the financial crisis that outlined the gen- DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Both a financial and political shift are key to the reversal of the brain drain. eral profile of the 427,000 Greeks who left Greece. They are generally classed as university graduates, young, unmarried and live in cities. Makantasi told Kathimerini that these people could consider returning to Greece if there were signs of not only a financial shift, but a political shift as well.
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