What can a director do on site?

So far there have been only allegations. The director disagreed with this. Whether they will ever be proven, and may have legal consequences, is an open question. But it has already become clear that criticism of Austrian Ulrich Seidl goes beyond this single case.

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First things first: Seidl, the creator of provocative stunts as often as they are lauded, is said to have “exploited” Romanian children in his latest film, Sparta. During the shootings in the summer of 2019, boys between the ages of 9 and 16 were said to have been exposed to emotionally difficult situations. It is said that the rules for working with children are not observed. Parents were not allowed on the set. They were also not informed of the exact content of the film.

Vote for and against the director

This is what the “mirror” reported at the beginning. The allegations came from unnamed parties. Meanwhile, others from the “Sparta” environment sided with and against the director.

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Seidl, 69, says, “I have great respect for all the actors, and I will never make decisions that in any way endanger their physical and mental integrity.” In his entire artwork, he asks for “sympathy for those who are being beaten. And they fell in order to push them aside and out of the law.”

In “Sparta”, actor Georg Friedrich embodies a man who, with his children, turns an old school in Romania into a kind of castle to serve as a judo club. Friedrich’s character is tormented by pedophile inclinations.

Unloaded again in Toronto

These allegations were made prior to seeing the film. This had dire consequences for Seidl. The first show was originally planned at the festival in Toronto, Canada. So the manager called out again in a short time. The work had its world premiere on Sunday evening at the San Sebastian Festival.

The entire film team, including Seidl, canceled the engagement. There was no scandal, as visitors to the festival reported. On the contrary: the film was received with standing ovations. No acts of abuse or even hints of it can be seen on the screen.

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The director had sent a greeting saying, “I am in Romania at the moment where I showed the film to the parents and their children who are in the film.”

Hamburg showing the movie only

The film “Sparta” will also be shown at the festival in Hamburg at the beginning of October. The film was included in the program “because of its outstanding quality,” she says. The allegations against Seidl were “against the circumstances during filming and not expressly against his film”. Is it really possible to separate creation and effect?

But at the same time, the organizers do not want to give Seidl the famous Douglas Sirk award as planned. They fear the allegations will “cast a shadow” over the awards ceremony.

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Seidl is a frontier crosser in cinema. The attack is exactly what sets him apart and for which he has won international awards. No one should expect good cinema from him. He talks about personal obsessions, loneliness, desire and sexuality in a radical way that not many others would dare.

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In “Tierische Liebe” (1995) he dissects strange relationships between people and their housemates, including French kissing with a dog. In “Im Keller” (2014) he revealed obsessions with sadomasochism and Nazism. In “Import and Export” (2007) he put colorful hats on the old people’s homes and made them dance to the music. Talk about the German sex tourist in Kenya as well as the wealthy game hunters in Africa.

“I’ll just pick it up”

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish sympathy from voyeurism in Seidl. Likewise, the line between fiction and documentary is difficult to draw.

Even in “Paradise: Hoffnung” (2016), the finale of the trilogy, one was concerned that Seidl might have shot his film at the expense of young, overweight amateur actresses. In an interview, the director said at that time: “There is no exploitation of the actors, they have to play it voluntarily.” And the sight of the girls hanging off the gym wall like wet bags? “Girls know what they’re getting into. They’re not stupid. I’ll just shoot that.”

However, he knew he was working with minors. The shame and pain threshold is different from that of professional actresses.

“Paradise: Hope” was shown at the Berlinale in 2013. At that time Seidl was praised for his tough look. Will this still be the case in 2022? “I don’t make the world shocking and unbearable, I just try to show it realistically,” he said in 2016.

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“Rimini” Seidl in German cinemas

On October 6, Seidel’s film “Rimini” about the Balinese star will be shown in German cinemas, the content of which is closely related to the film “Sparta”. The responsible PR agency says Seidl is currently unavailable for interviews “for reasons we can understand.”

Whether or not there is any truth to the current allegations, the filmmakers are clearly more closely watched as they shoot today than in the past. This also applies when it’s not about sexual misconduct, as in the #MeToo debate. Presumably, however, it was this controversy alone that heightened the sensitivity in the film industry.

In the past, female directors – female directors were an absolute minority – often felt the ultimate power on the set. Genius and infrequent blew around. Since they were given human weaknesses.

The prototype was director Dieter Wedel (The Great Bellheim), who died in July. Reports of authoritarianism and violence accumulated about him. He later admitted that he had subjected actors and actresses to “sometimes harsh, possibly hurtful, criticism”.

Confession of Lars von Trier

There are more well-known examples in film history than Fidel: Icelandic Björk accused Danish director Lars von Trier of crossing the line while filming “Dancer in the Dark” (2000). Novice actor Bjork suffered nervous breakdowns in front of the cameras.

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Von Trier later admitted: “The actors process everything with their techniques. Björk had no technology. I still “edited” it with methods I might with an actor.”

Dancer in the Dark first won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, then won countless other awards. So, are the ruthless directors the ones who get the most awards? And does that mean that stricter regulations will prevent extremist art?

Many colleagues may not agree. They do everything they can to provide a protected space for their representatives. Only then are they ready to surrender themselves to the scene. Director Andreas Driessen (“Kornaz Spring vs. George W. Bush”) once said in an interview: “There should be an ‘inclusive and reliable sense of community’ on the set, ‘as in the family ideally’.”

Doris Dorey recently shot her “Freibad” in one movie. Naturally, there was a lot of bare skin to be seen, which is why she asserts: “Everyone had the certainty that I would protect them in their physical and psychological openness, which I believe is one of the main tasks of directing.”

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In the context of the #MeToo debate, the profession of “intimacy coordinator” has evolved: it is meant to ensure that there is respectful and safe interaction between the participants in the sex scenes. It might not be easy to throw such a safety net on the production of an entire movie. But the actors are no longer defenseless.

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