Austrian director Ulrich Seidl, who faced accusations of on-set immorality and child exploitation last year, will attend the world premiere of a “new” film titled “Wicked Games Rimini Sparta” at Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam later this month. Seidl has vehemently denied the allegations against him.
A spokesperson of the festival informed this information diversity The plan was for Seidl to arrive at the festival on January 29 and stay for three nights, but details are still being finalized. IFFR runs from Jan. 25-Feb. 5.
The new film, with a running time of 205 minutes, combines footage from his 2022 twin films “Rimini” and “Sparta,” the latter of which was the focus of complaints. In the films, Seidl follows the lives of two brothers, Richie and Ewald, respectively. The former is a scoundrel, past his prime but still beloved by late-middle-aged female fans who buy his sexual services; The latter is a techie living in Romania and wrestling with his pedophile desires.
A description of the new film on the festival’s website, written by German critic and programmer Olaf Moller, says that when Seidl started working on the story “a film should have told – and now they finally!”
Moller added that “Wicked Games Rimini Sparta” “offers a wonderfully different narrative experience”. It’s much more cerebral, a work of ideas after all.”
In the film’s first, winter set movement, “the two strands are tightly entwined,” Moller says, “mirroring, complementing each other in a devastatingly dark vision of a lost childhood as a state of mind.”
The second, Summer Movement, he says, “focuses on Ewald and the spartan fantasy that he lives with a group of boys in a castle, which is now seen as a sublimation of his father’s obsession with German fascism that turns him into a spitfire. Nazi songs and slogan when he no longer remembers. Meanwhile, a young Spartan’s father “attempts to turn the boy against Ewald by brutally ‘educating’ him to embrace evil.”
All this makes the new film “a more uncomfortable, uncomfortable and heart-broken, but in many ways richer version of the project,” said the critic.
Allegations of set-up illegitimacy and child exploitation against Seidl and “Sparta” were published in the German news magazine Der Spiegel on September 2. The investigation alleged that Seidl did not communicate the film’s theme of pedophilia to its young actors, who were between the ages of 9 and 16 and not from professional backgrounds. It has also been alleged that the actors were exposed to alcohol, nudity and violence during the production without adequate preparation or support.
Der Spiegel said its reporters spent more than six months investigating the making of “Sparta” in Germany, Austria and Romania and spoke to dozens of crew members, including some actors.
Seidl’s lawyer told Der Spiegel that the film contained no sexual content or pornographic or pedophilic scenes. The lawyer also denied that any child was “depicted in a nude state or in a sexualized situation, pose or context.”
In a statement addressing the allegations posted on his official website, Seidl wrote that the film is based on a true story, and follows an Austrian man in his 40s who moves to a remote part of the country to start a new life and together A group of local youth converted a dilapidated school into a fort.
However, throughout the process, the man is forced to “face a truth he has suppressed for a long time, which neither the boys nor the outside world suspect. Deep inside he is secretly struggling against his pedophile urges,” Seidl writes.
Commenting on the allegations, the director wrote: “My films are not the product of manipulating my actors, misrepresenting the film to them, abusing them. On the contrary: without the trust we build over the weeks and months together, the long shooting times required for my films would be impossible. I have the utmost respect for all my actors and will never take any decision that could in any way jeopardize their physical and mental well-being.”
After the allegations came to light, the Toronto Film Festival decided to withdraw the film from its program and Filmfest Hamburg canceled plans to award the director with the Douglas Sirk Award. The film had its world premiere in competition at the San Sebastian Film Festival, although the director canceled his visit to the festival.
“Wicked Games Rimini Sparta” was produced by Seidl, Philippe Bober and Michel Marcotte for Coproduction Office, which is also the sales agent. It was written by Seidl and Veronica Franz.