Violence against children in ‘Sparta’?: Festival withdraws Seidl film after abuse allegations

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Violence against children in “Sparta”?
Festival withdraws Seidl film after abuse allegations

Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl likes to provoke with his works. Now he may have gone too far. Toronto’s renowned film festival will not screen its movie “Sparta” after allegations of child abuse during filming. Seidl disagrees.

The Toronto International Film Festival has canceled the world premiere of Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s film “Sparta” after allegations of abuse. “This film has been withdrawn,” the Toronto International Film Festival wrote on its website. After a request from the AFP news agency, Seidl’s production company declined to comment on the cancellation.

“Sparta” is about an Austrian judo coach who tries to overcome his pedophilia by starting a new life in a remote region of Romania.

According to a report from “Spiegel” magazine last week, based on statements from film crew members and children playing in the film, they were alleged to have been subjected to violence at the filming location. Parents also had their say in the report. They indicated that they were not sufficiently informed about the subject of the film.

Seidl dismissed the charges. “Like all actors, of course, I never forced the teens to do things in front of the camera that they didn’t want to do,” the 69-year-old said on his website after the “Mirror” article appeared.

“No boundaries were crossed during the shoot”

No child was filmed “naked or in a sexualized situation, pose or context”. “Scenes like this were never my intention and never filmed,” the director wrote. During the filming, “the boundaries of what was ethically and morally necessary were never crossed”.

Prosecutors in the Satu Mare district of northwestern Romania, where the shooting took place, are investigating the allegations, court sources have told AFP.

“Sparta” is currently scheduled to be screened at Spain’s San Sebastián festival, which kicks off on September 16.

The eccentric Austrian director has been shocking audiences for 20 years with his relentless look at the dark side of society. His “Paradise” trilogy about sex, power and the cultural obsession with women’s bodies premiered at the Berlin, Cannes and Venice film festivals.

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