TIFF 2022: ‘Sparta’ withdraws amid accusations of child wrongdoing

FILE - A man walks on a red carpet displaying a sign for the Toronto International Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto on Wednesday, September 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

New York, 2022-09-09 16:35:02. TIFF 2022: ‘Sparta’ withdraws amid accusations of child wrongdoing


Toronto –

A film featuring child actors in Romania has been pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival amid accusations of wrongdoing.

A note on the TIFF website states that Ulrich Seidl’s movie “Sparta” has been recalled and that ticket holders will be contacted directly for more information.

The film was due to have its world premiere in Toronto on Friday afternoon, but an emailed statement from TIFF’s press office said allegations in German news outlet Der Spiegel prompted it to scrap those plans.

“A recent investigative article published in the German magazine Der Spiegel has raised concerns that official guidelines established to protect children and keep their parents informed when producing films have not been followed,” the association said in an emailed statement on Friday.

“Sparta was scheduled to be shown in TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema division, but given these allegations, we will no longer present the film. We consider Mr. Seidl an important contemporary filmmaker and look forward to bringing more clarity to the issues from the production of the film brought by Der Spiegel. “.

Der Spiegel published a story last week in which some young cast members, parents and crew allege that non-domestic children were subjected to violence and nudity on set. It includes an affidavit from Seidel’s attorney that no child was ever photographed naked or in a sexual position.

A statement on Seidl’s website includes the same response, describing Der Spiegel’s article as “a distorted picture that does not correspond in any way to the facts.”

These allegations have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press. A request for comment from the film’s international sales agent did not immediately respond.

The film is a co-production between Austria, France and Germany, and is described as the story of a man in his forties who seeks a new beginning in the Romanian hinterland but faces “a long-suppressed reality”.

“He internally and secretly fights his penchant for pedophilia,” Seidl’s statement about the character says.

The Austrian-born director is no stranger to controversy, and his previous films have explored themes considered dark, gruesome, and unsettling.

Prior to directing feature films, Seidl was best known for documentaries including 1995’s “Animal Love” about the intimate relationships of Austrian pet owners, which a variety review described as “sloppy but totally compelling.”

According to a biography on the website of his international distributor, the co-production office, Seidl studied at the Vienna Film Academy where his 1982 documentary short “The Ball” “neared his expulsion from film school, both because of the film’s ‘moral’ and ethically questionable content.” – it was seen as making fun of its subjects – and also because of its form: Seidel was accused of making the film without editing.”

Seidl’s work has also been well received – 2003’s “Jesus, You Know” won Best Documentary at the Czech Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and his 2001 first feature film, Dog Days, won the Venice Grand Special Jury Prize. Film Festival.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until September 18.


This report was first published by The Canadian Press on September 9, 2022.

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