Filmfest Hamburg will no longer present Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl with its prestigious Douglas Sirk Award following a report in German magazine Der Spiegel that raised concerns about the treatment of younger cast members during the production of his latest film Sparta.
The festival will, however, continue to screen Sparta as part of its programme.
“Regarding the Douglas Sirk Prize, we have decided not to award the prize as the current allegations against the production would overshadow an award ceremony,” Filmfest Hamburg director Albert Wiederspiel and head of programming Kathrin Kohlstedde said in a statement.
The pair continued to say that the allegations against Seidl were published in Der Spiegel after the festival’s programme brochure had been published.
“We included the film in the programme because of its outstanding quality. It is a very sensitive film about a particularly difficult and taboo subject. The accusations against Ulrich Seidl are directed against the conditions during the shooting and explicitly not against his film,” the statement said.
“We have therefore decided to leave the film in the programme. In addition, we will also show Rimini, the Berlinale entry from 2022, which completes the cinematic diptych around the story of two brothers.”
Sparta revolves around a German man battling his inclination to pedophilia, who seeks a fresh start in a Romanian backwater, where he transforms a decaying school into a safe place for local children. The production features Romanian child actors aged between 9-16.
According to Der Spiegel’s investigative report, the parents of these actors told the magazine they had not been made aware of the themes and subject matter of the film during the shooting of the film.
Seidl has denied that any improprieties took place during the shoot, posting a statement on his website responding to the article.
“Inaccurate representations, rumors or events taken out of context on the set of SPARTA are assembled into a distorted picture that in no way corresponds to the facts,” he wrote.
He added that “I am accused of having intentions that could not be further from reality. I cannot let that go unchallenged.”
The film was pulled from TIFF following the allegations. San Sebastian has said it will push on with its screenings of Sparta, saying only a court order would result in it dropping the film.