The San Sebastian Film Festival is pushing on with a competition screening of Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s new film Sparta, following a report in German magazine Der Spiegel raising concerns about the treatment of its young cast, saying only a court order would result in it dropping the film.
Deadline contacted San Sebastian following the Toronto Film Festival’s decision on Friday to pull the screening of the film in light of the Der Spiegel report. It was to have played in TIFF’S Contemporary World Cinema section on Friday afternoon.
San Sebastian, which runs September 16-24, confirmed in a statement that Sparta would make its European premiere in competition on September 18 as scheduled.
The statement reads:
“In response to the question of whether the San Sebastian Festival is going to screen the film Sparta, by Ulrich Seidl, in its Official Selection in Competition, as planned, and in view of the accusations against its director published in the weekly publication Der Spiegel, the Festival management wishes to declare:
– That the Festival team assesses the films after their viewing according to their interest and quality.
– That the Festival does not have the ability to judge how a film has been shot and whether a crime has been committed in the course of the filming. If anyone has any evidence of a crime, they should report it to a judge.
– That only a court order would lead us to suspend a scheduled screening.”
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 added that “I am accused of having intentions that could not be further from reality. I cannot let that go unchallenged,” he wrote.