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Sparta Director Ulrich Seidl Talks About Controversy and Wicked Games Rimini Sparta

Recently Austrian director Ulrich Seidl spoke with Variety about his recent film projects and the controversy surrounding his movie Sparta. According to Seidl, he’d always planned to create “a single, long film encompassing the entire story” of his previous two films, Rimini and Sparta. The end result of Seidl’s efforts, Wicked Games Rimini Sparta, had its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. While his film Rimini received plenty of positive reception, Seidl’s follow-up, Sparta, ended up being pulled from last year’s Toronto Film Festival following allegations of misconduct made by German news magazine Der Spiegel.

Initially, Seidl explained his decision to split his original project into two separate movies. He said, “During the extremely long process of editing, I wasn’t entirely satisfied and thought it’d be interesting to explore the idea of making two different films out of it, using the same material. So we attempted to do just that as I wasn’t convinced the extended version gave the best possible artistic results given the material. We made two films out of it but it was always my intention that we would also release the complete extended version.”

The director also talked about his choice to explore the true story behind the character Ewald, and Seidl noted that the topic wasn’t something that he wanted to tackle. He stated, “It was something I wasn’t ready to touch upon and always set aside. Then I read about this true story that happened in Romania, and Romania is a country I know very well for having visited repeatedly over the decades. At that point, I knew I had to write the story.”

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The Austrian director then reflected on the controversy surrounding Sparta and De Spiegel’s accusations which alleged that Seidl hadn’t revealed the film’s theme to the child actors involved in the film. The director said, “The accusations that were levelled at the film are something so extraneous. It was a conscious manipulation on the part of the media to create a story about pedophilia and children in Eastern Europe being abused.” He continued, “I was portrayed as the white man who goes there to exploit these children. It has nothing to do with my work. These accusations, this ‘schema,’ has nothing to do with my work.”

The director added, “You have to realize the shooting took place over a very long time. We shot from winter to the following summer, and if at any time any parents had been concerned or uneasy about what was going on on set, or how the children were being treated, they would have had the time to pull the kids away and say something. Nothing like that ever happened,” said Seidl. “And, in fact, subsequently, when I showed the finished film to the parents and the children, everyone gave their complete approval, both of the shooting process, and the final film.”



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