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Toronto Film Festival Pulls ‘Sparta’ From Lineup Ahead Of World Premiere Over Director Controversy – Update

UPDATED w/TIFF Statement: Sparta, the German-Romanian drama from Austrian director Ulrich Seidl that is in the Contemporary World Cinema section of the Toronto Film Festival, has been pulled from the festival lineup.

The pic was scheduled to have its world premiere Friday at 12:15 p.m. local time at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

A TIFF representative tells Deadline tonight, “New information has been presented to TIFF about Sparta, directed by Ulrich Seidl.  A recent investigative article published in the German magazine Der Spiegel has raised concerns that official guidelines established to protect children and keep their guardians informed when making films were not followed. Sparta had been scheduled to premiere in TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema section, but given these allegations, we will no longer present the film. We consider Mr. Seidl to be an important contemporary filmmaker and we look forward to further clarity being brought to the issues of the film’s production raised by Der Spiegel.

The film’s page on the TIFF website only says “This film has been withdrawn from festival. We apologize for any inconvenience. Ticket holders will receive an email from TIFF Customer Relations with more information.”

The movie comes after a report published earlier this month in the German magazine Der Spiegel detailing concerns about Seidl’s underage cast and the film’s subject matter, which involves a main character who fights an inclination to pedophilia. The magazine said parents of the actors had been concerned they had been “left in the dark” about those themes. Some of the children were between the ages of 9-16 at the time of filming in 2018 and 2019.

In a statement on his website responding to the article, Seidl denied any improprieties saying the piece that “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.”

Sparta is also in the competition lineup at the San Sebastian Film Festival, which gets underway next week.

Deadline is reaching out to the film’s sales agent The Coproduction Office to learn more. Stay tuned.

Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this piece.


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