Toronto festival cancels Seidl film hit by mistreatment claims
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The Toronto film festival has cancelled Friday's world premiere of a feature on paedophilia directed by Austrian Ulrich Seidl after a media report alleged mistreatment during its shooting in Romania.
The film, "Sparta," is about an Austrian judo trainer played by award-winning actor Georg Friedrich, who tries to overcome his paedophilia by starting a new life in a remote region of Romania.
Last week, the German weekly Der Spiegel published anonymous testimonies from members of the film crew, as well as children who starred in the film and claimed to have been exposed to violence on the film set.
Parents were also quoted on condition of anonymity as saying they were not properly informed about the film's subject matter.
"This film has been withdrawn," the Toronto International Film Festival wrote on its website without giving further details.
Production company Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion declined to comment on the cancellation when contacted by AFP.
Seidl -- who won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2001 for "Dog Days" and in 2012 for "Paradise: Faith" -- has rejected the allegations.
"I never pushed the children (or any of the other actors for that matter) to do things on camera that they did not wish to do," the 69-year-old said in a statement on his website after the publication of the article.
"No child was ever filmed naked or in a sexual situation, pose or context. Such scenes were never my intention and none were ever filmed. During shooting we never crossed the line of ethical and moral boundaries."
He also said he explained "all the essential elements of the film to the parents in numerous one-on-one conversations (with an interpreter) prior to shooting".
Prosecutors in Satu Mare county in northwestern Romania, where the shooting took place, are probing the allegations, a source from the prosecution told AFP.
"Sparta" is still scheduled to be shown at the San Sebastian festival in Spain, which begins on September 16.
The edgy Austrian director has shocked arthouse audiences for two decades with hard looks at society's seedy underbelly.
His "Paradise" trilogy of films about sex, power and the cultural obsession with women's bodies premiered at the Berlin, Cannes and Venice film festivals, in a rare hat-trick for a contemporary director.