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CANNES 2007 Competition / Austria

Seidl’s human import/export


Seidl’s human import/export

Fifty year-old Viennese documentary filmmaker Ulrich Seidl previous shook up audiences at the 2001 Venice Film Festival with the sex and violence of Austria’s torrid provinces in Dog Days (Hundstage). He repeated the provocation this morning at Cannes with Import/Export [+see also:
film profile
, in which he once again mixed documentary and fiction (between which he makes no distinction), using both professional and non-professional actors.

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The provocation seems a successful one. As in Dog Days, the film will garner few admissions in Austria and Seidl’s fellow countrymen and women will probably once again say "This is not us. This is not Austria". And it’s true: Import/Export reflects the entire world. One made up of individuals who abandon their homes and families in search of work and fortune in other countries, suffering humiliation and frustration. And, in the opposite direction, of those who go to less developed countries and behave like masters, inflicting further humiliation. Human import/export, in other words.

In presenting his point of view, Seidl chose to closely follow two stories. The first is that of a young Ukrainian nurse who, after trying to make a living in the field of web porn in order to look after her daughter, decides to go live with a girlfriend in Austria. The second is of a young, unemployed Austrian misfit who travels with his stepfather to the Ukraine to sell used video gambling machines.

Skilfully using documentary techniques and venturing to the places of action with his crew, Seidl hurls yet another blow to us Westerners, brutally depicting the contradictory consequences of social globalization with harsh, grotesque images that often simultaneously evoke smiles and strong emotions.

For the first time with Import Export, Seidl produced one of his films, along with French outfit The Coproduction Office. The €2.47 film received funding from the Osterreichisches Filmistitut and Filmfonds Wien and €200,000 in backing from Arte (half in pre-sales and half in co-production).

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(Translated from Italian)

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