Waldheims Walzer (The Waldheim Waltz)
The Secretary General of the UN is a position that was created in 1945, and was envisaged as a mediator role for the United Nations. It is understandable to expect that only the best of the best would reach such an influential position. Kurt Waldheim served from January 1972 to December 1981 in the job. It wasn’t until the 1986 Austrian presidential campaign that documents arose questioning Waldheim’s involvement as a war criminal during WWII. In Waldheims Walzer (The Waldheim Waltz) Austrian writer/producer/director Ruth Beckermann delves into the scandal surrounding the time before he was elected president in 1986.
The director uses a nicely edited mix of archive footage of hearings in the UN General Assembly and the US Congress, speeches held during the presidential campaign and press conferences from the World Jewish Congress to highlight how hotly debated Waldheim’s potential presidency was. Her voiceover throughout much of the documentary is a valuable tool, one that does not condemn but rather objectively presents the political climate at the time. Two somewhat shocking things revealed are Waldheim’s resistance to confess to his questionable involvement with the Third Reich, and during interviews when he often reiterates how much the Austrians and Germans also suffered during the war. The footage that Beckermann captured during the anti-Waldheim protests was her first time manning the camera, and it’s a nice treat. It is also interesting to know that she was one of the seven public protesters holding a sign up directly behind those politicians speaking up for the candidate.
The hate spewed during some of the Waldheim rallies, by normal people on the street, is quite shocking and gets ugly quickly. Sadly, it is reminiscent of footage that has been seen these past two years since Trump started his presidential campaign, and it’s not just there as it is becoming a global problem.
The main strength of Beckermann’s documentary is how it shines a light on these extreme views that are still present and growing every day. The far-right party in Austria, once again, has gained a bit of momentum. Brexit happened and then the US electoral college voted Trump into office. What’s to come? Let’s hope people see this film. The Waldheim Waltz deservedly won the Berlinale Glashütte Original – Documentary Prize.
Waldheims Walzer (The Waldheim Waltz) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for Waldheims Walzer (The Waldheim Waltz) here: