The Waldheim Waltz

When I looked at the material I shot 30 years ago, I was shocked. Had I really forgotten how easily emotions can be stirred up against others and used by populist politicians? In THE WALDHEIM WALTZ I attempt to analyse what was going on back then, things which seem all too familiar in our present day of Trump, Kurz & Strache and other masters of alternative facts and populism. (director's statement)

 Lies. Truth. Alternative Facts. The film analyses the uncovering of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim’s wartime past by the World Jewish Congress. Created from archive material THE WALDHEIM WALTZ shows the successful use of anti-Semitism and populist propaganda.

THE WALDHEIM WALTZ is a film about truth and lies or “alternative facts”. About individual and collective consciousness.
“Waldheim no, Waldheim no” shouts a crowd in the center of Vienna in 1986. Ruth Beckermann was one of the activists trying to prevent the election of Kurt Waldheim and documented the political events with her camera. More than 30 years later she goes back into her own archive and additionally uses international TV-material to analyse this turning point in Austrian political culture. The film shows the tangled web that former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim became ensnared in by concealing two years of his wartime biography. It shows the swift succession of new allegations by the World Jewish Congress against him, the denial by the Austrian political class, the outbreak of anti-Semitism and patriotism, which finally led to his election. Austria was highly successful in practising the deception on itself and the world that it had been the first victim of the Nazis. Despite the fact that a whole generation knew the truth, this image of innocence was serially reproduced in official speeches, books and Heimatfilms. This film shows how deeper-lying levels of consciousness slowly carve out a path to the surface. Narrated by Ruth Beckermann, THE WALDHEIM WALTZ sets the Waldheim affair in a bigger international political context, yet 30 years on, it is dauntingly timely. (press kit)

“With its withering exposé of a politically—and, greater still, morally—crippling guilt remarkably, tragically, and deftly managed by a seasoned professional on his rise to the highest of powers, THE WALDHEIM WALTZ is, obviously, brutally relevant not only for its native Austria, whose new 31-year-old Chancellor has raised alarm bells of conservative extreme withy, but also for all world leaders who have the ghastly ability to somehow survive the fiercest and most upright scrutiny. ” (MUBI)

“If it sounds like a dry history lesson, think again. Thanks to her smart narration — clear, impassioned but never polemical — and the astute way she allows exceptional footage to play out to its full extent, THE WALDHEIM WALTZ has a sense of urgency made more pressing given political developments not just in Austria but Poland and Hungary as well.” (Variety)

Orig. Title
Waldheims Walzer
93 min
Ruth Beckermann
Orig. Language
English, french
Ruth Beckermann
Ruth Beckermann
Dieter Pichler
Sound Design
Manuel Grandpierre, Rudolf Pototschnig
Bernhard Maisch
Dramaturgical Advisor
Gertraud Luschützky
Image Editing
Kurt Hennrich
Executive Producer
Ruth Beckermann
Production Manager
Hanne Lassl
Supported by
ÖFI - Österreichisches Filminstitut, FISA Filmstandort Austria, Filmfonds Wien, ORF Film/Fernseh-Abkommen
conceptual Collaboration
Sebastian Brameshuber
Postproduction Coordination
Rebecca Hirneise
technical image Consultant
Johannes Hammel
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Sound Format
Frame Rate
25 fps
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Festivals (Selection)
Berlin - Intern. Filmfestspiele Berlinale - Forum (Glashütte Original Prize for Best Documentary)
Buenos Aires Festival Int. de Cine Independiente BAFICI
Thessaloniki - Int'l Documentary Film Festival
Paris - Cinéma du Réel
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Palma de Mallorca - Atlàntida Film Fest
Sheffield - Int. Documentary Film Festival
Basel - Bildrausch Film Festival
Tel Aviv - DOCAviv Documentary Film Festival (Int'l Competition - Special Jury Award)
Moscow - International Film Festival
Warsaw - Docs Against Gravity Film Festival
Belgrade - BelDocs Int Documentary Film Festival
München - Int. Dokumentarfilmfestival
Dortmund / Köln - Internationales Frauenfilmfestival
Tui - Play Doc (Best Film)
Gyeonggi-do - DMZ DOCS, International Documentary Film Festival, Demilitarized Zone, South Korea
Freistadt - Festival Der Neue Heimatfilm
Prizren - DokuFest, International Documentary and Short Film Festival
Izola - International Film Festival Izola, Kino Otok