Since 1999 the Neapolitan authorities have seized about 50 ships from various international flag states and stored them at San Vincenzo pier.
This is a restricted military area. Only one ship, the Current Vallentta of Malta, has survived the years, having turned into a wreck. One sailor still remains onboard: Marijan Ahel, 56 years old, a Croatian citizen, mechanical engineer. He has lived alone on the ship for seven and one half years.

(Joerg Burger)

"Seized" tells the story of Marijan Ahel, an engineer who for the past seven and a half years has manned a ship in Naples´ harbor which is no longer totally seaworthy. He´s using it, the Current Valetta, as a bargaining chip in a legal battle: Its owner still owes him back pay for a year and a half of work at sea. Ahel must make sure that the ship doesn´t sink, as his only chance of getting his money is to sell the freighter. In that case the claims of the seamen remaining on board would have to be satisfied with the proceeds first.

Joerg Burger is however interested less in the details of the legal dispute than the tasks required for Ahel´s survival and in turn that of the ship: maintenance of the engine, repairs of the hull, obtaining a sufficient supply of fuel. One of the ways he earns money for food and clothing is by doing poorly paid temporary jobs. This rigid work discipline protects him from thoughts about the hopelessness of his situation: As Ahel himself says, his (bare) survival is at stake.

And this bare survival is the main focus of Seized. Burger has employed the figure of a seaman, abandoned by the rest of humanity as well as his good sense, a man who has chosen to stick it out on a ship that is neither seaworthy nor his property, to enrich the political iconography of our time with his expressive image of a life without a stage, without any kind of representation: What will have given these on-board tasks meaning is a decision Ahel will still be waiting for long after the film ends.

(Vrääth Öhner)

Translation: Steve Wilder

More Texts

EUXXL/Krems(A) 2007: Tribut Joerg Burger

Innerhalb weniger Jahre hat der niederösterreichische Filmemacher, Fotograf und Kameramann Joerg Burger ein bemerkenswertes filmisches Oeuvre realisiert: vier faszinierende, kompakte Arbeiten, an der Schnittstelle von dokumentarischem und konzeptuellem Kino. Und wie seine Fotografie mit unverkennbarer Handschrift versehen: in streng komponierten, zumeist mit fixer Kamera aufgenommenen Bildern; einem konzentrierten, aber stets „verschobenen“ Blick auf die Dinge und Menschen; einem fokussierten Thema, das in verdichteter Form auf den Punkt gebracht wird.

Zumeist geht es Burger - Filmautor und unabhängiger Künstler par excellence - um das Bildermachen selbst: ganz explizit in Moscouw (2001), dem radikalen Porträt der Fotografin und Selbstdarstellerin Michaela Moscouw; wunderbar programmatisch in In Wirklichkeit ist alles ganz anders (2004), seiner prächtigen Hommage an den mittlerweile 81-jährigen Filmporträtisten Wilhelm Gaube.

Das Verhältnis von Fiktion und Wirklichkeit steht auch in Burgers schöner Miniatur Exploration (2003) im Zentrum, in der die Trennlinie zwischen „Schauspiel“ und „Authentizität“ gänzlich aus den Fugen gerät.

Ähnlich wie in seinem jüngsten Film Unter Beschlag (2007), der im Rahmen von EU XXL film seine Uraufführung erlebt und der einen einfachen filmischen Stoff in eine surreale, hochgradig kinematografische Fallstudie verwandelt.
Constantin Wulff

english dialogue list (with TC) - SEIZED/ UNTER BESCHLAG (Source)

/tc 00:04:04:13 00:04:07:15
I’ve spent my whole life, including my youth, at sea.

/tc 00:04:08:22 00:04:12:20
In the end I haven’t benefited from it at all,

/tc 00:04:15:04 00:04:19:19
I never thought I’d ever be in such a complicated situation.

/tc 00:04:26:19 00:04:30:13
I made a big mistake after realizing how hopeless it is,

/tc 00:04:33:12 00:04:38:16
I should have packed my bags and got out.

/tc 00:04:39:05 00:04:42:16
Just think, these six and a half years on board,

/tc 00:04:43:23 00:04:46:08
I’ve wasted time, money,

/tc 00:04:47:23 00:04:52:16
it’s ruined my health and even more, that’s the way it is.

/tc 00:04:53:05 00:04:56:20
Just think, not being home for six and a half years.

/tc 00:04:59:05 00:05:02:02
My own home’s like a desert, with the wind blowing through it, damn!

/tc 00:05:03:18 00:05:06:13
My neighbor looks after it a little, he airs it out maybe once a year,

/tc 00:05:07:00 00:05:09:02
that’s not enough.

/tc 00:05:19:05 00:05:24:11
I really believed that it would all be cleared up fast, the way they said it would.

/tc 00:05:27:06 00:05:32:01
If you don’t trust other people, then you can’t trust yourself.

/tc 00:05:32:19 00:05:36:19
That’s why I stayed, and it dragged on, day after day, month after month.

/tc 00:05:37:08 00:05:4215
I always thought it would be taken care of tomorrow, but tomorrow never came.

/tc 00:05:43:11 00:05:49:01
It has to end sometime, it can’t go on like this much longer.

/tc 00:05:54:08 00:05:59:22
The ship needs to be fixed up soon. If it isn’t, it’ll sink.

/tc 00:06:05:18 00:06:09:01
That’s definitely what’ll happen, there’s no doubt about it. Even God couldn’t stop it from happening.

/tc 00:06:10:11 00:06:12:12
It’s a very ticklish situation.

/tc 00:06:18:05 00:06:23:05
But when that’ll happen, at night or during the day, there’s no way to tell.

/tc 00:06:24:19 00:06:27:23
Sometimes I sleep OK, and sometimes not so good.

/tc 00:06:29:12 00:06:33:08
I wouldn’t have to swim, my cabin’s on an upper deck.

/tc 00:06:33:22 00:06:37:06
If water got in, the ship would start to list.

/tc 00:06:51:12 00:06:54:08
My God, I don’t know what to tell you.

/tc 00:06:58:01 00:07:02:20
My life here, and that of the sailors on the other ships, is extremely passive.

/tc 00:07:05:19 00:07:08:23
No one cares whether we have enough to eat or drink.

/tc 00:07:09:22 00:07:12:12
Whether we’re sick or need some kind of medicine.

/tc 00:07:15:13 00:07:19:00
Not until somebody dies and starts to stink.

/tc 00:08:10:11 00:08:13:00
But what can you do?

/tc 00:08:15:16 00:08:19:02
But what’s left of my family...

/tc 00:08:21:12 00:08:24:18
My wife and daughter live their own lives, nobody calls or visits,

/tc 00:08:26:16 00:08:29:16
there’s no one that has a nice word to say.

/tc 00:08:31:12 00:08:33:17
Only a friend who keeps an eye on my house calls every once in a while and says,

/tc 00:08:36:02 00:08:41:17
“Mario, don’t give up, you’ve put so much time in this already.”

/tc 00:08:42:19 00:08:46:00
If you have kids these days, they all love you as long you give them money, but when you run out,

/tc 00:08:47:11 00:08:50:08
they stop loving you.

/tc 00:08:52:21 00:08:56:19
I’ve found that out the hard way over the years.

/tc 00:08:57:08 00:09:01:19
If you don’t have any money, not even your own mother will love you, let alone others.

/tc 00:09:04:08 00:09:12:05
That’s how it is with my daughter, she used to call but I haven’t heard from her in three years.

/tc 00:09:14:19 00:09:17:16
She finished school, got married...

/tc 00:09:18:00 00:09:20:00
Does she have kids?

/tc 00:09:20:20 00:09:26:08
Yeah, she had a son a few months ago, her husband practically has her in custody.

/tc 00:09:27:21 00:09:31:10
Who’d think about an old man in that case?

/tc 00:09:36:22 00:09:41:05
Anyway I’m all alone, here and at home, but it doesn’t matter.

/tc 00:09:43:22 00:09:48:17
I have my peace and quiet here, nobody bothers me.

/tc 00:09:55:05 00:10:04:24
Life’s crazy, but it’ll all be over, some day.

/tc 00:10:33:02 00:10:36:17
This is all about the insurance.

/tc 00:10:40:08 00:10:45:17
The insurance company didn’t pay for repairs and the ship was taken out of dry dock

/tc 00:10:46:19 00:10:50:13
before the work was finished.

When was that?

/tc 00:10:53:22 00:11:00:08
The ship’s been here for six years and five months.

/tc 00:11:03:08 00:11:09:16
That was in May 1999, first I spent 1 _ years at the mole where the passenger ships dock.

/tc 00:11:11:17 00:11:14:14
That caused problems,

/tc 00:11:15:02 00:11:20:02
so I was towed to Mole San Vincenzo, where the ship is now.

/tc 00:11:25:19 00:11:30:10
If I wasn’t on board, the ship would’ve sunk a long time ago.

/tc 00:11:32:11 00:11:36:22
I’ve been on board for 6 _ years,

/tc 00:11:37:02 00:11:40:17
but that doesn’t matter anymore, I just want my money.

/tc 00:11:42:13 00:11:47:02
That’s the only solution I’d accept.

/tc 00:11:53:11 00:11:57:21
I usually go to the docks to make some money to live on,

/tc 00:11:58:16 00:12:02:22
I know a few engineers who call after me, “Come here, Mario, we have some work for you.”

/tc 00:12:07:05 00:12:11:07
They always give me the hardest and dirtiest jobs.

/tc 00:12:12:21 00:12:17:00
I have to scrape the metal floor, and that ruined my back.

/tc 00:12:20:21 00:12:24:00
And for 150 euros a week.

/tc 00:12:25:19 00:12:28:16
The locals get 350 to 400 euros a week for the same job.

Look at the difference!
I do more work.

/tc 00:12:30:16 00:12:34:16
Even if it’s something to do with engines, I don’t get any more than 150 euros.

They do less work and get 350 to 400 euros every week.

/tc 00:12:39:19 00:12:46:10
That’s exploitation of the worker, who gets just enough money to survive.

/tc 00:12:49:05 00:12:52:08
It’s really sad.

/tc 00:12:54:11 00:13:03:19
Everybody says they’re big humanitarians, but does that sound like a humanitarian?

Disconnect this cable and plug that one in. Plug it in.

/tc 00:15:36:04 00:15:40:06
The biggest problem is getting diesel.

/tc 00:15:42:22 00:15:45:23
I didn’t even have a bucket, let alone a liter of diesel.

/tc 00:15:48:21 00:15:54:07
In my little motorboat I went from ship to ship in the bay

/tc 00:15:55:07 00:15:59:24
with some 20- to 30-liter canisters.

/tc 00:16:01:20 00:16:08:07
I didn’t know the people, and I told the engineers or captains

/tc 00:16:09:23 00:16:15:22
that I’m from the “Current Valetta” and really need diesel for my generator.

/tc 00:16:18:13 00:16:22:02
And they gave me diesel right away.

/tc 00:16:23:01 00:16:27:18
Twenty liters at one place, 40 or 50 at another, that’s how I managed to scrape up 1000 or 1200 liters.

/tc 00:16:28:15 00:16:32:23
Now I feel better, because I can start up the generators and tighten

/tc 00:16:33:14 00:16:37:06
the lines, anchor chains and so on whenever they need it.

/tc 00:16:38:05 00:16:42:08
That’s important, because I can’t survive without diesel.

/tc 00:17:27:11 00:17:32:05
Some days I could start working at around four a.m.

/tc 00:17:35:22 00:17:40:11
For example, when the weather’s bad, it’s raining heavily or stormy.

/tc 00:17:42:20 00:17:48:18
I have to watch the cargo hold and stay up all night on watch.

/tc 00:17:50:07 00:17:53:13
You never know what could happen.

/tc 00:17:55:23 00:18:00:00
When the weather clears up, I pump out any water that’s gotten in.

/tc 00:18:02:09 00:18:09:04
Then I can get some sleep. I usually sleep for two or three hours and get up at seven.

/tc 00:18:10:24 00:18:14:16
That’s not a normal day, it’s only necessary when the weather’s bad.

/tc 00:18:15:01 00:18:20:07
When the weather’s nice a normal day starts with coffee.

/tc 00:18:21:12 00:18:27:13
It’s absolutely necessary that days have order, like resting and working at certain times.

/tc 00:18:30:05 00:18:33:11
There’s no hard work to do, just what’s absolutely necessary.

/tc 00:18:35:11 00:18:41:18
I can’t do any major repairs without materials, because there’s no one to pay for them.

/tc 00:18:43:09 00:18:49:16
Lots of people ask me why I do any work at all, since I don’t get paid for it.

/tc 00:18:51:02 00:18:56:13
I tell them that it’s for my own personal satisfaction and to make the time pass quicker.

/tc 00:18:58:09 00:19:05:18
When a person doesn’t have anything to do, he could lose his mind.

/tc 00:19:15:17 00:19:22:02
Anyway, people have enough time to think and get bad ideas.

/tc 00:19:24:19 00:19:29:16
And people that are unstable could commit suicide.

/tc 00:19:31:05 00:19:35:19
I’ve never thought about things like that.

/tc 00:19:37:24 00:19:40:21
I stick to my principle of always doing some kind of work.

/tc 00:19:41:24 00:19:46:21
How else could I have survived for 6 _ years here in Naples?

/tc 00:19:49:18 00:19:54:22
This hard, miserable life here, I never would’ve survived it without my attitude.

/tc 00:19:57:07 00:20:02:12
I would’ve ended up in an asylum, at the bottom of the sea, or someplace else.

/tc 00:21:21:12 00:21:27:18
That’s the “Sea Shuttle,” which arrived here in 1998. They used it to smuggle cigarettes.

/tc 00:21:29:20 00:21:35:10
It’s been here from 1998 until today. I’ve been keeping an eye on it since 2004.

/tc 00:21:40:07 00:21:47:08
They give me 100 euros a month, that’s not even symbolic. But I have to live somehow.

/tc 00:21:48:10 00:21:51:20
One hundred here, 50 there, it all works out somehow.

/tc 00:21:53:08 00:21:58:21
The boat belongs to the customs people. I don’t know what’ll happen with it.

/tc 00:21:59:08 00:22:03:10
It won’t be long before it sinks.

/tc 00:22:05:05 00:22:09:00
The metal, as you can see, has been eaten up by rust.

/tc 00:22:09:16 00:22:15:02
The rest is OK, but what do you expect, if it’s here for another year, it’ll sink.

/tc 00:31:06:14 00:31:12:14
The first year the owner wasn’t in Naples. He had disappeared.

/tc 00:31:13:20 00:31:17:23
We didn’t hear anything from him that year.

/tc 00:31:19:03 00:31:23:19
But we still got money every week for food.

/tc 00:31:24:22 00:31:30:18
Through his middlemen that brought the money he promised

/tc 00:31:31:02 00:31:36:22
that he’d pay us off, but no one knew when or how much.

/tc 00:31:40:21 00:31:44:22
The owner came on board after a year

/tc 00:31:48:24 00:31:54:09
and said he’d pay us everything he owed. Fine.

/tc 00:31:56:03 00:32:01:03
He paid off the simple sailors, who had lower salaries...

/tc 00:32:01:21 00:32:05:23
10 or 15 million lire, 15 million at the most.

/tc 00:32:07:05 00:32:13:05
He gave them everything they were owed. But he owed me and the captain much more money.

/tc 00:32:14:13 00:32:18:24
The owner thought we wanted too much.

/tc 00:32:21:24 00:32:23:20
How much was that?

/tc 00:32:24:12 00:32:28:08
I should have gotten 75,000 dollars at the time.

/tc 00:32:29:22 00:32:31:10
For how long?

/tc 00:32:32:00 00:32:33:20
For a year.

/tc 00:32:34:06 00:32:36:06
You earn 75,000 dollars?

/tc 00:32:36:21 00:32:42:13
Yeah, for a year. Actually for a year and a half. Seventy-five thousand dollars, precisely.

/tc 00:32:44:22 00:32:50:20
The owner wouldn’t accept that, he only wanted to pay us 80% of what we were demanding.

/tc 00:32:54:22 00:33:00:20
Eighty percent, that’s 50 or 55,000 dollars.

/tc 00:33:06:22 00:33:13:02
Even that was too much for him, and then he only wanted to give us 15 to 20,000 dollars,

/tc 00:33:13:09 00:33:16:03
to finally wrap the matter up.

/tc 00:33:16:16 00:33:19:08
Of course we didn’t accept that.

/tc 00:33:20:00 00:33:23:08
I’m not going to let someone off that easy.

/tc 00:33:24:24 00:33:32:00
There was nothing left for us to do but occupy the ship for 18 months.

/tc 00:34:15:02 00:34:20:00
But normally you aren’t paid every month,

/tc 00:34:20:21 00:34:26:23
you get your money after the ship’s legally released, from the sale,

/tc 00:34:28:21 00:34:34:02
let’s say 250, 300, 500,000 dollars, and my share will be calculated on that basis.

/tc 00:34:35:22 00:34:41:19
The crew members who stayed on the ship until the end will be paid from this 500,000 dollars.

/tc 00:34:43:02 00:34:48:11
If there’s enough money from the sale, everybody that’s owed money can be paid off.

/tc 00:34:49:00 00:34:54:15
If not, the sailors will be paid first. Before anyone else.

/tc 00:34:58:09 00:35:06:16
Then they’ll pay the harbor fees, fuel bills, utility bills, all the other creditors.

/tc 00:35:18:20 00:35:22:19
So you’re paying for this with your life?

/tc 00:35:23:00 00:35:24:08
I’ve paid.

/tc 00:35:26:07 00:35:28:05
I realize that.

/tc 00:35:37:04 00:35:45:18
I want to tell you one thing: Everybody who was screwed over is aware of the situation they’re in. Me most of all.

/tc 00:35:48:14 00:35:52:09
Some of them don’t, but I do.

/tc 00:35:53:00 00:36:01:05
I realize that I’ve lost my health, time, children and family, and now I’m all alone.

/tc 00:36:02:16 00:36:04:24
What do I have left?

/tc 00:36:05:11 00:36:10:20
All I can do now is stick it out until the end.

/tc 00:36:11:09 00:36:14:23
So that I don’t lose everything. Understand?

/tc 00:36:17:23 00:36:22:24
I don’t have any other choice, I have to stick it out.

/tc 00:36:28:09 00:36:35:07
When all this is cleared up I can think about what to do next.

/tc 00:36:40:06 00:36:48:06
I can’t make any plans for the future, about what will happen in a year or five months. I can’t think about that now.

/tc 00:36:50:05 00:36:55:15
I can’t look back at the past now.

/tc 00:36:56:21 00:37:01:19
I’d go crazy if I did.

/tc 00:37:03:06 00:37:09:01
I have to keep looking into the future, no matter what’s happened.

/tc 00:37:14:04 00:37:22:14
An outsider who doesn’t know anything about this job or this complicated situation

/tc 00:37:23:00 00:37:29:07
would have lots of trouble understanding it. What’s behind it all.

/tc 00:37:34:00 00:37:39:05
Listen, this is my calling, my life, my job. Understand?

/tc 00:37:42:18 00:37:47:09
In other words, there were good years and times, when everything was fine.

/tc 00:37:50:05 00:37:55:12
What happened, happened. There’s nothing I can do to change things.

/tc 00:37:58:00 00:38:02:16
If I had known what I was getting into I never would have come here.

/tc 00:40:03:01 00:40:09:08
No one can imagine what I’ve been through. I was at my wit’s end.

/tc 00:40:11:07 00:40:18:07
I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t know how I was going to make a living, I didn’t have a job or any money.

/tc 00:40:18:20 00:40:24:01
I didn’t know anybody I could ask for help.

/tc 00:40:25:08 00:40:33:13
This a hard life way to live, and then they shut off my electricity in early March.

/tc 00:40:33:24 00:40:38:09
This is extremely bad for the ship.

/tc 00:40:39:24 00:40:49:00
If I hadn’t stored plenty of diesel, there’s nothing I could do in an emergency, like when water gets in.

/tc 00:40:49:22 00:40:58:22
I couldn’t even recharge the battery of my cell phone to call the port authorities and the fire department to pump out the ship.

/tc 00:40:59:04 00:41:01:08
The ship would sink by the time they get here.

/tc 00:41:06:00 00:41:11:00
A few months ago, in March, the “Sea Shuttle” was next to the “Irini,”

/tc 00:41:11:15 00:41:19:03
and it started to list a little. That was on a Friday, and then it sank.

/tc 00:41:23:04 00:41:32:20
That all started on a Friday. The ship went to the bottom on Sunday, and now part of it’s under the “Irini.”

Naples, November 2005


Marijan Ahel, ship’s engineer

A Film by Joerg Burger

Nine months later

In September 2006 the ship was sold to a Greek ship owner.
Since purchasing the ship the new owner has refused to pay the agreed salary for guarding it.

Marijan Ahel continues to occupy the ship after more than seven years.
The court in Naples has not yet released Ahel’s share of the sale proceeds.
The amount is still not known.

Ahel hopes that the matter will be cleared up soon.

Orig. Title
Unter Beschlag
40 min
Joerg Burger
Orig. Language
not specified
Rost wartet nicht (Article)
Seized (Image)
Seized (Image)
Seized (Image)
Joerg Burger
Joerg Burger
Joerg Burger
Johannes Holzhausen
Sound Design
Hjalti Bager-Jonathansson
Joerg Burger
Assistant Director
Manfred Eberwein
Available Formats
Digital Betacam PAL (Distribution Copy)
Format of Picture
Format of Sound
Picture Frequency
25 fps
Betacam SP PAL (Distribution Copy)
Format of Picture
Format of Sound
Picture Frequency
25 fps
Festivals (Selection)
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
Krems - EUXXL Film Festival
Istanbul - 1001 International Doc Film Festival
Iowa City - ICDOCS, Int. Documentary Festival (Best of Festival)