Two stories, two reciprocal trajectories. Two stories of people who are looking for a job and who lose their job - who travel to find a new start in life. Olga comes from the eastern part of Europe, where existential poverty is the order of the day. Paul is from the western part, where unemployment entails not hunger, but a loss of meaning and sense of purpose. Imagining that she'll find happiness in the west, Olga travels from the Ukraine to Austria and ends up as a cleaning lady on a hospital geriatric ward. In the search for work and meaning with his stepfather, Paul stumbles from Austria eastwards, as far as the Ukraine. Import Export tells of the search for happiness and money, the abyss of sexuality and death, and also, how to brush the teeth of a stuffed fox. Import Export is the first film that Ulrich Seidl produced with the company he founded in 2003 and his first film to be invited to compete at the Cannes Film Festival.
Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine 2007 | 135 min | German | Super 16mm | 35mm blow up
Director: Ulrich Seidl | Screenplay: Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz | Camera: Ed Lachman, Wolfgang Thaler | Editor: Christof Schertenleib | Sound: Ekkehart Baumung | Art directors: Andreas Donhauser, Renate Martin | Costumes: Silvia Pernegger | Casting: Veronika Franz, Eva Roth | Cast: Ekateryna Rak, Nataljia Baranova, Paul Hofmann, Michael Thomas, Maria Hofstätter, Petra Morzé
With support from: Austrian Film Institute, Vienna Film Fund, Land Niederösterreich, Fernsehbeteiligung: ORF (Film/Fernseh-Abkommen)
- Director's statement
"The idea for this film came while working on another film. While researching the omnibus film State of the Nation, I got to know a large, working-class family, all of whom were unemployed. Ever since that encounter I'd thought of using them as the model for a fiction film. And for years I'd wanted to make a film in Eastern Europe, because I feel very close to the people there. So we started to write stories that move from East to West and from West to East." – Ulrich Seidl
"The humor lurking in the images and the humanity that bursts forth in the least expected moments are breathtaking, as if this filmmaker, who has now advanced to the ranks of the great masters, needs only look long enough where no one else looks to find a completely idiosyncratic form of beauty and truth."
Tobias Kniebe, Die Süddeutsche
"This film, tight as a drum and with a beauty as cold as death, tells of the commodification of the world, the instrumentalization of bodies, and the humiliation of minds through sex or work, but also, occasionally, of the fugitive tenderness that the disenfranchised steal from this subtly inhuman world."
Jacques Mandelbaum, Le Monde
"Perhaps of all contemporary filmmakers, Austria's Ulrich Seidl best understands how, with precision, nonchalance and malice, to convey in grandiose cinematic images the innermost being of people in pain. Seidl tells of sexual humiliation and brutal violence, small human connections and banal malevolence, and in doing so evinces so much garish poetry and tenderness that one falls for the magic of his horror world almost without resistance."
Wolfgang Höbel, Der Spiegel
"Import Export is a deeply moral and blackly funny film, one that reveals unpalatable truths about the economic systems that rule our lives. It seems like the Palme d‘or will go either to Julian Schnabel or Cristian Mungiu -both are very good films, but for me Import Export - so fierce and fearless - deserves to win."
Sukhdev Sandhu, The Telegraph
"Ulrich Seidl has seldom achieved a better balance: on the one hand, depicting a fantastically realistic cosmos, while on the other, ensuring that the figures that inhabit it don't become the marionettes of his artistic world view. Import Export is a film that continues to inhabit you for hours and days."
Claus Philipp, Der Standard
"Every Cannes has its shocker, its scandal and Ulrich Seidls Import Export came close to the prize. Seidl's eye for the grotesque makes him the Diane Arbus of world cinema, and this was often startling, horrible and brilliant.”
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
- Awards | Festivals
"Best Feature Film", Golden Apricot-Filmfestival, Yervevan/Armenia
"Palic Tower" for Acting to the film's cast ensemble (Palić Film Festival)
"Main Prize", 5th Bangkok World Film Festival
"Amnesty International Award" at the 2007 Festival Internacional de Cinema Independente (Lisbon)
World premiere: In competition, 60th Cannes Film Festival, 2007
The National Film Archive/Island, Kulturforum/Bucharest, Cineteca Nacional/Mexico, Motovun FF, Thessaloniki IFF, Film Seminar 4 Elements, 31st Jerusalem IFF, De Balie/Amsterdam
A film by Ulrich Seidl