Ruth Beckermann

Austria, 2018 / 93 min / German OV with French subt. (DE OV with FR subt.) / Documentary

In collaboration with the Institut Pierre Werner and the Representation of the European Commission in Luxembourg

“Waldheim no, Waldheim no” shouts a crowd in the centre of Vienne in 1986. Director Ruth Beckermann, who documented the political events with her camera, was one of the activists trying to prevent the election of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim to the office of President of Austrian. Combining her own archive material and international TV-material, Beckermann uncovers the tangled web that Waldheim became ensnared in by concealing his wartime biography: although he denied it, documents had surfaced showing that as a Wehrmacht officer he was involved in the deportation of Jews from occupied Greece. The film documents the denial by the Austrian political class and the outbreak of anti-Semitism and patriotism surrounding Waldheim’s campaign. Ultimately, The Waldheim Waltz analyses the collapse of the Austrian grand illusion: having been the first victim of the Nazis. Narrated by Ruth Beckermann herself, The Waldheim Waltz sets the affair in a bigger international political context, dauntingly timely 30 years on in the post-truth era and its “alternative facts”.

“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.” Ruth Beckermann

A public cocktail reception will take place before the screening at 6pm. After the film, there will be an opportunity to debate with Gregor Schusterschitz, Austrian Ambassador to Luxembourg.

The Institute Pierre Werner (IPW) is a European cultural center. It encourages cultural and intellectual exchange among its founding countries France, Germany and Luxembourg as well as with other European countries.

The mission of the Representation of the European Commission in Luxembourg is to communicate EU policies to stakeholders, media and citizens and to report on national developments to the Commission.

Wed 13/03 18:30 Cinémathèque DE OV with FR subt. Public

“Given the current whitewashing of national culpability in Nazi collaborations, The Waldheim Waltz has a sense of urgency as it revisits Kurt Waldheim’s cover-up. […] 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. […] Most devastating is footage from a highly unusual U.S. Congressional hearing looking into the allegations, during which Rep. Tom Lantos questions Waldheim’s New York-based son Gerhard, refusing to tolerate any obfuscation or unsupportable denials. Less skilled directors would have edited the sequence down, but in the style of the best legal dramas, Beckermann lets it all play out to devastating effectiveness. Earlier in her narration, she addresses the dilemma of all activist filmmakers who wonder when to pick up the protest banner instead of the movie camera; with great satisfaction to all, she manages both.” Jay Weissberg, Variety, 17/02/2018

The Waldheim Waltz resonates strongly in our current era of right-wing populist leaders, from Donald Trump in the U.S. to Heinz-Christian Strache and Sebastian Kurz in Austria, plus many other nations. Thanks to its timely theme and engaging personal angle, this prize-winning Berlinale premiere is assured plenty more festival bookings. […] For all its narrow focus, this is a pleasingly personal breakdown of a fascinating episode in recent European history, tightly composed and crisply edited, with an appealing undertow of dry humor and some cautionary lessons for modern voters.” Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, 5/03/2018


  • Glashütte Original Documentary Award, Berlin International Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Honourable Mention – Best International Film, DocAviv Festival, 2018 (Israel)
  • Audience Award, Atlàntida Film Fest, 2018 (Spain)
  • Best Documentary, Austrian Film Award, 2019 (Austria)
Cast & Credits
Kurt Waldheim, Ruth Beckermann, Josef Aichholzer, Israel Singer, Edgar Bronfman, Josef Broukal, John Bunzl, Hubertus Czernin, Michaela Englert, Hajo Funke
Ruth Beckermann
Manuel Grandpierre, Rudi Pototschnig
Ruth Beckermann Filmproduktion

Ruth Beckermann was born in 1952 in Vienna to Holocaust survivors and is a founding member of the Austrian Documentary and Filmmakers Society. After studying journalism and art history in Vienna, Tel Aviv and New York, she completed a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Vienna in 1977. Afterwards, she started working as a journalist in Austria, contributing to many Austrian and Swiss magazines. In 1978 she co-founded the distribution company Filmladen and started her career as an independent filmmaker and writer. Many of her films focus on Jewish narratives of loss and identity. Her documentary East of War (1996) helped deconstruct the myth of the “good Wehrmacht”. In 2018, her documentary The Dreamed Ones (2016) screened at the Luxembourg City Film Festival.


  • 2018 – Waldheims Walzer (documentary)
  • 2016 – Die Geträumten (documentary)
  • 2013 – Those Who Go Those Who Stay (documentary)
  • 2012 – Jackson/Marker 4AM (short)
  • 2011 – American Passages (documentary)
  • 2006 – Mozart Enigma (short)
  • 2001 – Homemad(e)
  • 1999 – Ein flüchtiger Zug nach dem Orient (documentary)
  • 1996 – Jenseits des Krieges (documentary)
  • 1991 – Nach Jerusalem (documentary)
  • 1987 – Die papierene Brücke (documentary)
  • 1986 – Der Igel (short)
  • 1983 – Wien Retour (documentary)
  • 1978 – Auf amol a Streik (documentary)
  • 1977 – Arena besetzt (documentary)