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SxSW ’10 Interview – “Like a Pascha” director Svante Tidholm

Like a Pascha - At SxSW Film
by Jason Whyte

“Welcome to the biggest brothel in Europe, a clear blue eleven story high house in the middle of Cologne, Germany. More than 200 women from all over the world work here. If you ask them why, they will tell you it’s the way it’s always been. More than 700 men come here every day. Inside these walls, no daylight ever reach in. “Orgasm guaranteed”, a sign says, ”Only 30 EURO”.

But what is it that is for sale here, really? Is it an orgasm or something else? According to Sonia, prostitute since ten years, a lot of her customers cry with her. Is true satisfaction and closeness really for sale? Three years in the making, the film centres around the stories of some of the brothel’s residents and visitors to discover what it is it that men ultimately need. The result is surprising.” Director Svante Tidholm on the film “Like a Pascha” which screens at this year’s South By Southwest Film.

Is this your first film in SxSW? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to be in Austin for the screenings?

This is my international debut, and this is my first film, so I’m really excited! I will be in Austin 16-21st of March. I have never been to Texas before.

Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

I’ve been working with film for sex years now at Atmo, a production company in Stockholm Sweden. I have always been attracted to documentary film making because of the perfect mix of so many things I love; stories, reality, strong characters, photo, music, but also the way you do it, it’s so much a matter of improvising and you’re really dependent on your team. It’s challenging!

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!

I actually wanted to be a chef! I still love cooking.

How did this whole project come together?

It all started during the soccer championships 2006, when there was some debate in Sweden regarding the fact that prostitution is legal in Germany.

I called Pascha, the biggest brothel in Europe, and asked if I could come there and film, and they were really nice and welcomed me. And when I came there, I was in chock. It took me three years and more than twelve visits to the place to get close to the people there, to get some real answers.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it the script, principal photography or post-production stage?

I would say the biggest challenge was how to frame the place, the controversial subject, meaning how to approach this place and the people here in a loving way, without judging, which would make a really bad film, but at the same time showing that this is controversial, hard to stand actually.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

We filmed almost everything on 16 mm, and filming docs on 16 is hard, it’s so expensive, and there’s also the fact that you need a camera assistant ready to reload the camera at all times. But I liked the fact that you have a limited number of rolls to work with, makes me really alert and on top of things when the camera is rolling. Also, the security of knowing that the material will look really good is so nice compared to newer digital cameras!

Talk a bit about the experiences (festival or non-festival) that you have had with this particular film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings? If this is your first screening premiere, what do you hope to expect at the screenings of the film?

The film premiered at the biggest festival in Northern Europe, Gothenburg, and the three screenings was sold out even before the festival started! They had to put in an extra screening of the film to meet the huge interest. I have also screened my film in the swedish government, they asked for a screening to get a better understanding of why men are so obsessed with sex. It was really interesting discussions afterwards.

Who would you say is “the audience” for this film? Do you want to reach everyone possible or any particular type of filmgoer?

I think “Like a Pascha” is interesting for anyone actually. I hope so!

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this project in particular?

I’m inspired by so many things, but one film that actually directly inspired me is the doc “Darwin’s Nightmare” by Hubert Sauper, there is feeling in it that I felt was fascinating. A closeness, hopelessness, but at the same time some kind of love between the filmmaker and everyone before the camera. Also, I like Morgan Spurlocks character in “Super Size Me”, he’s brave, personal and political.

How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?

I’m not sure. It all depends on what people and projects that come in my way.

If you weren’t in this profession, what other line of work do think you would be involved with?

I hope I would be writing, fiction or non-fiction, but I don’t know.

Please tell me some filmmakers, actors or other talent that you would love to work with, even if money was no object.

It would be intersting to work with Werrner Herzog, he’s great.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

It is very important because it tells a story to the audience, lures them in. This is still very important.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

Some big theatre in New York would be cool.

What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?

Take this chance and see this film about the biggest brothel in Europe, it’s a fantastic place, you won’t believe your eyes!

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

Just make a lot of films, sooner or later it’s gonna work out!

This is one of the many films screening at this year’s South By Southwest Film in Austin, Texas between March 12-20. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 03/10/10 05:57:40
last updated: 03/10/10 20:21:34
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