For its 13th annual film festival, SEEfest has honored filmmaker Robert Dornhelm with the SEEfest Legacy Award.
Robert Dornhelm was born in 1947 in Timișoara, Romania and emigrated in 1961 to Austria, where he studied film at the Vienna Academy of Film, Music and Performing Arts. He started his career very early, directing numerous documentaries on social and cultural subjects, many of them in Eastern Europe (Vladimir Vysotsky, Neizvestny). His 1977 documentary on the Kirov School of Ballet, The Children of Theater Street, featured Princess Grace of Monaco in a rare film appearance as presenter and narrator. The film was shown in Cannes and established Dornhelm internationally when he received an Academy Award® nomination in 1978.
Dornhelm subsequently moved to Los Angeles and made his first American film, She Dances Alone, a docudrama on the life of Václav Nijinsky told through the eyes of his daughter, Kyra. It starred Bud Cort, Max von Sydow and Patrick DuPont with Federico DeLaurentis producing. It opened Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. His next film was Echo Park, which dealt with the Los Angeles culture and dreams of success and featured Susan Dey and Tom Hulce. Cold Feet, starring Sally Kirkland, Keith Carradine, and Tom Waits, was an attempt at using the Western genre.
In 1989, Dornhelm returned to Romania to deal with the troubles of his native country with Requiem for Dominic, a personal film about a childhood friend. It was shown at the Venice Film Festival, awarded at the Belgrade FEST, and nominated for the Golden Globes and Spirit Award. Ms. Lee Harvey Oswald, with Helena Bonham Carter, was his first U.S. TV project. The Unfisch took him back to the Austrian Alps to make a film about love and false morality, which starred Maria Schrader as a character who fulfills her dreams inside a stuffed whale. The Venice Project, which was made in 2000 and featured Dennis Hopper and Lauren Bacall, dealt with the state of the art at the end of the millennium. Anne Frank, with Sir Ben Kingsley, Brenda Blethyn and Hannah Taylor Gordon, won an Emmy for Best Miniseries in 2001. Numerous period dramas with stellar casts followed: Spartacus, The Ten Commandments, The Crown Prince, War and Peace, Hotel Sacher, Maria Theresa.
In addition to working on big television event movies, Dornhelm continues to shoot documentaries (Karajan, or Beauty as I See It, about the famed conductor Herbert von Karajan) and direct opera on film and on stage, such as La Bohème, with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon, and Tosca, with Martina Serafin.