SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2010
By Dirk Sonniksen | April 5, 2010
During the 2010 SXSW Film Festival, I sat down with Swedish filmmaker, Svante Tidholm, who was in town promoting his first documentary, Like a Pascha. Tidholm’s film took him inside Europe’s largest brothel in Cologne, Germany, where he interviewed the owners, prostitutes, and some of the men that frequent Pascha. It was one of my favorite documentaries of the festival, and I was impressed by Tidholm’s approach to the subject of prostitution, a trade that is often glamorized, but wherein ultimately lies a seedy underbelly.
DS: Like a Pascha is a film that touches on prostitution, and also on those that seek out the comfort of these women. Was this a subject that had been brewing for some time, or was there a particular spark that ignited your interest in making this documentary?
ST: Men and manhood have been a huge interest for me, because I’m a man. Being in a political and feminist environment in Sweden, gender issues are a really big thing, and everyone is aware of these issues. So for me, and the people that surround me, it’s been natural to talk about why we men behave like we do, and how we become who we are, and when I was studying, this was one of my biggest interests. So when I went down to Cologne, I had this place in mind, I wanted to see if I could film there, and they greeted us with open arms.
DS: How did you approach Pascha initially? Did they know you were going to present a critical look at the brothel, or were they under the impression that the brothel was going to be glorified in some way?
ST: No, I think I was kind of open about who I was and what I wanted to do, and as you can see in the film, I’m not really hiding anything. I think that they were actually enjoying it, you know, the meeting. I think my questions amused them in a way, and that they thought it was interesting to have someone like me there.
DS: Do you think you were somewhat more of a case study for them in a way?
ST: I don’t know, but I don’t think they are really used to having people coming there and really wondering what’s going on. I think some media people come in there, but they are all after the spectacular, you know, tits and ass, this really spectacular angle, so I think they thought it was interesting to have me there. That’s the only explanation I can see why they would let me come time after time.
DS: And you spent three years filming at Pascha?
ST: Yeah, it was like, “Hey, it’s me again, can I come, I want to do some more interviews.” And they said, “Sure, when are you coming?“
DS: Concerning Sonia, the prostitute you interview in the film, how did you approach her, and was it hard to find other women that worked at Pascha to appear in the film?
ST: It was hard to find others to interview, because the women are there in secret, they don’t want to be known in their hometowns as prostitutes. A lot of them, are of course, lying to their families and parents about what they’re doing, so there was not many who wanted to be on camera. There were a few, but we had a really good connection with Sonia, and she has a great character and a great story to tell about her life. I think her explanations on this issue and how she relates to men are quite telling, because what I found out was that the men who go there, and the men working there, they were willing to talk to me to some extent, but they didn’t have much to say, because their explanations are so shallow.
DS: In regard to the men frequenting the brothel, there seemed to be more going on under the surface, as if simply coming to Pascha to have sex wasn’t necessarily their prime motivation in some cases.
ST: Yeah, I think these were things that they couldn’t verbalize, it was beyond their scope, for them, it’s like going to the dentist, it’s that simple. There was no meaning for me to try and beat my head into their integrity, I don’t like that kind of approach to people.
DS: So is this subject an academic thing for you, or more of an emotional attachment?
ST: I would say it’s both. In working with these issues of manhood, and men’s problems, I would say that going to this place for me was challenging some of my worst nightmares of manhood, like this is the place where men are at their worst position in the world, because the relationship there between men and women are so totally unfair and fucked up. I think I wanted to go there to challenge my own sort of hopelessness, for this subject. I wanted to see if I could stand it, and I think I did. As weird as it may sound, as badly as women are treated in this place, the men are going there to find something that is almost like love, to be more in touch with themselves, that’s what I found out. The men are not only after an orgasm, it’s more a matter of getting in touch with something inside of you, something you can’t do in your normal life, but here is a place where you can buy it. But that is kind of a hopeful thing, that men are striving to get in touch with themselves. Although it’s done in this totally wrong way, it’s still an energy going somewhere. It’s going a totally wrong direction, but it’s an energy.
DS: Do you think they can find out more about themselves by going there?
ST: No, not by going there. Definitely not, because it’s like putting plaster on a deeper wound, it’s not going to make any difference, but if men can get more aware of what they could do, instead of going to this place, there might be change.
For more info on Svante Tidholm and Like a Pascha visit: www.paschamovie.com
Dirk Sonniksen’s review of: LIKE A PASCHA