Dornhelm Robert

b. December 17, 1947, Timișoara -

Documentary director, film adaptations, television films

Robert Dornhelm was born into a family of great Jewish merchants in Timișoara. Grandfather Eugen Dornhelm, born in Unkar (now Uzhgorod, Ukraine) and settled in Timișoara in 1910, is evoked in the memoirs published by his daughter, Magdalena Csendes Holender, and his nephew, John Holender, director of the Staatsoper, in From Timișoara to Vienna (Universal Publishing House Dalsi, 2002). Orphaned at the age of 13, Eugen had to drop out of school and work for a well-known textile company in Bratislava. His fortune increased considerably after the great economic crisis of 1929, when the Romanian state decided to pay off the debts of companies to foreign companies. Eugen Dornhelm will distribute his goods through shops in several cities in the Banat area. He had a son, Andreas (born in Bratislava, in 1910), Robert's father and two daughters, Magdalena, John Holender's mother, and Szuzana.

The problems start with the appearance of anti-Jewish legislation and the start of the Romanization process. The store, Socotex on the current Republic Boulevard, spread over a large area, is set on fire by members of the Iron Guard. The Palace building or Dauerbach Palace, on Corso, in Victoriei Square, in Timișoara, which belonged to the Dornhelm family, was nationalized.

At the age of 13, Robert emigrated to Austria with his family, forced to leave Romania following repeated persecutions: his father was sentenced to prison for political reasons, and his property in the center of Timișoara was confiscated.

Between 1965 and 1967, Robert studied at the Vienna Film Academy. Since 1970 he has been making films for cinemas and for television. He currently lives with his wife, Lynn, and works in Austria and the U.S.A.

Cinematographic work (examples)

His debut film is The Children of Theatre Street from 1977, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Documentary Film in 1978. The film features the Russian ballet school, Kirov, narrated by Grace Kelly, the princess of Monaco.

Der Unfisch (1996), a film adaptation of a short story, won The Citizen`s Choice Award at Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.

Anne Frank: The whole Story from 2001 was nominated for three Golden Globes and won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award.

Dornhelm also directed the television film War and Peace (2007). In 2011 he directed the film The Amanda Knox Story: Murder on Trial in Italy. Other movies are Fatal Deception, Mr. Lee Harwey Oswald, Rudy (about the former mayor of New York). In 2004 he made the film Spartacus for TV, with a mega team of 4000 participants and 12,000 extras. Requiem für Dominik, German-Austrian film from 1991, is the true story of Dominic Paraschiv, an engineer at the Solvent factory in Timișoara, who died in torment after being shot by someone, being unjustly accused of killing 80 people. Dominic Paraschiv was named the butcher in Timișoara and no one had the courage to prove his innocence. After months of investigation and interviews, Robert Dornhelm was able to present to the world the true story of a man who fell victim to the events of December 1989. Two weeks after the film ended, Dominic Paraschiv was rehabilitated. The film Requiem for Dominic was nominated for Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Revolution of December 1989, the film was screened in Romania in Timișoara (19.12.2014) and Bucharest (22.12.2014).

Distinctions and awards:

  • 2006: Österreichisches Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst
  • 2007: Romy Award pentru Kronprinz Rudolfs letzte Liebe (The Crown Prince)
  • 2013: Goldenes Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um das Land Wien
  • 2014: The title of Honorary Citizen of the city of Timişoara and the Diploma of Excellence for his activity that led to the increase of the prestige of his hometown.
  • The director from Timișoara was nominated several times for the Oscar for his documentaries.
  • The film Requiem für Dominik nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film