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Werner Herzog
Werner HerzogPhotography by Doug Aitken, Courtesy of Rizzoli

Werner Herzog believes in pirating movies to access art

The director reluctantly supports fans torrenting his work

We live in an ‘on-demand’ era, expecting to have access to anything and everything online within a matter of minutes. It’s no surprise then, that there are hundreds of torrent websites illegally providing access to thousands of films and TV shows. What is surprising, however, is that renowned German director Werner Herzog has spoken about why he reluctantly supports people pirating his films.

During a masterclass at the Visions du Réel International Film Festival in Switzerland, the My Best Fiend and Little Dieter Needs to Fly director said: “Piracy has been the most successful form of distribution worldwide.”

Though ofc illegal, but whatever your stance, piracy opens up a world of art to new audiences, whether they don’t have the funds for streaming surprises or live under state censorship. Piracy enables audiences to access films that they wouldn’t have been able otherwise. Films that only exist on outdated DVDs, films too obscure to appear on Netflix, films too rarely streamed on TV. Herzog advocates for it, albeit reluctantly.

As reported by ScreenDaily, the director was responding to Illia Gladshtein, Ukrainian producer of Phalanstery Films, who said he could only access Herzog’s films on illegal Torrent sites. Herzog told Gladshtein: “If you don’t get (films) through Netflix or state-sponsored television in your country, then you go and access it as a pirate.”

He did admit, however, that he doesn’t like piracy because he “would like to earn some money” from his films – which is to be expected – but Herzog continued, “if someone like you steals my films through the internet or whatever, fine, you have my blessing.”

In the same conversation, the director also praised streaming sites for making his work accessible to new audiences: “Now you can find them on the internet, on Amazon, as Blu-Rays or DVDs, or you can stream them. I am very happy about this because all of a sudden most of the requests and observations I receive now come from 15-year-olds who bombard me (with) questions of ‘why can’t we see this or that film?’”

And the 15-year-olds have a point. Without streaming services, a whole era of film would be out of reach, especially for younger audiences. Who even owns a DVD player anymore anyway?