The Circle

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    The Circle

    Der Kreis

    Directed by



    102 min

    • German


    Swiss submission for the Academy Awards

    Zürich in the mid 50‘s: The young shy teacher Ernst Ostertag becomes a member of the gay organisation DER KREIS. There he gets to know the transvesti- te star Röbi Rapp – and immediately falls head over heels in love with him. Röbi and Ernst live through the high point and the eventual decline of the organization, which in the whole of Europe is seen as the pioneer of gay eman- cipation. Ernst finds himself torn between his bour- geois existence and his commitment to homosexuality, for Röbi it is about his first serious love relationship. A relationship which will last a lifetime. The film looks back from the present to the time when the „Mother“ of all European homosexual or- ganizations had its high point to the time it slowly fell apart. While the repression against homosexu- als became increasingly more intense in Zurich, two young and very different men fight for their love and – together with their friends – for the rights of gays.


    • Teddy Award for Best Documentary, Audience Award - Berlinale Panorama
    • Prize Man and his Environment - Festroia IFF
    • Grand Jury Award for Documentary Feature - Outfest FF



    Marianne Sägebrecht
    Anatole Taubman
    Matthias Hungerbühler
    Sven Schelker
    Antoine Monot Jr.
    Stefan Haupt
    Ivan Madeo
    Urs Frey
    Christian Felix
    Tobias Dengler
    Ernst Immer
    Patrick Lindenmaier
    Christoph Menzi
    Federico Bettini

    Director's Statement

    In Russia a new anti-gay law has been passed. In Uganda, homosexuals are threatened with life-long imprisonment. In the U.S.A. a suicide wave has been reported among gay youths. In Belgrade, a gay parade ended in serious riots. And in Paris, the „city of love“, a demonstration against gay marriage ended in pitched street battles: even today in the so-called advanced states of Western Europe the path from a possible toleration to an unconditional acceptance of homosexuality can sometimes seem very far away. Therefore, DER KREIS, despite the temporal distance of it‘s subject matter from present events, and local specificity, is handling a global, and still highly topical issue. It throws a wakeful eye on a historically and socio-politically relevant period in the struggle of gays for equality and emancipation. A struggle that is far from over. I still remember exactly all the issues that were triggered and the feelings and thoughts I was filled with, (as does my brother) when he came out to me years ago. It was through him I later got to know Röbi Rapp and Ernst Ostertag. The deeply stirring story that lay behind their lives, and behind the walls of our city – from the heyday of DER KREIS, through the long secret repression, up to the first officially accepted gay partnership in Switzer- land, which they were able to celebrate in Zurich 2003, is a story, about which, for a long time I knew nothing; despite having lived here since my childhood. And so, DER KREIS is also an important but relatively unknown story in the history of my city; and it is this story I want to tell in my film. On their well-founded and comprehensive website dedicated to gay men in Switzerland and its history (, Ernst and Röbi have written the heading: “It‘s About Love.” For me, this short sentence was actually a guide in making the film. It‘s not about different pigeonholes, or neatly separated worlds of ‚normals‘ and ‚abnormals‘, but a joint search for love, happiness and fulfillment. A search that can take many different paths.



    A wonderful plea for freedom to love.

    Domenico La Porta, Cineuropa

    A watershed moment in Swiss and European gay history is finally given the feature treatment in “The Circle”.

    Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter

    The drama’s urgency gives “The Circle” the feel of a bombshell.

    David D’Arcy, Screen International

    The documentary interludes prevent “The Circle” from playing entirely as a period piece, which makes sense given the still burning political currency of its subject mater…. The testimonials of the elderly lovers are touching.

    Guy Lodge, Variety

    Stefan Haupt

    Stefan Haupt


    Stefan Haupt was born in Zurich in 1961. He attended the Zurich Drama School from 1985 to 1988, obtaining a degree in Theater Education. Since 1989 he has worked as a director and filmmaker. In 1998 he founded his own production company, Fontana Film, in Zurich. His feature film debut UTOPIA BLUES was honoured with the Zurich Film Prize and the Swiss Film Prize, among others. ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS remains the most successful Swiss documentary film to date, with some 300,000 viewers throughout Europe. From 2008 to 2010 Stefan Haupt was president of the Swiss Filmmakers Association, and has been a board member of the foundation of SWISS FILMS, the promotion agency, since 2007. Stefan Haupt is married to actress Eleni Haupt; they live in Zurich with their four children.

    Selected Filmography