The most defining and far-reaching decision made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her 15 years in office is the focus of a new film making its debut at Berlin’s European Film Market.
“Merkel — Anatomy of a Crisis,” directed by Stephen Wagner, stars Imogen Kogge as the German leader during the dramatic days leading up to her decision in 2015 to allow nearly a million refugees, mostly from war-torn Syria, to enter Germany.
“We can consider this the most important political weeks of Angela Merkel’s life as chancellor,” says Alexander van Dülmen, who produced the film with Wagner via their Potsdam-based company Carte Blanche International.
Penned by Florian Oeller, “Merkel” is based on journalist Robin Alexander’s 2017 bestselling book “The Driven Ones” (“Die Getriebenen”) and examines the political wrangling among Merkel’s cabinet members and European actors like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as they struggle to deal with a growing crisis that is quickly spinning out of control.
“It’s a very precise, very well researched and evaluated look at how communication happens between politicians and how decision are being made,” van Dülmen explains.
“Die Getriebenen,” or “The Driven Ones,” describes everyone involved, the leaders who are being driven by outside forces — the refugees, political rivals, public opinion — and the refugees themselves, who are being driven by war and desperation. “All of this is summarized in this picture,” van Dülmen says.
In addressing Germany’s approach to the crisis, the film also examines the question of making a humane decision to help people in need or succumbing to populist tendencies and shutting the borders to keep the refugees out of the country, he adds.
While Merkel is known for taking her time in making decisions, the escalation of the crisis, exacerbated by Hungary’s treatment of the refugees, demanded urgent action.
“It’s a very human point of view,” van Dülmen says of Merkel’s stance. “You realize how difficult it is to make the right decision. … She was certainly led in her decision not by any political opportunity, but by a deep humanity. And I have to say and admit that up to a certain point, that makes her special. She had to fight against everybody with this decision.”
Despite the political opposition to the decision, van Dülmen points out that a great majority of the German population supported the move and welcomed the refugees.
Paramount Pictures is releasing the film in Germany as a special theatrical event on March 28 before its TV premiere on ARD’s Das Erste on April 15.
Produced by Carte Blanche Intl., pubcaster RBB and RBB Media, the film’s cast includes Josef Bierbichler, Rüdiger Vogler, Tristan Seith, Walter Sittler and Timo Dierkes.
Bavaria Media Intl. and van Dülmen’s A Company Film & Licensing are handling worldwide rights.
A veteran producer and film rights trader, van Dülmen partnered with Wagner to launch Carte Blanche Intl. in 2015. The company has a number of feature films and series projects in the works, including Warner Bros.’ upcoming drama “Wet Dog.” Damir Lukacevic’s adaptation of Arye Sharuz Shalicar’s autobiography follows a Jewish Iranian-German teenager who struggles with identity and antisemitism while coming of age in a largely ethnic Arab and Turkish neighborhood in Berlin.
Carte Blanche Intl. is also working on such series as writer-director Roger Donaldson’s “Nhiem,” which follows a young camera assistant in 1970s Vietnam who becomes the Viet Cong’s leading documentary eye, and Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “Catherine & Potemkin,” about the life of the 18th-century Russian empress. It’s likewise partnering with former 20th Century Fox exec Paul Higginson on Ruzowitzky’s feature film remake of the 2007 supernatural Thai thriller “Alone,” penned by “The Grudge” scribe Stephen Susco.
Van Dülmen and Wagner have also teamed with producer Grant Hill on “Coryza,” a series based on Stanislaw Lem’s award-winning novel “The Chain of Chance,” about a former astronaut turned CIA agent sent to investigate a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances involving mostly Americans at an Italian seaside spa. Wagner is serving as showrunner on the project.