The mammoth programme will be broadcast in half a dozen European countries from 6:00 am Saturday until the same time on Sunday morning and be accompanied by public screenings throughout the German capital.
“24h Berlin – A Day in the Life” was filmed entirely on a single day – September 5, 2008 – and will be shown as the country gears up to celebrate 20 years since the Berlin Wall was pulled down on November 9, 1989.
Organisers said Europe’s centre of gravity had shifted eastward in the last two decades which made Berlin the obvious choice for what he called an entirely unique television broadcast.
“People were afraid that after the Wall fell, the city would lose its edge,” Gottfried Langenstein, the president of Franco-German public broadcaster Arte, one of the programme’s producers, told a news conference.
“This film shows that the opposite is true – the city has come into its own.”
The programme, which cost €2.8 million to produce and was edited down over 10 months from 750 hours of material, will run non-stop on Arte and Berlin’s RBB channel as well as stations in Finland and the Netherlands.
After a year of research, 80 film crews fanned out across the reunited city, from the trendy clubs and chic restaurants of the central Mitte district to a prison on its northern fringe, and accompanied Berliners as varied as a homeless drug addict and the capital’s gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit.
The programme tracks rugged Berliner Michel in his 90-minute transformation into over-the-top drag queen Gloria Viagra and a later concert at a lesbian bar with her band Squeezebox.
The editor-in-chief of Europe’s top selling daily, Bild‘s Kai Diekmann, is caught on camera barking at his staff during an audioconference with the newspaper’s bureaus throughout Germany.
Scenes at the home of a French television correspondent feature decidedly unglamourous moments including closeups of him changing his toddler’s dirty nappy, while a junkie’s morning prayer to survive the day left a preview audience fighting back tears.
Nor did the cameras shy away from the bedrooms of the capital.
“Sex is part of everyday life, right?” creative director Volker Heise said, explaining the choice to rescue some of the more explicit scenes from the cutting-room floor.
Anyone interested in the project could also have themselves filmed talking about their lives at 12 “Talkpoints” set up throughout the city.
And Berliners were invited to send in short films, outtakes of which feature in the finished product.
One whimsical contribution featured a viewer lacing up a pair of red espadrilles to walk the city’s streets. The camera stays on the shoes as they stroll past the city’s landmarks: the Reichstag parliament building, the Brandenburg Gate, the East Berlin television tower…
Berlin has embraced the project and on Saturday, restaurants, bookstores, cafes and churches will have screens set up for passers-by to pop in and watch the programme, as they did when Germany hosted the football World Cup in 2006.
A series of readings and exhibitions in the city will also accompany the programme.
“Only” 24 hours of material will be broadcast but all the footage has been preserved at Berlin’s Kinematek Foundation archive, the producers said.
The programme can also be watched online Saturday on www.theauteurs.com.