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Home > Screenings > LOOKSfilm > Countdown To 1961/89 - The Rise And Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Director: Henrike Sandner

Producer: Ramona Bergmann

Executive Producer: Gunnar Dedio

Writer: Henrike Sandner

Genres: Documentary, Factual


The Berlin Wall divided Germany – and Europe - for nearly 30 years. Like other walls around the world, this inhumane structure tore families apart and destroyed lives. Those who tried to cross it risked death. Both the construction of the wall in 1961, and its fall in 1989, took people entirely by surprise; however, they were preceded by a very real countdown. In each film, this countdown starts precisely one year before the event and follows 10 historic milestones leading up to the respective "Day X".

"Countdown to 1961/1989" is based on diaries and letters from contemporary witnesses that reveal a very personal perspective on the events – the crazy twists and turns, and the churning emotions. Both events seemed to happen almost overnight: on 5 August 1961 author Brigitte Reimann noted in her diary: "Yesterday evening was terrible. The Berlin crisis is escalating. (…) We are once again teetering on the edge of war." West Berlin camera man Dieter Hoffmann filmed the events of 13 August 1961 as they unfolded. He captured the now famous moment when East German police officer Conrad Schumann leaped into the annals of history with his "Jump to Freedom". Actress Kati Székely reports on that fateful day and reflects on making the first movie about the Berlin Wall with Armin Müller Stahl.

For the events of 1989, we interview the then Mayor of West Berlin Walter Momper and the last socialist party head of East Germany, Hans Modrow. Both describe the events surrounding the fall of the wall from their own perspective. We hear from photographer Dietmar Riemann, who as late as September 1989, decided to give everything up and leave East Germany in the hope of a better life in the West. Historians and experts supplement these individual perspectives, comment on the events, explain them and set them in context.

"Countdown to 1961/1989" combines experienced history with the most important events leading up to these two historic, key moments in time and thus creates a new and different perspective on Cold War history – 60 years after the construction of the Berlin Wall. While creating a perfect pair, each film can be shown independently, too.

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