20 Oct 2009

Berlin: Matt Frei explores a city of contrasts and controversy

Matt Frei uncovers Berlin

Matt Frei uncovers Berlin

TX: Saturday 14 November, BBC2 – 3 x 60mins

Berlin has seen everything from Nazi imperialism to the first gay mayor; it has been home to some of history’s most influential people including Bertholt Brecht, Marlene Dietrich and Einstein; and it’s a city that has been steeped in controversy and contradiction throughout the centuries. Co-produced by The Open University, Berlin is a new three-part documentary written and presented by award-winning, German-born, journalist Matt Frei, who unveils the turbulent and dramatic story of this city from the Prussian years right through to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Matt Frei, now Anchor of BBC World News America and host of ‘Americana’ on Radio Four, took up the post of the BBC’s Bonn Correspondent in Germany on the same day as the fall of the Berlin Wall, and revisits his own past in this series: “Making a film about a city I love, whose happiest milestone I was lucky enough to witness and where layers of history, good but mostly bad, have collided with consequences for the rest of the world is a gift for any journalist. To do it in both English and German was a first for me."

Drawing bold connections between events, characters, art and architecture from 200 years of turbulent history, the series – which is shot in English and German - reveals how the ideas, buildings and people of Berlin have become iconic symbols of our times. Travelling back and forth in time between the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the 18th century Prussian years, Hitler’s Third Reich and Cold War Berlin, we discover a city of contrasts – divided and shaped by its own history.

Dr Sylvia Warnecke, an expert in the cultural policy of the former East Germany, is The Open University’s academic consultant to the series and was involved in underground democratic political movements in East Germany in the 1980s. Sylvia said: “Unlike many other European cities, Berlin’s identity has moved and shifted as history has unfolded, something that has been reflected in its cultural scene. In a sense, Berlin is braver because of its turbulent past, and there is a real sense of endeavour and innovation. The series gets to the essence of this unique city, and brings a fresh view to a place that many viewers will think that they already know.”

To accompany the series, The Open University has produced a free bi-lingual guide to the city of Berlin available to order from www.open2.net or by calling 0845 366 8013.

- ENDS -
Editor’s Notes
For interviews, preview DVDs, images and further information contact Kath Middleditch

Images available from the BBC Picture service – go to www.bbcpictures.com

TX details: Saturday 14 November, BBC TWO, time to be confirmed. TX details are correct at the time of issue and are subject to change.

About Matt Frei
Matt Frei was born in Essen, West Germany. When he was ten years old he left Germany with his family and moved to the UK. He joined the BBC shortly after graduating from St Peter's College, University of Oxford. After a year in the German Section of the World Service, he moved to English Language Current Affairs, where he worked for another year. In 1989 he reported on the First Intifada in Jerusalem, then on the Gulf War as London Foreign Affairs correspondent. He took up the post of Bonn Correspondent in Germany on the same day as the fall of the Berlin Wall. And on October 1, 2007, Frei became the first presenter of the BBC World News one hour Washington-based news broadcast, BBC World News America. He has won numerous awards during his career notably Amnesty International Asia Award, for Newsnight features on Vietnam and Indonesia (1997 and 1998), Royal Television Society International News Award (2000) and Prix Bayeux for War Reporting (2000).

Programme Credits
Berlin is a co-production between The Open University and the BBC.
The Executive Producer is Basil Comely; the Series Producer is Sam Hobkinson.
BBC Commissioning Executive for the Open University is Emma De’Ath.
The Broadcast Learning Executive for The Open University is Anne Stevens.
The Open University academics for the series are Dr Klaus-Dieter Rossade and Dr Sylvia Warnecke.

The OU and the BBC have been in partnership for forty years, providing educational programming to a mass audience. In recent times this partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak-time programmes with a broad appeal, to encourage wider participation in learning.
Related Courses and programmes from The Open University:-
• L130 Auftakt: get ahead in German
• L193 Rundblick: beginner’s German
• L203 Motive: upper intermediate German
• L313 Variationen: Advanced German

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