Saturday, October 29, 2011

And the winners are...

Prix Europa 2011 award ceremony: The winners on stage. (twb)

So these are the winners of this year's Prix Europa, that amazing media festival awarding the best of the best public service productions: Congratulations! Well done! By today you belong to Europe's best media makers.

(And tidy up your desk – the Prix Europa bull will need some space.)

  • TV Documentary: The Snow Ball War Darkness (Norway), Enemy Engagement (Germany)
  • TV Current Affairs: Lost Honour – The Story of the Sürücü Family (Germany)
  • TV Fiction: Sherlock – A Study In Pink (United Kingdom), The Strongest Man in Holland (The Netherlands)
  • Prix Geneve Europe (best TV fiction script): Combat Girls (Germany)
  • TV Iris (best multicultural TV programme): Winter of Love (The Netherlands)
  • Languages Through Lenses (students' short films on learning languages): The Importance of Speaking Two Languages (Italy)
  • Radio Documentary: My Grandfather’s Doublelife (Denmark), Ladies of the Manor – Scenes from a Marriage of Convenience (Austria)
  • Radio Fiction: Tacet (Silence 2) (Germany), Home Goal (France)
  • Radio Music (programmes on music): WDR 3 Favourites (Germany)
  • Online: Nowhere Safe (France)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award Radio: Raina Konstantinova (EBU)

The Top Five

Whatever production has made it to the Prix Europa, you will agree, belongs to the best productions there are. Yet, not any of them can win one of the bulls. So here is what the jurys have considered the top five of any category, the very essence of this year's Prix Europa.

No voting for "Farewell Comrades!"

It must have been a hard decision: The Online jury decided that they would not vote on "Farewell Comrades!" (entered by Gebrüder Beetz Filmproduktion Berlin, Arte France and ZDF), undoubtedly one of the most exciting projects presented in this year's competition. The reason for this is simple: The project had not been finished yet, and the glances the jury was able to have did not allow a final decision. Hence, no votes, no prize, at least not this year: "Farewell Comrades!", to be launched on November 1, has already been pre-nominated for the Prix Europa 2012.

Do you agree? Comments anyone?

Update: the Prix Europa press release on the subject.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Election for kids

Involving kids with politics: This is what "Lilla's Election Check" is all about. The crossmedia TV and web project was launched by the Swedish SVT in 2010, and it aimed at explaining the political process behind Sweden's general election. In the online project every aspect is assigned to a character: "Pelle" guides the visitor through ideologies, "Stephan" offers a stroll in parliament, "Andrea" explains the voting system, and "Madde" talks about democracy and dictatorship. Crossmedia for tomorrow's citizens: unconventional and inventive.

Within minitz

Minitz press conference with Doris Ahnen, minister of
education, Rheinland-Pfalz. (SWR/ARD)
News for kids aged from 8 to 12: "Minitz" is a crossmedia TV, radio, web and mobile programme presented by the German SWR and ARD. Three news topics are being produced every day - on politics, ecology, history, economy, on stars and animals. In the "Tim asks Tom" series the news anchorman Tom explains complex matters and connects them to today's news. Another part of the site is the "School for Reporters" where children can publish their own articles, photos or videos as well as create their own avatar which then will present their news. Charming.

Online battlefield

Historic battle simulation, minute by minute. (DR)
"The Battle at the Dybbøl 1864" is a landmark in Denmark's history. In a nationalist uproar Denmark declares war on the union of German countries. 5000 soldiers are killed, and Denmark is defeated. The state is reduced to half its size and will suffer from the consequences for generations.

This year the Danish radio DR decided to broadcast a minute-by-minute acoustic simulation of the central battle. The airplay was backed up by a website with background material, live blogging, interactive graphics and an interactive map allowing users to submit personal stories. A historic tragedy brought to life by means of the New Media: This is what history lessons 2.0 might look like.

Farewell USSR!

1991. The USSR collapses, the Cold War is history. "Farewell Comrades!" presented by Gebrüder Beetz Filmproduktion Berlin, Arte France and ZDF is a pan-European crossmedia project that will be launched on November 1. Its core is a 6*52-minute TV series backed up by a book project and an immersive web documentary aiming at giving a bigger picture by taking the audience on an emotional interactive journey through the former Soviet Union.

The stories about friendship, passion, conviction and rebellion are represented by postcards written during the last 15 years of the USSR. Clicking a postcard will launch one of the 25 touching video portraits of the writer. A huge web doc framed by background information of any kind: "Farewell Comrades!" is a history lesson on 1991, skilfully told in today's media.

Crisis reports

Politics from a close-up perspective: Pervenche Berès.
(Honkytonk Films/France Télévisions)
Global financial crisis, southern European states facing economic breakdown, hardly any solutions in sight: "Rapporteur de Crise" entered by Honkytonk Films/France Télévisions tries to trace the activities of members of the European parliament (MEP) which a whole continent expects solutions from.

"Rapporteurs of Crisis" is a TV and web documentary following MEP Pervenche Berès, reporter of the special committee on the financial, economic and social crisis. Her goal: to find a political compromise and a sustainable recovery plan. International politics from a close-up perspective, offering a huge amount of background information, and expertly done.

Hell's angels

Close-mouthed brotherhood: Hells Angels. (NRK)
"The Brotherhood" presented by the Norvegian NRK is an in-depth TV and web report on the Hells Angels and their criminal activities. The website provides dozens of articles, an interactive map, video shorts and three TV documentaries that have been broadcast in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland so far. NRK's "Brennpunkt" (focus) editors aimed at unveiling the mafia structure of the motorcycle gang and its criminal activities, from robbery to bombing and murder.

The Hells Angels are a close-mouthed organisation, and it took years of meticulous research to do both the TV serial and the website. A risky task: "Web developer will remain anonymous due to security", the festival catalogue says. Investigative journalism at its best.

Dark memories

Munich during the times of Nazi terror. Jewish people were discriminated, beaten up, deported, and murdered. In "Memory loops" entered by the Bavarian radio and the ARD we hear moving reports of victims, transcribed and read by actresses and actors, and historical documents read by children.

"Memory loops" is a radio and web documentary project largely done by the author, composer and designer Michaela Melián. 300 German and 175 English tracks, all of them sound collages presented on an interactive city map or being played as you stroll through Munich's streets, a sombre interactive radio documentary with a huge amount of archive material artfully composed: "Memory loops" is a virtual memorial to the victims of the National Socialist regime.

City life round and round

"360 Degrees Langstrasse" presented by the Swiss SRF is a TV doc series (aired in August/September 2011) and a web documentary project about Zurich's famous Langstrasse by day and by night. It is a virtual stroll along the road, a road that has seen big changes in the past years. The brothels and night clubs have gone one by one, to be replaced by fancy bars and lounges, expensive apartments and businesses.
"360 Degrees Langstrasse" makes us hear the sounds and explore the places, providing 360 degree views of key locations, and makes us meet people working and living in a street said to be Switzerland's most vibrant area. A nice, authentic, colorful project about everyday life in the city.

Mohammed's journey

Mohammed al Masmoudi. (twb)
Mohammed al Masmoudi is a young man from Morocco. "I feel like a stranger", Mohammed says, "within my country, my language, my religion, my own body". Being discriminated is common to him - both for his name and origin, and for his handicap: Mohammed is about four feet tall, due to a misconducted medical treatment done in Casablanca when he was a child. "Mohammed's Journey" makes us follow Mohammed's way through life, makes us see things as he does, and it makes us feel all the terrible discriminations a man encounters when bearing the Prophet's name, when originating from a Muslim country, and when being a dwarf.

The Italian TV and web documentary presented by Zeligfilm is not yet another stop discrimation story. "Mohammed's Journey" is an upsetting and insistant plea for tolerance and respect.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

25 years! Cheers!

Birthday party at the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin. (twb)
Hap-py birth-day to you,
Hap-py birth-day to you!
Hap-py birth-day
Prix Euro-pa,
Hap-py birth-day to you!

Reinventing public service media

Panel at the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin. (twb)
The panelists' names are a Who is Who of Europe's media landscape, assembled in the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin: Ruurd Bierman (Netherlands, NPO), Dagmar Reim (Germany, RBB), Ingrid Deltenre (Switzerland, EBU), Jean Reveillon (France Télévisions), Roger de Weck (Switzerland, SRG-SSR), Lauri Kivinen (Finland, YLE), Thomas Bellut (Germany, ZDF), and Arne Wessberg, former CEO of YLE, discuss the future of public service media.

Technologies change. Audiences change. Markets change. How can public service broadcasters meet the multiple challenges? How can they be faithful to their mission, keep up media quality and their specific values - and successfully compete with commercial companies at the same time, even with global media platforms such as Google or Facebook?


The radio fiction jury at work. (twb)
Emma has got a new job. Her boss, friendly and caring, tells her to make regular reports on what she does and how she feels. Soon Emma realizes that life at the company is strictly controlled. When she falls in love with a colleague and thus breaks a taboo, the nightmare begins.

The young British playwright Mike Bartlett takes a simple plot and develops it to the extreme. How much can a company expect from its employees? And how much are they willing to reveal? "Nachwehen" directed by Stephan Heilmann from Swiss SRF (soundtrack by Philipp Schaufelberger) is a chokingly claustrophobic piece about control turning into terror.

Incredible stories

Soviet Union, around 1960. Only married communist party members (without any relatives abroad) are allowed to travel abroad. Before getting the permission to leave they are admonished that Coca Cola is a bourgeois drink, that they shall never show delight and above all avoid contact with locals.

"Incredible Stories" is a satirical radio series presented by the Georgian radio, about the Soviet tourists' impressions. "I don't pay any attention to anybody", one of them says while visiting France: "My thoughts and eyes are cherishing Tbilisi. How beautiful it is! It seems I am still in Paris, but the problem is that there's no funicular in Paris."

Apocalypse now

"One day. Something happens. In Kirkjubaejarklaustur."

"Kirkjubaejarklaustur", the Belgian radio drama directed by Sebastian Dicenaire, lets us wander about in windy, hostile Iceland, together with Sven who had been left there by his friends. We get lost in a world oscillating between dream and nightmare.
"Weather flash for the citizens of Kirkjubaejarklaustur: Only 10 minutes until the end of the world. Last call."
"Kirkjubaejarklaustur" is a radio play made of vocal sounds only, a play as absurd and delirious as the apocalyptic world it depicts.


Loudspeaker in the radio ficion auditioning room. (twb)
"Booze: Little Vera" written and directed by Georg Larsen and presented by the Danish DR tells the touching story of the 54-year-old Karen living in Aarhus. Karen, divorced, mother of a grown-up daughter called Helen, is an alcoholic on the brink of death. She checks in at the Tranegaarden rehab center. Bo, the therapist, digs deeper, and it turns out that both mother and daughter have a story to tell. Very different stories after all.

Back to the future III

2047. 91-year-old Ireneusz Slupezki lies in pain, with cancer creeping up his spine. Slupezki lies in his iron hospital bed, helpless, drifting between dreams of a long forgotten past and a reality ruled by deadhearted nurses, left with the only perspective of dying in agony. Yet, there is a way out, offered by a hyperactive young doctor: euthanasia.

"Cry, O Lord" is the radio drama by Wlodzimierz Kowalewski and Janusz Kijowski based on a novel of the same title, a nightmarish vision of a world having lost its spiritual scaffold.

Back to the future II

Jens-Uwe Bornemann, head of the UFA lab. (twb)
The UFA, formerly "Universum Film" and founded in 1917, stands for the shining past of German filmmaking, and it equally stands for its future. Jens-Uwe Bornemann gives an insight into the work of the UFA lab, the new media content laboratory providing customised content for all new digital technology and distribution platforms.

As the film industry is about to merge with the game industry media makers have to meet new challenges. The UFA does crossmedia and transmedia experiments, and they started by providing a flat in Berlin-Kreuzberg equipped with all the infrastructure creative people need to produce any kind of digital content. "New media companies are driven by technology", Bornemann says, "but we care about content". The heart of the UFA lab is a development infrastructure where freelance talents can start developing whatever they are up to. One of the latest UFA lab projects was the transmedia movie "Who Saves Dina Foxx", a transmedia project of the German ZDF.

Media content and games, the web and mobile platforms, all mixed together: There are so many facets of media making yet to be discovered.

Back to the future I

Loudspeaker, Prix Europa sculpture. (twb)
October 30, 1938, the night before Halloween. On CBS: "The War of the Worlds", directed by Orson Welles. A radio drama which had an enormous impact, even though the mass panic it caused is an urban legend. Time for radio fiction.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

News school

Young reporters at work. (BBC)
The "BBC news school report", online since 2006, aims at engaging 11 to 16-year-old youngsters with the news. Using the power of the web the BBC establishes a network of school broadcasters making news reports that are published on school websites and linked to by the BBC. The project provides a live events overview, an interactive map, and live-streamed radio and tv channels to give the young journalists a way to reach a real audience. A six-digit number of young people have already been involved with the "BBC news school report".

A public broadcaster getting involved in sustaining citizenship and civil society by means of its own media competence: Self-evident, yet impressive and compelling.

No shelter

Shot taken from "Á l'abri de rien". (Textuel La Mine)
"Á l'abri de rien" (nowhere safe) presented by the French company Textuel La Mine is an interactive documentary on shockingly poor housing conditions in France which 3.6 million people are suffering from. Samuel Bollendorff and Mehdi Ahoudig did the meticulous research, careful to always keep the respect for the men and women who opened their doors to the cameras.

"Á l'abri de rien" - 15 three-minute stories told in breath-taking photos and monologues, and each of them will get under your skin.


Dina Foxx. (ZDF)
Are you going to save Dina Foxx? Are you? "Wer rettet Dina Foxx" entered by the German ZDF is an interactive crime story about the data activist Dina Foxx accused of having murded her boyfriend. The plot was introduced by a TV movie broadcast in April, stopping at the climax. A three week online game followed, in the course of which the audience was meant to solve the case and to learn about dangers in the digital world.

The Dina Foxx project is TV movie, online game, social media, web apps and more, all at the same time. Edutainment at its best.

21st century stage

"Glaciers", four main characters. (Room 408)
"Glaciers" entered by the Icelandic company Room 408 makes the web a theatre. It is a play, an interactive thriller telling the story of four lonesome men and women living in Iceland, mostly online and yet actually meeting one day. With severe consequences.

The piece was live performed by five actors simultaneously, in five different places throughout Iceland and abroad. All the shows were streamed to the web where they can be viewed singly or in multiple windows on the same screen.

"Glaciers" is drama made interactive, offering multiple ways of viewing. A stunning art project, and a fascinating 21st century stage.

Handling life

"Handle life" entered by the Swedish educational broadcasting company is a TV series for young people suffering from anxiety or depression. In order to reach the target group better than TV can, an iPhone app was developed providing clips with challenging situations and possible ways of dealing with them, so as to strengthen the young user's self-esteem and help them find their own ways of handling that tricky thing called life.

Day by day

"Hurtigruten" in the Haus des Rundfunks. (twb)
"Hurtigruten - Minute By Minute" broadcast by the Norvegian NRK from June 16 to June 22 2011 was a gigantic non-stop and live TV documentary about a sea journey from Bergen to Kirkenes, Norway's northernmost harbor, a journey often referred to as the world's most beautiful sea voyage.

The website provided a TV livestream as well as a 2D and 3D navigation. The front camera shots were delivered by means of Bittorrent technology, in full length and under a Creative Commons license so as to encourage the audience to make and upload remixes. A centuries old sea voyage brought to TV and the web, minute by minute: Amazing.

Online playground

"Tyyo" (in plain English: wow!) is an online playground presented by the Czech TV, providing games, activities, TV programs, practical advice in netiquette and internet security. "Tyyo" is fun designed by top Czech designers, among them the brilliant game artists Amanita Design ("Samorost", "Machinarium"). No doubt, "Tyyo" is for kids. Of any age.

Art for free

Art for free: This is the main idea of the "Our Art" project presented by the Danish DR. Three pieces of art will be paid for by the DR, the Danish Arts Fund and Arts Council, at the price of 201.000 euros each. The website and its main interactive map (for users to upload photos, stories, suggestions, arguments) is the core. Its purpose is to involve the public in the discussion about the what, the why, and where.

"Our Art" is an impressive web-based public art debate. Multi-media in the sense of the word.

For a pocketful of websites

Discussion and voting in the Online jury. (twb)
This is the day: The multimedia jury gets to work. I have been camping in front of the presentation room in order to be in the front row. Here I am.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paris paradise

Jani. (YLE)
They are young, bored, and angry. They live in Rovaniemi, northern Finland, and their life is determined by drugs and crime. "Reindeerspotting", filmed by Joonas Neuvonen, a drug addict himself, and presented by Finland's broadcasting corporation YLE, tells the desperate story of 19-year-old Jani. He has lost two fingers to local gangsters and five years of his life to the morphine. "Drugs have come to Rovaniemi late", Jani says, "but they're here to stay."

Jani dreams of leaving Lapland and his old life behind, a life between withdrawal symptoms and the next shot, between jail and the next burglary. Robbing 5000 Euros from a grocery store seems to be the right way to start. A trip to Paris, an extra load of dope, a TV set in the hotel room: This is what paradise looks like.

"Reindeerspotting" is a film shot from a scaringly close point of view. A masterpiece, maybe a piece of art. Yet, it brings up burning questions about media ethics. And it is frightening beyond words.

Epilogue: Jani has not seen the film. He committed suicide after having been released from prison.

Deadly silence

Jordan, aspiring marching band drummer. (BBC)
In the beginning there was a research: How well have the wounds healed since war in Northern Ireland is over? Filmmaker Alison Millar explores Shankill Road in Belfast, meets 11-year-old Jordan, an aspiring marching band drummer, the marching band leader Paul Shole, and the father of eight Lee Hammond who tells Alison about his "lost childhood", always aware of the fact that he might get shot during one of the frequent riots. One day drummer boy Jordan makes a shocking discovery at the end of his road. His father who has always refused to speak about his violent past decides to break the silence.

"The Men Who Won't Stop Marching" presented by BBC Two is an impressive study on the loyalists' nostalgia for paramilitary discipline, on worshipping killed protestant fighters (who might as well be seen as murderers), on self-perpetuating prejudice, and on the deadly resistence to talking about the troubled past.


They were kids when war reached their home in Afghanistan. 10 or 12 years old, they were forced to escape and to go into hiding in Iran, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. "Affarin!", a film by Vincenzo Pergolini, tells the upsetting story of young refugees illegally living in Italy, of their odyssey in a dangerous world ruled by corrupt police officers, by people smugglers and drug dealers - and of their hope to see an Afghanistan in peace some day.

The enemy within

Hartmut Rosinger, Peter Wulkau. (ZDF)
30 years ago. Germany and Europe are cut in two by the wall, by barbed wire and equally by political convictions. Peter Wulkau, a young intellectual and a GDR dissident, is expelled from Leipzig university and ordered to do manual work in a factory in Magdeburg. There he joins a protestant students' group where he is spied on by his friend Hartmut Rosinger (code name "Hans Kramer"), a state security volunteer. The two men, as it turns out, are friends and enemies at the same time. In 1978 Wulkau is sentenced to two years of imprisonment.

The TV documentary "Feindberührung" (enemy engagement) presented by the German ZDF extensively quotes from state security documents, shows police photos and training films, and thus provides a deep insight into the mechanics of total secret service control. "Feindberührung", shot in original locations, is a torturingly authentic portrait of two men recalling their past, friends after all, and it is a breathtaking tale about totalitarianism, about friendship and betrayal, about guilt - and forgiving.

Photo gallery

Discussion in the radio doc jury. (Jan Kopetzky)
A blog needs photos, the more the better. The Berlin-based photographer Jan Kopetzky has been shooting the past three days, and his impressive shots illustrate what makes this competition tick. Have a look at the gallery on the right side - click to enlarge (and right-click to download). Enjoy!

Makes me hungry for images. Heading for TV documentary.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fingering exercise in optimism

An accident, and within seconds life is not the same as it was before. Nebojša Ignjatović, a lecturer at the faculty of music in Belgrade, had to undergo a surgical operation, after which he was forced to walk on crutches for two months. This old-fashioned device (crutches in Serbia are still the same as in World War I) gave him an idea: Why not turn a crutch into a harp-like musical instrument? "Optimism" presented by the Serbian Radio Belgrade 2 is a neat fingering exercise in looking on the bright side of life.

From heel to toe

Bob Hill and Katie Burningham, dancing. (BBC)
BBC Radio 4 and Falling Tree Productions present "Heel, Toe, Step Together", an amazing documentary about the encounter between the 86-year-old Bob Hill, a passionate dancer for all his life, having won many competitions with his late wife Iris, and the 28-year-old radio producer Katie Burningham, a self-confessed bad dancer.

The outcome? Dancing lessons, and a blossoming friendship bridging generations. "Heel, Toe, Step Together" is a compelling piece about the power of waltzing, about loss and loneliness, about love and life.

Cracking ice and broken dreams

When The Prime Minister's office of Iceland assigned a team of communication experts to set up an image campaign for the country in March 2008, no one knew that only a few months later Iceland's economy would break down, and that all the plans for prosperity and expansion would lie in shatters. "Iceland Survey: The Ocean Is A State Of Mind" presented by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV is a sensible collage unfolding the layers of a nation between isolation and trade, between patriotism and emigration, coined by the danger, by the cold, the ice and the vastness of the surrounding sea.

Scenes of argument and affection

The radio documentary jury, carefully listening. (twb)
Two aged ladies, having been living together for thirty years, and a wide social gap between them: "Die Herrinnen - Szenen einer Zweckgemeinschaft" is a stunning radio piece presented by the Austrian ORF Ö1. It tells the story of the conflictual and complicated, yet close relationship between Christa Hauer-Fruhmann, the former painter and Lady of Lengenfeld Castle, and her housekeeper Maria Moser.

The author, Eva Roither, has seen the ladies over a period of several years. Her documentary is an amazingly vivid painting of the present and the past, of argument and affection, and of mutual dependency.

Breaking the silence

The deepest traces of war are left in souls. The tale "Briseurs de silence" presented by Radio France has been inspired by the Israeli organisation "Shovrim Shtika", (silence breakers), which collects the testimonies of Israeli soldiers telling what they have done during their military service in the occupied territories. The radio piece recalls the banality of small deeds causing deep injuries, often invisible, and yet severe.
"Silence breakers" gives a voice to shame and guilt, in a disturbingly unemotional tone, not through the victims' voices, but through the soldiers', in order to uncover the horror in a region living under war conditions.

A matter of life and death

As in any part of the world, every day there are Bulgarians who are in desperate need of a transplantion in order to save their life. Yet, donors of healthy organs are more rare than in most parts of the world. In 2009 there were only 11 donors saving a total of 35 lives. Numbers can hide tragedies. "Transplantations" broadcast by the Bulgarian National Radio BNR tells three different stories, of Lidia, Martin, and Alexander, of hope and of grief, of the struggle for life, and of death. A radio piece by Desislava Popov, sober and simply-put. Disturbing.

Thou shalt not steal

Former curator David James, ancient islamic painting. (RTÉ)
"The caretaker" presented by the Irish Radio RTÉ Radio 1 would be a simple whodunnit story, if there wasn't for the author and producer Liam O'Brien. They tell us the story of Ireland's biggest ever insider theft from a cultural institution, the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, famous for its huge collections of islamic artifacts dating as far back as 2700 BC. It is an artistic tale of theft and deception, and still it is a whodunnit.
(The thief? No. No spoiler this time.)


Haus des Rundfunks, main hall. (twb)
Day two, early in the morning. The main hall is deserted, the steps are echoing. A charwoman cleaning the floor, a barman switching on the coffee machine, a security officer ranting at the blogger for not wearing his badge. The rest is silence. A perfect beginning for a radio piece. Here we go.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jury work

The TV fiction jury at work. (twb)

What fun it must be, you might think, chatting with colleagues from throughout Europe and watching TV or listening to the radio the whole day long. Well, a typical schedule will look like this: Keynote session at 8:50 am. Briefing, screening, short break, screening, 45 minutes lunchtime, screening, short break, screening, discussions and voting until 7 pm, often longer. Yes, jury work is fun. And it is hard work.

(Not to mention the fun blogging a little.)

The power of language learning

The Prix Europa "Languages Through Lenses" programme is a students’ competition open to short videos (60-90 seconds) promoting foreign language learning. Last year's winner, Richard Meitern's short film "No Fishing", was part of the opening ceremony, and this blog would be incomplete without it. So here we go.

(Noh, noh? You do not understand a word? Learn! It may save your life!)

Meet the GDR

"Weissensee". (ARD)

The German ARD and Ziegler Film present "Weissensee", a six-part fiction series telling the story of two families living in East Berlin. Two families that could hardly be more different: The Kupfers are a solid part of the GDR system, the Hausmanns have a dissident and artist background. Two families, two political systems, and more than one border between them: The inevitable love story between the GDR police officer Martin and Julia, considered superficial and "politically unreliable", boosts both the dramatic plot and the audience rate.

"Weissensee" draws us back into the days of the Cold War when Germany was divided by the wall, back into a time most of us have vivid memories about. The plot may appear melodramatic and soapy. But if so, "Weissensee" is a soap opera on a very high level.

Multiple sacrifice

"Sacrifice". (SVT)

The three-part series "Sacrifice" presented by the Swedish Television SVT actually deals with a multiple one. The well-cast and well-acted film deals with politics (the protagonists, the jewish-born Elisabeth Meyer and her Swedish colleague Charlotte Ekeblad struggle to bring the Social Democrats back into power), with racism (Elisabeth faces a death threat from extremists and is living under permanent police protection), with rivalry (there are struggles for influence within the SocDem party itself), and with disease (Elisabeth realizes that she is suffering from Alzheimer which is likely to make her election campaign impossible).

Brilliant actors, a multi-dimensional plot, a bit far fetched though and overburdened with topics: A whole panopticon packed into 90 minutes of TV fiction make "Sacrifice" a frighteningly oppressive piece.

(An aside for bloggers)

"Blogsy" (screenshot). (twb)
Blogging requires certain skills. Focus. Endurance. Curiosity. Not to mention all the other 237 journalistic virtues. Yet, what's not needed any longer is clunky hardware. Apple's iPad is a powerful blogging machine, small, light-weight and with 10 hours of battery power. The iPad is the blogger's delight, especially when equipped with the Blogsy app, offering every kind of online and offline option you can think of. Blogging finally has reached the 21st century.

Sherlock Holmes reloaded

"Sherlock", "A Study in Pink". (BBC)

Mission impossible, you might think. BBC One doesn't. They bring Sir Arthur Conan Doyles's Sherlock Holmes back to life, contemporary, intelligent, edgy, difficult, and dangerous. His alter ego John Watson is a doctor, a soldier, war-disabled, pragmatical, a war hero from Afghanistan, and the two forge an unbreakable alliance. The BBC's innovative, fast-paced "Sherlock" is a crime series, and the episode "A Study in Pink" tells the story of a woman clothed in pink suits and found dead - the fourth in a series of impossible suicides. There's only one man who can crack the case ("Aaah! Brilliant! Four impossible suicides in a series! That's christmas!"). His name is... you name it.

Although the storytelling may appear somewhat artistic, the episode is very well-acted and produced in an innovative way. Reanimating a character belonging to the cultural heritage is a hard thing. The BBC was successful. Well done lads.

Spoiler warning, stop reading! (It was the cab driver. It always is the cab driver.)

The mafia from within

"Undercover". (BNT)

Not a decent story for 9:30 am: "Undercover" is a crime series produced by the Bulgarian National TV BNT, and it tells the story of a special agent called Martin whose mission to go undercover and get hold of the local mafia boss appears to fail. Instead, the agent is about to become part of what he was meant to fight: a world full of corruption, of drug dealing, and of murder.

A thrilling, American-style film providing both action and suspense, but a couple of clichés, much violence and a plot remaining somewhat unclear: "Undercover" is a piece of solid TV work.

Movie time

Prix Europa festival catalogue: 282 pages. (twb)
Day one. And the first problem: Four jurys will begin work today - TV and radio documentary, TV and radio fiction. It's a hard choice. But since it's Sunday I think I feel like TV fiction. Movie time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Waltzing on a historic floor. (twb)
A flashmob turning the Haus des Rundfunks into a dancefloor. Slow media anyone?

Slowing down

Modern times are fast-paced times. But a media festival is not a race to run. Nor are media productions. The opening keynote is held by the former BBC journalist Angus Stickler (now Bureau of Investigative Journalism) pointing out that today's media lack both depth and quality. What the world needs is "slow media" instead of 24 hour "news processing", Stickler says: programmes that are better researched, better produced and presented with more care.

Sticklers example: Only by means of endless sifting through thousands and thousands of classified files published by Wikileaks in 2010, only by means of insistent investigation and thorough research, of classical, old-school journalism and a close collaboration of powerful media organisations the bulk of documents could be transformed into valueable media content - and, in the end, into the headlines the world still speaks about.

Today, we are overfed ad nauseam by an overabundance of content, literally one click away, the major part of it superficial, useless, unneeded, and unwanted. What the audience needs instead is quality, quality on all levels of research and production. Old-school "slow media", Stickler says, are not on the decline. They might well be the future of today's news industry.

"Hurtigruten" in the Haus des Rundfunks. (twb)
An impressive example for "slow media" comes from Norway. This year's summer NRK produced "Hurtigruten", a six day-and-night TV live documentary of a sea journey from Bergen to Kirkenes, Norway's northernmost harbor. To cut a long story short: The audience adored the broadcasts. (And so does the Prix Europa: "Hurtigruten" will be shown in the main hall of the Haus des Rundfunks. The full six days.)

Facts and figures

Prix Europa: endless rows of pigeon holes. (twb)
The Prix Europa, first held in 1987, is the largest and most renowned broadcasting festival in Europe. Eight days. 240 TV, radio and multimedia productions. 1000 journalists and producers from 40 countries, each of them eager to win the bull-shaped prize (not to mention the 6000 euros that go with it).

A place of history

Haus des Rundfunks, main hall. (twb)
The Haus des Rundfunks - or simply HDR as it is called these days - is one of the most important places in Europe's media history. Built in 1929, the HDR was the home of the National Socialist Rundfunk (1933-1945), the Sender Freies Berlin (1957-2003), and today it is the main building of the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg RBB. (Read more.)
Haus des Rundfunks, paternoster elevator. (twb)
Yet the past is not just a notion within these walls. You can see it. Smell it. Hear it. Even feel it. Just step into one of the cabins of the Paternoster elevator carrying the jury members to their auditioning rooms. And if you do, you will recall Heinrich Böll's short masterpiece "Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen" paying tribute to a forgotten invention, and to the golden days of radio broadcasting.

The best of the best

Bull-shaped and precious: the prize. (twb)
Prix Europa - this is the place where Europe's best media makers meet. More than one thousand of them. Which of course is a problem: Hundreds of productions, and just one blogger.

Hence I will be able to comment on just a small number of broadcasts and productions. Excellent ones. Not so good ones. Edit: Nah, just good ones. Otherwise they would not be presented here. You know, the Prix Europa is the place where... (see above).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Welcome to the Prix Europa blog

Both unique: the Façade of the Haus des
Rundfunks and the Prix Europa. (twb)
This is the unofficial Prix Europa diary blogged by the Swiss multimedia journalist Thomas Weibel. It will show you round, it will pick the best productions and events, it will be live and personal. If there are any complaints, send them to