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Berlin, 20 Years After
Thursday November 5, 2009 at 8 pm on CBC-TV
Repeating: Friday November 6, 2009 at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC News Network
It was a completely unexpected event, a dizzying moment shared by millions across the world. The Berlin Wall, which, for close to thirty years, had divided a nation and seemed as permanent as the concrete out of which it was built, had fallen. What had once been a powerful symbol of Communist repression and the Cold War had suddenly become the site of a jubilant and seemingly never-ending street party. A country had been freed, a people reunited. Communism was dead. All without a single shot.
When the border crossings were finally opened, a throng of ecstatic East and West Germans fell into one another's arms. Families, friends and neighbours were finally reunited. The party, which would last for weeks, unfolded before the eyes of the entire world, everyone caught up in the euphoria and optimism of a moment marking the end of the Cold War and the dawn of a freer age. The entire planet was witnessing history being written.
Once the wall had fallen, a 1.3-km portion was preserved and artists from across the globe were invited to come and paint on it. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the City of Berlin decided to breathe new life into the murals, inviting the same artists to repaint their works. With over 100 murals, this piece of wall is known as the East Side Gallery and is today a monument to freedom. It's also the world's biggest outdoor gallery.
Berlin, 20 Years After takes a fresh look at the fall of the Berlin Wall using unseen archival material and contemporary accounts. The story is told from the perspective of three family members spanning three generations, and through the recollections of a CBC correspondent who was covering Germany at the time.
The film discovers people who experienced the event in unique ways: a border guard posted in East Berlin; a Quebec filmmaker in search of inspiration; the first artist who dared to paint the Wall; a well-known jazz singer who was spied on by the secret police; the last German to have been imprisoned for attempting to cross the Wall; a writer made famous by his descriptions of the lives of young people behind the Wall; and two Quebec architects who helped build the new Berlin.
CBC correspondent Jerry Thompson had been covering the situation in Germany for some months. "Here is the iron curtain, you know the wall of shame between the east and west and nobody seriously believed that that was going to come down and yet as the night wore on people started lining up just to see what would happen."
Twenty years later, Thompson is back in Berlin. "It is an amazing difference in 20 years. I remember seeing how wrecked all of eastern Europe was at the time and Germany, alone, has been able to completely transform all of that and people like Jamila and her generation has none of that baggage. They're forward into a new future with a completely a new kind of optimism, the new Germany the new Europe - it's probably going to be pretty good for them."
Berlin, 20 years after is a one-hour documentary, produced by CBC/Radio-Canada.