List of Films
NUCLEAR RENAISSANCE
IN THE U.S.?
Uravan in Southwestern Colorado was the biggest uranium mining town in the U.S . Then it was torn down by the government. The mill, houses, schools, sinks, the community center, gardens, every last tree in town was shredded and buried. Uravan was too contaminated. Many miners died from small lung cancer. Others are still dying. But until today the families who used to live in Uravan are living in deep denial. Cancer, they say, was an "accepted risk".
 
It was in Colorado that the uranium for the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was mined. The workers didn't know a thing about it. In the Cold War that followed, the rush for uranium became the only government-sponsored mineral rush in American history. 900 mines were opened in Colorado, mostly without proper ventilation, and radon concentration nearly a thousand times higher than the accepted level of safety. On "Bring Your Son To Work Day" the miners were picnicking in the mines with their families.
 
And then came nuclear energy and the first power plants. After the nuclear accident in Three Mile Island in 1979 America turned against nuclear power, after Chernobyl Europe did. Italy closed all its reactors. The USA didn't go quite that far. But they did close the uranium mines. Today, as the country is trying to move away from carbon energy, nuclear power is making a comeback. And so are the uranium fields of Colorado.
 
The town in Southwestern Colorado close to where Uravan used to be is called Paradox. And a paradox it is. Instead of "Never again" the inhabitants want nothing so much as their mine back. The region used to have between 6 and 7.000 inhabitants. Now there are 1.600 people left. There are no jobs. When in 2007 a company called Energy Fuels arrived with plans to build America's first uranium mine in 30 years, they were welcomed with open arms. As former miners are still dying of lung cancer, their families want nothing more than a revival of the industry. In town meetings people are wearing orange buttons that say "Yes to Mill".
 
The Sheep Mountain Alliance, an environmentalist group, is trying to prevent the new mine, but they know how hard it is to oppose development when you, as an environmentalist from the outside, come from a thriving town into a place full of unemployed. "When you're desperate", says activist Hilary White, "when you can't afford to put food on your table, you'll welcome people who don't have your best interest at heart."
 

“One Last Shot” tells the story of the life and death of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, one of the best war cameramen of his generation. Born and raised in Hebron, Palestine, he became a fighter for Press freedom, and in 2001 was awarded the prestigious “International Press Freedom Award” in New York. „Words and images are a public trust”, he said at the ceremony. “For this reason, I will continue with my work, regardless of the hardships, even if it costs me my life.”

Mazen Dana was tragically shot and killed August 17, 2003 by an American soldier in Baghdad, who mistook his camera for a grenade launcher. The last picture he shot, was the MG-sniper, who killed him. Mazen and his sidekick Nael had just about finished filming their story, when Mazen saw two American tanks rolling towards them. “Let´s just do this one last shot”, he said to Nael and shouldered his camera. Seconds later a machine gun roared. Nael jumped underneath the car and saw Mazen staggering towards him, hit by a bullet straight into his heart. While the GI´s were holding a gun to Nael´s head, Mazen Dana bled to death in the middle of the street.

Mazen Dana´s death was the end of a tragic self-fulfilling prophesy. Countless times the war reporter had escaped death by the width of a hair. All through his life he had been fighting violence against journalists. Only a year before his own death he buried a friend and a colleague, who had died on the battlefield. As a dramatic gesture Mazen laid his friend´s camera on a stretcher beside the victim.

Mazen Dana did not know fear. He grew up in the streets of Hebron, the West Bank, a city deep in Palestinian territory, where Jewish settlers and Islamic terrorists are constantly fighting each other, and often clashing with the Israeli army soldiers. It were those streets of violence that made Mazen Dana a dedicated journalist. His aim was clear-cut, simple, and ambitious: to put an end to the vicious circle of violence and counter-violence by bringing his pictures of the frontline to the TV-screens around the world, to literally billions of households watching the evening news.

„One last shot“ is the chronicle of Mazen Dana´s foretold death. Using his own
breathtaking footage of the Middle East conflict, plus footage his colleagues had shot of him throughout the years, “One last shot”  explores what it was that made this extraordinary cameraman tick.

“One last shot “ was shown in the One World Film Festival in Germany, screened in Berlin´s Dokument Kino, a movie theater for documentary films, and at The Frontline Club, a club for war correspondents, in London.

Wherever he speaks, Bernd Wollschlaeger´s lectures are passionate pleas against racism. His topic is a universal humanism, tolerance and understanding. The basis of this is his own, unbelievable story. Born as a child of a highly decorated tank commander under Hitler, young Bernd breaks all ties with his family as a teenager and converts to Judaism. Now, for the first time, he takes his story to where it all began: to the idyllic German town of  Bamberg.

At first Bernd Wollschlaeger grew up in peaceful postwar Germany of the 1960´s. Only the visits of his father´s old war-comrades, who talk about the "good old times", seem strange to him. When learning about the Holocaust in school, he starts to ask questions. The answers he gets are devastating. His father was a dedicated Nazi. "The Holocaust", he tells his son Bernd, "is a lie. Don´t believe your teachers." 

When Palestinian terrorists murder Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, young Bernd develops a keen interest in Judaism. He starts visiting his hometown´s small synagogue, eventually converts to Judaism, and emigrates to Israel. There he starts his own family, but remains silent about his past. Only when his 14-year old son asks him about his grandparents, Bernd decides to break his silence. After his sonl brags about the "cool story" in school  that his granddad had been a famous Nazi, the principal and the rabbi call Bernd in for a serious talk. "This story", says the rabbi, "is so outstanding that you mustn´t keep it to yourself."

 
January 2009. Gaza is in ruins. The war between Israel and the Hamas claimed 1.300 casualties, among them civilians, women, and children. Palestinians, Amnesty International and the UN is accusing Israel of war crimes. Tsahal, Israel's Defence Forces, defends itself by claiming to be "the most moral army in the world", but finds itself in an international crossfire.  

Ijad al-Alami, an attorney for human rights in Gaza, has gathered 936 cases against the State of Israel, all of them alleged human rights violations committed by the Israeli army. Someday, al-Alami hopes, a few of these cases will be heard by the International Court of Justice.

Also in Israel itself critics are making waves. A report put together by the organization `Breaking the Silence´, a group of former Israeli officers, is accusing the army to have used Palestinians as human shields during the war. Soldiers, they claim, have sent civilians into houses of Hamas fighters to hide behind them.

The army vehemently denies the charges. An infantry officer argues that it is not the army, but the Palestinian terrorists who are deliberately targeting civilians by shooting missiles at Israeli towns. "We do everything we can to save lives!", says a helicopter pilot, and shows us aerial footage from pilots who have been identifying Hamas fighters from above, but decided against an attack in order to ensure the safety of innocent civilians in the area.

But also after the Gaza War the incidents continue. During a Palestinian demonstration against the so called security wall Israeli soldiers kill a demonstrator at short range. Hundreds of Israelis take to the streets against an army, which, as they say, is becoming more ruthless day by day.

What has become of an army that claims to be "the most moral army in the world"?
Why do human rights violations occur in an army that claims to operate according to strict moral standards? Questions we asked in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The answers add up to a report about an army, which, after nearly 45 years of occupation, finds itself in a catch-22.  

David Kennedy wears his hair down to his shoulders, a trimmed beard, black suits with black ties, and is Professor of Criminology at a College in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in short: the type of guy that gets laughed at by hard boiled city cops when he offers them new concepts for fighting street crime and gang violence. Today Kennedy is their hero. His program, Ceasefire, has been nothing but revolutionary.

Ceasefire begins with the fact that a small number of hardened criminals commit a hugely disproportionate number of serious violent crimes. The police would identify gang members who were on parole or probation and compel them to attend a meeting, the Call-In. There, the cops would demand that the shootings end, and promise that, if they did not, the punishment would be swift and severe and target the entire gang. The city would also make life coaching and job counseling available to those who wanted out of the thug life.

High Point, North Carolina, has been Kennedy's showcase example. Over the past few years Kennedy, in close cooperation with the community of High Point, has cleaned up three neighborhoods that had been terrorized by drug dealers.

In our report we accompany High Point's Chief of Police, a pastor who has been closely working with Kennedy for a number of years, and a drug dealer on the week leading up to the Call-In, right up to the dramatic City Hall showdown. There, the community of High Point is telling the crack dealers: "We love you, but we hate what we are doing to us. And this has to stop."


$ 10.000 Reward. Wanted: the last Nazi war criminals. `Operation Last Chance´ is the Simon Wiesenthal Center´s latest and last attempt to bring murderers to justice. For the first time Ephraim Zuroff, the Center´s last Nazi hunter, is offering head money.

`Operation Last Chance´ kicked off in the Baltic States. In Lithuania the average person makes about $ 3.000 a year. The $ 10.000 reward, offered by Zuroff, is a fortune. “Our hope is that finally eyewitnesses will break their silence”, he says, preparing his press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania´s capital. Vilnius, once famous for its many Jewish scholars, was known as the `Jerusalem of Lithuania´ before the Nazi invasion. Thousands of Lithuanians, passionate fascists and anti-Semites, gladly assisted the Nazis in the murder of the Jews. Like all former Soviet Union states, Lithuania has always denied its own involvement in the Holocaust. Travelling through the Baltic States, Ephraim Zuroff meets resistance, wherever he goes. So far, the general prosecutors have not put a single war criminal on trial.

Still, more than a hundred contemporary witnesses came forward to give testimony. Eleonora Vilczinskiena was a little girl, when her neighbours, after killing dozens of Jews in the nearby forest, walked into her parents´ house. Blood was dripping out of their boots. They were bragging about their deed. She remembers their names, but the last one, Zuroff finds out, died two years ago: a father and grandfather, who never faced prosecution for the murders. Others are still alive, in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, in exile all over the world.

`Veidas´, Lithuania´s most popular journal, accuses Zuroff, by offering a reward to find Nazi war criminals, of using the same dirty tricks the Nazis used to find Jews in hiding. A member of Parliament even files a notion to officially declare Zuroff persona non grata in Lithuania. “Only when countries like Lithuania and Latvia finally bring these murderers to trial”, Zuroff replies, “they will show the world that they are willing and able to face their own history on the way to a new, brighter future within the European Community.”

“The last Nazi hunter” was produced for SWR, German public TV.
 

Café Bleibergs is smack in the middle of Berlin, a haven of "Yiddishkeit", as the Jews would say, something like Jewish heart and soul. Here nobody really cares about how normal Jewish life in Germany is 60 years after the Holocaust, leat of all the owner. Her name, believe it or not, is Manuela Ramona Gabriela Chaya Ruth Hoffman-Bleiberg. Manuela is chronically on edge and didn't have a clue about gastronomy, when she opened up the joint seven years ago. Today Café Bleibergs has become a second home, not just for Manuela, but for all kinds of lonely hearts and odd characters.
There is Ugi, the Mongolian cook, who claims to be "the only Jew from Mongolia. There is Boris, a car-dealer and a regular at Bleiberg's. Boris isn't even Jewish, but dead set to convert and already more devout and pious than all the others – excluding Rabbi Ehrenberg. The Rabbi calls Boris "a golden soul" and is always checking if Manuela's café is as kosher as she claims. And then there is Georg, an antique-dealer and self-proclaimed gigolo, who is crazy about the Klezmer evenings at Bleiberg's. When Jossif's Klezmer band rocks the house, everybody is on their feet, downing gallons of Vodka… and Yessir, it is kosher.
The film is our blockbuster. Yessir, this is kosher, the first of our "Docomedies", has been broadcasted more than 30 times on German TV. It was screened at various festivals, including the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and the European Television Festival of Religious Programs, where it won the Audience Prize.
King Salomon´s temple was towering over the city of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Today the Al Aqsa Mosque has taken its place. At least that is what most historians agree upon. But the Islamic world begs to differ, first and foremost the Palestinian Muslims. For Mohammed Hussein, the Al Aqsa´s mufti, all this is Zionist propaganda. Jerusalem, he claims, has never been the place where the Jewish temple stood.

Israeli archeologist Gabriel Barkai does not have much patience for Palestinian revisionism. For more than ten years he has been sifting through debris from the Temple Mount, debris, which the Muslims have been throwing on garbage dumps. They do not allow archeologists on the Temple Mount, but are excavating themselves with heavy machinery. " A barbaric act!", exclaims Barkai. "Everybody knows that at such a place you have to dig with toothbrushes instead of bulldozers." He has found more than 10.000 relics in the debris: coins, dice, pieces of mosaics, and even the seal of a Jewish temple custodian.

After Mecca and Medina the Al Aqsa Mosque is Islam´s third holiest site. The legend says that Mohammed has landed on the mount with his winged horse after his night ride from Mecca to Jerusalem. According to believers the rock in the Dome of the Rock next to the Al Aqsa Mosque, is the actual stone where Abraham has nearly sacrificed his son Isaac.

Who owns the Temple Mount? The Muslims or the Jews? Whoever asks the question in Jerusalem is bound to stir up emotions. We did. And came up with a film, which shows that in the Holy Land stubborn belief is always stronger than historical facts.

In a red coat the man with the white beard and the big belly would look like Santa Claus. But Mordechai Halevy proudly calls himself "The Western Wall Man". He is around 70 years old, claims to be "60ish" and has been spending the past 35 years at the Western Wall, come rain or shine. Dressed in white from head to toe, every morning he makes his way to the holiest site in Judaism, "until the Jewish people, until the whole of humanity will be redeemed", he swears and screams a prayer towards heaven.

The Western Wall, the last remaing wall of the Jewish temple, which was destroyed 2000 years ago – for many Jews it is the House of G´d… and G´s mailbox is always full. Day after day believers put hundreds of prayers and wishes in the cracks of the wall. Some even send letters, addresses to G'd, Jerusalem. These end up in Jerusalem's main post office, from where they are brought to the Wall twice a year.

Some even work at the Wall. The American Rabbi Jay Karzen lives in Jerusalem and organizes Bar Mitzvahs at the Wall. His clients come from all over the world. They are so many that the "Jerusalem Post" even called him "The Bar Mitzvah King". He even wrote a book about all his adventures at the Western Wall. He called it "Off The Wall", which in Yiddish, of course, means "a little meschugge".

And then there are fundamentalists like Rabbi Yehuda Glick. He is convinced that the Messiah will only come after the Third Temple has been erected, which basically means after the Muslims have been chased off the Temple Mount and out of town. According to Glick only the temple itself is the house of G'd, praying at the Western Wall is nothing but idolatry. That doesn't make him very popular in Jerusalem, but he couldn't care less. After all, at the Western Wall, according to the folks in Jerusalem "the holiest place in the world", everybody seems to be "a little meschugge".

„Save a child’s heart“ is one of the most ambitious projects of the peace process. In the past ten years a team of Israeli cardiologists have saved more than 1.600 children’s lives, most of them Palestinians. A hospital on the outskirts of Tel Aviv provides the organization with everything they need: operating theaters, nurses, beds, medicine, X-Ray machines. Each and every one of the physicians, also Lior Sasson, the chief surgeon, works on a voluntarily basis – driven by one philosophy: „We want to help children, no matter which nation they belong to. A child is a child, and it bears no responsibility for the politics of the adults.”

Many of the Palestinians find it hard to literally put their lives in the mercy of those, who they have only known as their enemies. “But when someone stretches out his hand to help you, you have to take it”, says Mohammed Sadaq, father of a five year old boy with a potentially fatal heart disease, with tears in his eyes. Our film follows Kherallah, Mohammed’s son, and his parents from their little village in the West Bank to Tel Aviv, shares their anxieties before the surgery, and the moment they realize that the moment they decided to trust the Jewish doctors of “Save a child’s heart” was the beginning of a new life for their little son.

Our documentary, shown on SWR, a local German TV station on the day of the 40th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, was so successful that it was broadcasted nationwide soon after.

It must be the only national airline without a state. Palestinian Airlines was founded in the 1990's, and its history is as bumpy as the history of the Palestinians and the Middle East peace process itself.

In its short hayday between 1998 and 2011 Palestinian Airlnies was flying all over the Middle East. dreaming of flights to New York, Sidney, and SIngapore. Gaza International, their airport in the Gaza strip, was financed by European donor states and equipped with the latest German aviation technology. Gaza International was the pride of Yassir Arafat. Palestinian Airlines CEO and chief pilot ZIad al-Beda flew Arafat all over the world - more often than not under adventurous circumstances: without knowing flight-routes, without proper maps, sometimes practically without gas and praying for tail winds, and, if daredevil Yassir Arafat insisted, through sand storms and fog banks.

Since the second Intifada, the bloody Palestinian uprising, the airline was grounded. The Israeli Air Force bombarded Gaza International. But Captain Ziad al-Beda did not give up. 
A few months ago they started flying again - not in their own country, but as a diaspora airline between Jordan and Egypt, between Amman and El-Arish. 
 
As of now, Palestinian Airlines only has two planes, only one of which bears the Palestinian flag. The second one had been charted to other airlines in the years of hardship, and still has to be painted anew. "All we want is to keep the Palestinan flag up in the skies", says Azmi Saaman, the airline's general director in Amman. "A national airline is part of an independent state, and this is what we're aiming for - come what may."

HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IN FRANKFURT      Zosia Wysocki used to be a brave partisan fighting the Nazis in Poland. She lost most of her family in the holocaust. Once a week she joins a group of holocaust survivors in Frankfurt, "with a smile and tear", as she says. The smile is the joy of living, the tear is being shed for what she has lost. The social workers and psychotherapists call the weekly gathering simply „Treffpunkt“, German for "meeting point". They founded the institution ten years ago. Today it is much more than just a get together for coffee and cake. The Treffpunkt is an oasis for the elderly Jews. Where else could they talk about their horrific memories, which they carried with themselves for so long? They are memories from Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, from their families which have been brutally murdered and the loss of a whole world that once had been their home. Here people listen, sometimes without saying much, as Kurt Greenberg, psychotherapist at the Siegmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt, says. "There are no words for what these people have suffered", he says. Despite the trauma the survivors have decided to live in Germany. Djorgi Alpar was a highly qualified engineer in Belgrade, when his company sent him to Germany, because Alpar spoke German. Today he and his wife have made peace with their decision to live in the land of the perpetrators. But they never forgot the past, and they will never accept German citizenship. Nobody knows how many holocaust survivors live in Germany. There are no dependable statistics. One of the reasons: many survivors have never again put their faith in German authorities. Only their family and friends know about their past. In the Treffpunkt they have found a new home in the heart of Frankfurt.