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Frau vom Checkpoint Charlie, Die

Frau vom Checkpoint Charlie, Die
Director Miguel Alexandre (photo © Christine Schroeder)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2006

In this true story, German superstar Veronica Ferres plays Jutta Gallus, a Dresden woman who was sentenced to three years in prison for attempting to leave East Germany. West Germany purchased her freedom but her two daughters were denied exit visas. Gallus waged a one-woman campaign for natural justice, highlighting the arbitrary and inhumane nature of the East German dictatorship. Known around the world as "The Woman from Checkpoint Charlie" for her daring and courageous protests, it was 1988 and after four long years before she was finally able to embrace her children again.

“Checkpoint Charlie was the international symbol for a divided Germany, but to date there haven’t been so many films on the subject,” says UFA Fernsehproduktion managing director and the film’s producer Norbert Sauer. “We read Gallus’ biography by Ines Veith and were touched by her fate.”

As always, the proof of the pudding is in the ingredients and, as Sauer says, “the main character carries the film. I’ve known Veronica for years, offered her the role and she said yes immediately.”

Soon to be seen alongside John Malkovich in Klimt, Ferres’ extensive credits include Schtonk!, Das Superweib, Rossini, Les Miserables and Kein Himmel ueber Afrika, among others.

The choice for director fell on Miguel Alexandre because “he’s very into real details,” says Sauer. “He goes for reality and is very much an actor’s director. Veronica is always keen to work with him. And we chose Annette Hess to write because, credit where credit is due, supervising editor Jana Brandt recommended her to us. It was a very, very good tip.”

Anyone who has been to Berlin recently will know that the real Checkpoint Charlie has long since been consigned to property developers, which is why, says Sauer, “we’re building it again! To its original scale but in Leipzig where we found a street that looks just like the then Friedrichstrasse. We have the same architect who built the Berlin Wall for Sonnenallee!”

Recent German history is currently the big draw for local event-movies, as evidenced by UFA subsidiary teamWorx’s Die Luftbruecke, Dresden (which broke viewing records for ZDF) and the upcoming Flucht und Vertreibung.

UFA, Germany’s largest production company, is also currently preparing a two-parter on the sinking by a Russian submarine of the liner Wilhelm Gustloff in the final months of the war, while transporting refugees from the advancing Red Army. More than 9,000 people died, the greatest loss of life at sea.

“It’s a story ideal for a mammoth project,” says Sauer. “Josef Vilsmaier (The Comedian Harmonists, Stalingrad) is directing. The script is ready to go.”

Genre History, Drama

Year of Production 2006
Director Miguel Alexandre
Screenplay Annette Hess
Cinematography Jörg Widmer
Dominic Roth
Lothar Holler
Cast Veronica Ferres, Julia Jaeger, Götz Schubert, Peter Kremer, Filip Peeters, Michael Schenk, Charlotte Schwab, Elisa Schlott, Maria Ehrich
Producers Norbert Sauer, Cornelia Wecker
Production Companies UFA Fernsehproduktion/Leipzig, ARTE, in co-production with MDR, ARD Degeto, BR, RBB
Format 16 mm, color
Shooting Dates Leipzig, Berlin, Helsinki, Bucharest, April - July 2006
Sound Technology Dolby
With backing from Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung