EXCLUSIVE: Telepool’s Global Screen and Elsani & Neary Media are joining forces to develop a television series based on the true stories of the people who dug Tunnel 29, the famed secret passage from West to East Berlin that ran underneath the Berlin Wall.
Director Marcus Vetter (Heart of Jenin) is aboard the project, he recently made the documentary Tunnel To Freedom on the same subject, for which he conducted interviews with eye-witnesses. Also involved is writer Paul Unwin, who created long-running medical drama Casualty; he will pen the screenplay using original documents from the Stasi archives.
The story will begin on August 13, 1961, when East Germany closed its borders to West Berlin. A group of students teamed with a civil engineer to conceive a 135-meter-long tunnel under the Berlin Wall, helping 29 people to escape. Images from the daring project became world-famous.
The same story was recently recounted in BBC Radio 4 podcast Tunnel 29, which has since been optioned by Sister for screen, as Deadline exclusively revealed.
Producer Anita Elsani of Elsani & Neary Media commented, “We think we know the story of the Berlin Wall. Our series shows how digging a tunnel beneath a city can become the key to freedom or a deadly trap. A thriller about the foremost human need – freedom. This is about the German people. This is about their outstanding fight with history, about the profound dangers of nationalism and of an intolerant ideology.“
Marcus Vetter added, “[The tunnelers] interrupted their studies, risked their own lives and stood up for the freedom of Berlin with youthful daring. They became a symbol of the Cold War themselves. During the research for the documentary, however, many personal stories fell by the wayside, and did not make it into the final cut. I am therefore very happy to give these stories a fictional home with my collaboration on the series.“
Julia Weber, Head of Acquisitions & Sales at Global Screen added, “This project marks a great example of our newly-implemented company strategy: teaming up with the producer at an early stage for co-development and co-production, in order to bring appealing local stories to global audiences.”
Dana Hoefinger, VP Acquisitions & Co-Productions at Global Screen, added, “The Berlin Wall is the most famous symbol of the Cold War, and of political oppression in general. An extremely popular British podcast from 2019 showed the topic is in high demand on the international market. We are therefore very much looking forward to the development and the international distribution of this fascinating story, targeted at a worldwide audience.“