MERKEL tells the astonishing story of how a triple political outsider – a woman, a scientist, and an East German – became one of the most successful politicians in the world. A pastor’s daughter who grew up behind the iron curtain in the former DDR (East Germany), Merkel re-invented herself after the fall of the Berlin Wall to become “the world’s most powerful woman” (Forbes, 2020), often outsmarting and outstaying her male opponents. But despite her historic 16-year Chancellorship of Germany, the international public still knows very little about her. Using vast archive materials and interviews with those who know her – friends, journalists, political allies, and critics – the film offers a thoughtful re-examination of her life and career from both a domestic and international perspective, told with humor, subtlety, and poignancy befitting of its subject.
Originally I wanted to do more of a deep dive into politics, and to examine how differently Angela Merkel has been perceived internationally versus in Germany over the years. There were many times throughout her career when she was perceived internationally in a positive way, but back in Germany, there was a lot of criticism. And vice versa. I moved to the United Kingdom in 1991, one year after the German reunification, and around the time when Angela Merkel first entered politics. So even though I still have family and friends in Germany and always had a keen interest in German politics, this meant that I followed her journey from afar.
As I dug deeper into her story, Merkel evolved into a film where I explored how growing up in East Germany under a dictatorship shaped her as a person, as well as a politician. It influenced not only her values, but also how she operated as Chancellor of Germany. This upbringing made her understand the importance of freedom and democracy, but also how fragile it is. She understood how we must defend it and never take it for granted.
In many ways Angela Merkel had almost two lives, her life as a scientist before the fall of the wall and her life afterwards as a politician. It is an incredibly rich life story and it is impossible to capture all of it, with all its nuances, in one feature-length film. So I had to make some hard choices, there are many things I would have loved to further explore. I particularly wanted to give an insight into her inner circle, the ‘girl’s camp’ as it was called, but in the end I couldn’t find a place in the film for it. The creative approach to the film also changed in a key way when I realized I wanted to tell the story through her own words. So while I had filmed many interviews with key political figures and journalists that still appear in the film, I pivoted the focus so Merkel was telling her own story as much as possible through her own words. One thing that didn’t change though was my intention to capture her sense of humor in the film. Merkel has incredibly comic timing, and can be very funny; something that is so often lost in portrayals of her.
Sir Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Bernd Ulrich, Thomas De Maizière, Robert Kimmitt, Ralph Bollmann, Melissa Eddy, Robin Alexander, Dirk Kurbjuweit, Martin Schulz, Lord Mcdonald, Margaret Heckel, Stephen J. Hadley, Nico Fried, Christiane Amanpour, Kristina Dunz, Roland Koch, Ben Rhodes, Susan Rice, Volker Schlöndorff, Annette Schavan, Peer Steinbrück
Dawn Porter, Maria Logan, Vijay Vaidyanathan, Regina K. Scully, Geralyn Dreyfus, Kathryn Everett, Andrew Ruhemann, Marc Smit, Paul Wiegard, Philippe Knatchbull, Mark Thomas, Regina Bouchehri, Gunnar Dedio, Romain Bessi, Philippe Levasseur
Reinhold Vorschneider, Konrad Waldmann
Clare Lucas, Julie Zann
Thorben Bockelmann, Filip L. Firlej, Janne Gärtner
Passion Pictures, Odd Girl Out Productions, Sonja Henrici Creates, Real Lava
BFI UK Global Screen Fund, National Lottery through Creative Scotland. Curzon CM Fund, XTR, MBK Productions, Khodorkovsky Foundation, InMaaT, Rogovy Foundation, RTL, Artemis Rising Foundation
© MMXXI Sonja Henrici Creates Ltd. SC683070