FremantleMedia International’s 'Deutschland 83' Comes to Sundance TV in U.S.

Nik Koniezny

Jorg and Anna Winger’s new spy drama, about a key year in Cold War history through the eyes of a young East German man, will be the first German-language series to air stateside.

Sundance TV has picked up new German drama series Deutschland 83, marking the first time a U.S. network will air a German-language series.

FremantleMedia International is screening the first two episodes of the eight-part series on Feb. 9 in Berlin as part of the European Film Market’s special focus on high-end television drama.

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Deutschland 83 was shot mainly in and around Berlin with a special focus on an exact re-creation of West Germany in 1983, when the country was at the center of the Cold War. “Finding locations hasn’t been easy,” says Jorg Winger, 45, who co-created the show with his American-born writer wife, Anna Winger, 44. “So much has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there are almost no houses left in the East that look like they did back then.”

The production team, which includes UFA Fiction and German commercial network RTL, finally found a sleepy suburb to the east of Berlin and a house where the furniture, and even the wallpaper, hadn’t changed in decades. It plays stand-in for the family home of Moritz, a young East German man (newcomer Jonas Nay) who is recruited to infiltrate the West German military as a spy.

The story draws from Jorg’s own experiences of the time. “For my military service, I worked in the signals department and we listened in on Russian broadcasts from the other side," he recalls. "One night, close to Christmas, the Russians wished all of us a merry Christmas, by name. So we knew we had a spy."

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Anna Winger says 1983 was a key year in the history of the Cold War, when both America and Russia were edging toward nuclear war. Germany was their battleground, with spies from both sides engaging in espionage and counterespionage. It also was the year that Germany, for the first and last time in recent history, became the center of the pop-music world, with Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” and the music of the New German Wave topping the charts. It’s that music that graces the Deutschland 83 soundtrack.

“There was so much that came together in that one year in Germany, so much in pop culture and politics that still resonates today,” Anna Winger says. “In a way the world from 1983 is the world we are living in today.”

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