Decision has major 'Effects' for German TV


A controversial German TV movie about the Thalidomide birth-defect scandal of the 1960s is finally going for sale at this year's MIP-TV after a precedent-setting court decision.

For a U.S. audience, "Side Effects" seems like a typical MOW. It is a dramatization of the true story of the German lawyer who, after his daughter was born deformed as a result of the drug, took on the pharmaceutical industry and won the world's largest-ever damage settlement to that point in time.

But in Germany, the film has been at the center of a lawsuit that threatened to put a straightjacket on producers that change even minor details in bringing real-life stories to the screen.

The release and sale of "Side Effects" was blocked last summer after drug company Gruenenthal, which manufactured Thalidomide under the brand Contergan in Germany, sued, claiming production companies Zeitsprung Entertainment and pubcaster WDR had distorted the facts of the case.

While the drug company did not argue the truth of the film's overall story, they argued that certain details, including how the company behaved during settlement negotiations, were incorrect.

A lower court initially ap-proved the suit, sending many German producers into a panic.

"If this decision had stood, it would have made it impossible to adapt any real-life story," said Jan Mojto, whose sales company Beta Film is shopping "Side Effects" to international buyers at MIPTV.

Instead, the superior court in Hamburg essentially threw out the case last week, dismissing all but two of the charges and clearing Zeitsprung. The two remaining complaints relate to only a few minutes of the finished film and will be edited out of the final version.