Imogen Kogge to Play German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Refugee Drama (Exclusive)

Kogge and Merkel -Publicity-Split-H 2019
F&M productions; Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Set during the summer of 2015, 'Merkel' looks at the steps that led to Germany's opening of its borders to close to a million Syrian refugees.

German theater star Imogen Kogge will play the most powerful woman in the world in an upcoming film about German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Kogge is starring in Merkel, a drama focused on the German leader and her decision, during the summer of 2015, to open Germany's borders to nearly a million Syrian refugees.

Stephan Wagner is directing the film, which has just wrapped principal photography. Carte Blanche International is producing Merkel together with German public broadcasters RBB and NDR.

Merkel is based on the Die Getriebenen (The Driven), a best-seller from German journalist Robin Alexander, and follows the most monumental decision in Merkel's life. When millions of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria began to flood into Europe, the German chancellor, known for her cautious and analytical approach to politics, made the abrupt — and among major Western leaders unique — decision to open her country's borders. While praised by many for her moral stance in the crisis, the move also strengthened the far-right in Germany and hurt Merkel politically.

The film is billed as akin to Stephen Frears' The Queen (2006), as both an inside look at power politics and an intimate portrait of an exceptional woman in an exceptional situation.

The action in Merkel begins in July 2015 with the German chancellor at the height of her powers. Having just successfully navigated the economic crisis in Greece, she has established herself as the most powerful politician in Europe. But as thousands of Syrian refugees begin to make their way across the continent, seeking safe haven, Merkel is faced with the greatest crisis of her career. It is a crisis that will pit her against powerful political foes, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who refuses to accept even one single refugee in his country, and internal German rivals, among them her Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and Bavarian leader Horst Seehofer. Her choices will shape the politics of Europe.

Kogge is best known as a theater actress but has appeared in more than 40 film and television productions, most famously as the staunch Catholic mother convinced her daughter (played by Toni Erdmann actress Sandra Hueller) is possessed by the devil in Hans-Christian Schmid's Requiem (2006). The role won Kogge a German Film award for best supporting actress.

Josef Bierbichler (The White Ribbon) plays Horst Seehofer, with Timo Dierkes (Labyrinth of Lies) as Sigmar Gabriel and Romanian actor Radu Banzaru as Victor Orban. Veteran TV actor Walter Sittler plays German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the drama, with up-and-coming actor Orlando Süss as the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, both of whom played key roles in the crisis.

Merkel is the first project from Carte Blanche, a production outfit set up by Wagner and German industry veteran Alexander van Dulmen. Carte Blanche is also working on a TV series based on the life of Catherine the Great, and on an adaptation of the novel Winternahe from Berlin Jewish writer Mirna Funk, the story of a young Jewish woman who travels from Berlin to Tel Aviv to Bangkok and back in search of her own identity.

20th Century Fox in Germany is co-producing another Carte Blanche project, the Stasi drama Weinnachten sind wir tot (We'll Be Dead By Christmas), which Wagner will direct and which features German stars Frederick Lau (Victoria), Milan Peschel (Stopped on Track) and Devid Striesow (The Counterfeiters).