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Film and website looks at Berlins across world

(Jan. 22, 2015) “Worldwide Berlin,” a new cross-media documentary, explores more than 100 Berlins, from the obvious in Germany, to lesser-known Berlins in Papua New Guinea, South Africa and El Salvador.
DW-TV, a Berlin, Germany-based broadcasting company, launched the three-hour, four-part feature on Jan. 10 in four languages: German, English, Spanish and Arabic.
While the film explores life in the German capital and six other Berlins over the course of a 24-hour day, an interactive website provides a small glimpse into many more Berlins across the globe.
“We have been working on this project for almost two years,” Martin Koddenberg, producer of the web documentary and director of the South African portion of the feature film, said. “It started off with someone finding a picture from Berlin, Brazil. We were puzzled by it. It just looked so unlike the Berlin we knew. It felt too strange and too exotic not to be doing anything with it.”
When a local television broadcaster approached the creative team, asking for help with a New Year’s segment, Koddenberg said, “it immediately clicked.”
“We sent out a couple of video journalists to capture video footage of worldwide Berliners sending their New Year’s greetings to Berlin, Germany,” he said. “We also asked them to shoot some additional footage for us to see if we could develop it into some kind of project. The footage they brought back was amazing and it all went from there.”
Koddenberg learned that most Berlins emerged as the result of migration movements. In remote areas, including Papua New Guinea, settlement dates back to early colonial days.
“They tell you of their tribal ancestors who literally lived in the bushes until the white man came along, told them to hand over their valuables and bow to Kaiser William,” Koddenberg said. “It always sends a little shudder down my spine.”
Beyond the names, the documentary found different thematic links to tie different Berlins together.
“In the film, we link them together with collages that continually interrupt the 24-hour narrative,” Koddenberg said. “They often feature seemingly mundane tasks that gain a deeper meaning when put into a global context.”
Automobile traffic in Germany cuts to skiing in Russia, luxury sedans in Ohio, motorcycles in Guinea, and canoes in Papua New Guinea.
For the website, the group used a bridging mechanism to jump between different locations.
“When browsing Germany, a clip about a living room will suggest looking at a living room in Nicaragua,” Koddenberg said. “So we overcome distances effortlessly; we jump climate and time zones, we switch between Bolivia, Guinea, Germany, Ohio, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Canada, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Russia – yet, we always stay in Berlin.”
The filmmakers also made use of the differences between the varying cultures.
The strangest experience, according to Koddenberg, involved eating a sheep’s head in South Africa
“A guy who can’t quite remember his own age cuts them in half by splitting the skull,” he said. “The tongue then falls to the side, it’s called a ‘smilie.’ After some good boiling, the few bits of meat are tender, but the skin is really chewy and tastes of old leather. It’s not really for me.”
All told, the research team gathered information about 117 different Berlins.
“It was painstaking work, yet they proved themselves relentless,” Koddenberg said.
That includes, of course, the one in Maryland.
“We did come across Berlin, Md. very early on,” Koddenberg said. “We found a picture of the former mayor visiting the former mayor of West-Berlin, Germany in 1987 to celebrate the city’s 750th anniversary.”
The website includes an interactive exploration or Berlin, Md. with photos and a number of factoids.
According to the site, “This Berlin is known for being ‘historically charming and artistically alive,’ especially due to its beautiful Victorian architecture. In 2014 it won the contest for America’s Coolest Small Town. Its beautiful backdrops were featured in the films ‘Tuck Everlasting’ and ‘Runaway Bride.’”
On the origin of the name, World Wide Berlin states, “The name has nothing to do with the German Berlin. At the site of the today’s Berlin two important trade routes crossed there in the end of the 18th century. There was also a business named ‘Burleigh Inn.’”
The site also notes that Berlin, Md. is 6655 kilometers from Berlin, Germany.
Koddenberg said the filmmakers are continuing to collect information about Berlins through the website.
“Worldwide Berlin doesn’t work without user participation,” Koddenberg said. “We need the Berliners from Maryland to send us pictures of their Berlin.”
Facebook users can upload photos to the Worldwide Berlin Facebook. Pictures with the most “likes” receive a prize package.
“This project is all about exploring,” Koddenberg said. “Hopefully people will have as much fun watching our project as we had making it. We spent a long time trying to create an immersive online experience. I hope we created something that is equally engaging, inspiring, as well as food for your senses.”
For more information visit or

Additional links:

To watch clips of the film visit
For information about Berlin, Md., visit
To add information about a Berlin visit