2:30am

Thu May 19, 2011
NPR Story

New Animated Film 'Bridges' Premieres On Berlin Airlift Anniversary

Berliner Florian Frerichs is the producer of Bridges, an animated short film that revolves around Saul Bridges, an American bomber pilot in World War II who is shot down over Berlin and saved by a little German boy and his older sister.

Frerichs, 27, says he thinks it's important for his generation to be reminded of what actually occurred during the war.

"They were bombing Berlin. We were like arch enemies, and only three years later they come back to save the city from another dictatorship. So this always appeared to me, and I felt this memory is lost in my generation. I am 27 years- old, and I think this historic event should be kept in mind," Frerichs says.

Three years after the war, Berlin citizens were supplied by the Airlift. Saul Bridges returns to Berlin as a so called "candy bomber" pilot. He reunites with the little boy and his sister, and this time it's the American pilot who heroically sacrifices his life to save the siblings.

Bridges started as a graphic novel by Stephan Warnatsch for the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. Warnatsch, a history teacher, says he wanted to tell the story of one man's quest rather than focus on numbers and facts.

"To learn that one man has to sacrifice, or at least sacrifice something of him for what he believes in, and thereby makes a difference, and thereby gives the chance of development for an era. That's what Bridges is about. And that can be told today, or with the airlift, or whatever, and that's what we aimed for," Warnatsch says.

The short film-noir is the directorial debut of Miguel Angelo Pate. The 28 year-old gained work experience on big productions like Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards.

Pate says shooting Bridges was like working on a puzzle.

"They said they were gonna shoot green screen, draw the backgrounds and everything, and live action actors. For me, as a director, the most fascinating thing was just, 'Take the story, and take all the ingredients you have, and make the best of it,'" he says.

The visual style of Bridges is similar to a black and white comic strip. Stephan Warnatsch painted more than a 1,000 backdrops for the movie. All of the scenes were shot in a green room studio in Berlin.

Florian Frerichs says the backgrounds are hand painted and then animated in the computer. On the other side, all the actors are real.

Over 60 people were involved with the production of the film. Everyone worked for free, even big name actors like the German TV star Gedeon Burkhard, who plays Bridges, British actor David Gant, who has appeared in a variety of movies, including Braveheart, and German rock musician Bela B. from the popular Berlin band "Die Ärzte."

Pate says the whole project had a snowball effect.

"It started very small, laid on the top of a hill, sort of tumbling, and then people stuck on, and it got bigger, and more people stuck on, and it sort of turned into an avalanche."

Bridges premiered on the 12th of May, the 62nd anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. This was reason enough for American Ambassador Philip Murphy to introduce the movie, congratulate the film team, and say a few words about the significance of the Berlin Airlift.

"The will to be free and to stand together as friends, that is the legacy of the Airlift and that is what this film is all about," Ambassador Murphy said.

The filmmakers hope to get their 33 minute production into a few film festivals around the world. It will also air on Arte and the German television channel RBB later this year. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.