Toronto premiere at European Union Film Festival
Presented by the Goethe-Institut & German Consulate General Toronto
BALLOON (Germany, 2018, 124 min.), thriller directed by Michael “Bully” Herbig, with Friedrich Mücke, Karoline Schuch, David Kross (THE READER), Alicia von Rittberg, Thomas Kretschmann (DOWNFALL), and others
German rating: 12 years
Audience Award at the Washington DC Filmfest for Best Feature Film
On the German Oscar submission shortlist 2019
1979, East Germany at the height of the Cold War. Based on a true story, Günter Wetzel, a bricklayer, and his friend Peter Strelzyk, an electrician, decide they can no longer bear the oppressive regime. The two men and their wives resolve to undertake a mission to secretly build a hot air balloon from scratch that will carry them and their families over the border fence to freedom. Over the course of the next 18 months they sew 1,000 square metres of cloth and gather countless weather reports from West German radio, with the Stasi hot on their heels. A nerve-racking battle against the clock begins.
“A director who operates the entire keyboard of the thriller genre. And manages to keep you in tension to the last minute” – epd Film
“Herbig staged the hunt with lots of suspense. The music perfectly supports the drama; the setting, the props and the costume design leave no doubt about the immense amount of research and the attention to detail. The system of the GDR itself is shown with all its reprisals, but Herbig also finds subtle nuances in the citizens' attitudes
towards their homeland. This makes BALLOON a highly exciting, perfectly staged and differentiated film about the seemingly unfulfillable desire for freedom – which came true
.” – fbw cultural media rating board
"When the escape took place, I was the same age as the younger son of the Strelzyks. And what I understood was that these people risked everything for a life in freedom. This daring, the madness of this story - that has totally captured me. " – Director Michael Herbig
“One of the most spectacular escapes from communist East Germany, in which two families sailed over the heavily fortified border in a homemade balloon, has been recreated as a thriller for the cinema.” – The Guardian
Michael “Bully” Herbig
is well known in the German comedy scene as a writer, director and producer. His feature film debut “Erkan & Stefan” was a box office hit in 2000, followed by the comedy films “Manitou’s Shoe” and “Dreamship Surprise” that were commercial success stories. With BALLOON Herbig surprised the German industry and audiences since he had never published serious material, nevermind a historical thriller. It was an additional challenge to get the rights to the story, because even though Herbig had already won the support of both the Wetzel and Strelzyk families, the film rights had already been sold to Disney in the 80’s as “Night Crossing”. Roland Emmerich (INDEPENDENCE DAY) helped to secure the film rights.
Part of the Goethe-Institut’s focus on German Film