BioNTech – Project Lightspeed

BioNTech – Project Lightspeed

BioNTech - Project Lightspeed

A film by Michael Schindhelm, 52 min, ZDF/ARTE 2021

Available in the online ARTE media library until 18.04.2025


With the BioNTech vaccine, medical scientists Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci achieved a breakthrough after years of research.

The mRNA technique, which has been an important component for cancer research for many years, is now making history as a vaccine against Covid-19. But where does cancer research go from here? Can the mRNA technique also help to fight malaria? The film shows the incredible achievement of a start-up company from Mainz for global health.


Apennine Mountains – The Wild Heart of Italy

Apennine Mountains – The Wild Heart of Italy

Apennine Mountains - The Wild Heart of Italy

A film by Kristian Kähler and Silvia Palmigiano, 2x43 min, ARTE 2021

The Apennines are the backbone and soul of Italy in equal measure. These high and low mountain ranges traverse the Italian mainland, alternating from north to south. The many historical sites along the way help define the country as a whole, as does the wild and impassable nature. There are many national parks, home to rare species such as the bee-eating red-backed shrike or the nearly 500 Marsican brown bears. The Italian shepherding tradition has left a strong mark on the cultural landscape of the Apennines. Ancient traditions, picturesque places and living history can all still be found here. Locals call the Apennine Mountains “L ‘Italia minore” – Little Italy.

If you want to understand Italy and its culture, you don’t have to go to Rome or Milan. A journey through the serpentine roads of the northern Apennines is enough to understand where the true heart of Italy beats: right here – in the green forests, the abandoned villages and the rolling hills.

The Apennine mountain range stretches from Liguria across the Italian boot to Calabria at the tip of the boot. Yet the mountain region between the cultural cities of Bologna and Florence is known to only a few.

20-year-old Andrea Barrani dreams of producing his own wine right here – on the steep slopes of the Cinque Terre.

Shepherdess Cinzia Angiolini has also found happiness in the Apennines: she breeds the local Zerasca breed of sheep. Old traditions are preserved in the Apennines because there are people who maintain them – like the bell ringers of Monghidoro.

Young Federico Mezzini still struggles with the 400 kg bells, but he is confident that he will soon be able to play a concert.

Laura Sbaccheri has spent her whole life doing without her dream: She always wanted to ride a motorbike. A stroke of fate prevented her from doing so. Now, in her late 30s, she has finally fulfilled her dream: She rides on the Mugello racetrack at 250km/h and enjoys the thrill.

The journey along the northern Apennines ends in Umbria. Here, geologist Andrea Mazzoli shows on mountain bike tours what spectacular secret lies hidden in the million-year-old rocks.

The Apennines are considered the backbone of Italy – a world of its own with much to discover.

The second part of our series is dedicated to the Southern Apennines. The journey begins on the Gran Sasso, at the almost 3,000-metre Corno Grande – the highest point of all the ranges. The landscapes of Campo Imperatore have been shaped by sheep breeding for centuries. Here, Pastore Abruzzese shepherd dogs protect the sheep from attacks by wolves.

Further south, brown bears emerge from the wooded heights to roam the village of Villalago. The people of this picturesque community have become accustomed to the visits from the Marsican bears. Researchers are studying these endangered animals and working to preserving the population.

Further south in the town of Melfi in Basilicata, falconers maintain the tradition of breeding birds of prey, practised here since the High Middle Ages. Stauferkönig Friedrich II. Friedrich II, Emperor of the Roman-German Empire in the 13th century, was an enthusiastic falconer and wrote a still important book ‘On the Art of Hunting with Birds’.

In the southernmost tip of the toe of Italy, the Apennines surprises with sequoia trees and deep green forests, contradicting assumptions that Calabria is only hot and dusty.

Here, after 1500 kilometres, the journey through the Southern Apennines comes to an end.



Our psyche can do almost anything: it can scare us, conjure butterflies in our stomachs, torture us with boredom and flood us with creative ideas. It can make us strong and sick, and whatever we do, we cannot escape it.

In “Psycho”, we address these various phenomena: in half-hour films, each dealing with a different topic, we show what the unconscious is capable of. Among other things, they deal with fear, resilience or sexual desire. The range of topics is just as diverse as the varieties of the mind. Regardless of the topic, the message always remains the same: we are all scared. There´s no such thing as forbidden lusts. Everyone is weak sometimes. It´s completely okay to be different. We are all psycho. Let´s talk about it.

The first four episodes are purchased by the French-German culture channel ARTE. The films will be released in 2021, although an exact broadcast date has not been set yet.

The extraordinary thing about our films is the perspective we take: we are not a science show, we don´t explain biological or sociopolitical contexts but rather focus on the subjective view of our heroes in front of the camera. We want to approach the psyche exclusively from their perspective. That is why the films have titles such as “I, anxious” or “I, desiring”. In our films, people talk about themselves instead of being talked about –  whether person affected, therapist, acquaintance or lover.

There´s also our special look. When trying to explain how we feel or what is happening inside of us, we speak metaphorically: “It´s like there are flies in my brain” or “it feels like drowning”. We take these statements seriously, try to create these images and use them to tell the stories of our protagonists. This way we bring to light the mysterious inner world of the psyche.

There is a path out and someone else has walked it before. This is what we want to show with “Psychobugs”. We all sit in the same virus-infected pandemic boat and struggle with the similar problems: we drink too much, we´re bored, we miss being touched or just want to be alone for once. Our reach on Instagram is decreasing, we are gaining weight, we want sex but don´t get any and boredom is our constant companion. This depresses many people – not in a colloquial sense, but clinically. Others become aggressive or struggle with panic attacks.

So, what now? All over Europe, people are going through the exact same things and some of them found a way to deal with it. They are not perfect, they are real. They´re not counselors nor studied experts, they´re just themselves. They have tried those things out for themselves. They have no panacea to offer, but they are doing something. And best of all: they tell us about it, so that we can do the same, or something completely different. So that we can learn from each other, and most importantly, so that we hear about each other. Because we´re all psychos! We´re all struggling with our minds, we´re all crazy. In “Psychobugs”, we show that that´s completely normal.

For that purpose, we will gradually publish ten videos, each of them about ten to twelve minutes long. The films will be available on French-German culture network ARTE´s YouTube channel, as well as in their media library. They are expected to be aired in December 2020.

Things have gotten better, but they are still far from being good. Granted, today you can talk more openly about being depressed than you could ten years ago. The same counts for suffering from panic attacks, being into bondage or compulsively counting to 100 before leaving the house. But it´s also far from being seen as normal. In liberal surroundings, revelations like that might be met with a pat on the back, the recommendation of a life coach or a wry look, but there are also environments where it´s best to just shut up about it. At least if you still want to be invited to play table tennis, if you rather spend your breaks with your colleagues than alone or if you´re hoping for a promotion.

Because when your mental health is declining and you´re maybe suffering from a mental illness, then prejudice, resentment and fear are still the order of the day. But that´s nonsense: depressed people are not weak, having a fetish does not make you a pervert and schizophrenia is not contagious.

Here´s the right thing to do: if your psyche is running wild, talk about it, get yourself help and that´s that. Just like with gastritis or a broken leg. As long as things have gotten better but are still far from being good, we have to do something about it.

Our way is to talk about it. We let people tell their stories: those who are affected, those who are trying to help and those living with the affected. Everyone has their own view, and everyone is allowed to tell it. We do not pity anyone. We do not dramatize. We do not sugarcoat things. We listen.

And when are we going to stop? As soon as everyone knows: Being a “psycho” is just normal.

With us, those people affected get their chance to speak rather than being talked about. People struggling with their psyche talk about themselves, their lives and their perceptions. They don´t explain, they don´t give advice, they tell their stories.

Additionally, those who provide professional help – therapists, doctors, coaches – will also express their opinion. Why do they do what they do? What excites them about their work, what annoys them? What gives them hope, what makes them despair? With us, they don´t appear as doctors in white coats, but as people who learned about the psyche in a different way than the people affected. We look beyond the image of the omniscient expert and get to know them as a person. 

We also listen to their personal environment. What is it like to deal with all of this as a brother, a roommate or a lover? Is it annoying or inspiring? What do they think and how do they feel on the inside?

Who are the psychos at Berlin Producers Media? Basically, we all have a screw loose and that´s probably why we get along so well. We treat each other with loving respect and don´t always take ourselves too seriously. We realized that we´re all psychos.

There are a lot of people working on our full-length and short films: camerapersons, boom operators, editors, graphic designers, producers, narrators and much more. Here we introduce those three people responsible for the content of the films.

 Antje Behr

Antje feeds sugar water to fly larvae, follows thunderstorms, erects ladders in lakes, and in short does everything you need to produce good images. She received her degree in directing documentary films in Berlin and studied one semester in Israel. Besides her studies and work, she has always been devoted to photography, graphic design and producing videos. If all of that is not enough, she studies Biblical Hebrew and works in an open-air cinema.

„Psycho“ is particularly vital to her. She thinks that it´s important to break down prejudice and to point out that we are all struggling with something. Wouldn´t it be easier if we´d just talked about it?


Marie Villetelle

Marie can perform miracles: Whenever you´re looking for a protagonist to tell their story, she´ll tell you to wait a second and starts to type wildly on her phone or laptop and bada bing! Within minutes, she pulls someone out of the hat who is likeable and wonderful. The Frenchwoman is very well connected, has wide interests and is clever and charming in a way that you can´t refuse her anything. She studied humanities with a focus on literature and film in France as well as German-French Journalism in Germany.

Marie is on fire for the Psycho project. She wants to give people a forum to show themselves for what they are. Her conviction is that we are neither crazy nor weak, we´re just psycho.


Jessica Krauß

Jessica has been developing and producing films for many years, but „Psycho“ is a very special project to her. To her, giving a platform to people struggling with their psyche is a matter of heart, because she knows from her own experience what a rollercoaster the psyche can be. Therefore, her heart skipped when ARTE approached her in form of a smart and witty editor to write a concept: Write something about the psyche. Nothing scientific. Nothing heavy. But something honest that is also encouraging. The results of this are „Psycho“ and „Psychobugs“. Jessica is very happy to implement this important project with such a creative, dedicated and funny team.


Nicotine – A Drug with a Future

Nicotine – A Drug with a Future

Nicotine - A Drug with a Future

A film by Bärbel Merseburger-Sill, 90 min., ZDF/Arte 2020

The number of smokers in Europe is declining, yet the tobacco industry is still making considerable profits. Electronic innovations such as e-cigarettes and tobacco heaters play a significant role in this. Both are said to be far less harmful than conventional cigarettes. But is the aromatic steam really not a danger to our health?

Officially, the tobacco industry is committed to a ‘smoke-free world’: Non-smokers should not start at all, smokers should switch to an electronic device. But isn’t this too good to be true? Aren’t the advertising campaigns aimed specifically at young non-smokers, the consumers of tomorrow?

And what about the influence of the industry through lobbying? To what extent are the health hazards of the dangerous drug nicotine concealed? Despite numerous lawsuits against the tobacco industry and counter campaigns by politicians and NGOs, tobacco and the new e-products remain good business.

Oil Promises

Oil Promises

Oil Promises

A film by Elke Sasse, Andrea Stäritz and Ebele Okoye, 90min., Ghana, 2020

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When oil is discovered in Ghana in 2007, the dreams of local communities begin to soar. Nigerian animation artist Ebele Okoye has high hopes of her own, above all that Ghana can avoid the fate of the Niger Delta, where the oil heralded disaster. Perhaps the promises will actually be fulfilled this time and the black gold will bring progress and a more modern life for the underdeveloped villages: paved streets, electricity, maybe even jobs. When the drilling begins in 2010, she resolves to observe developments more closely.

By 2010, Ghana has become an oil country. Offshore drilling is underway, international oil companies are seeing rising revenues and investors are presenting plans to industrialise and develop the former “Gold Coast”. Where colonial powers once staked their flags, small fishing villages without water or electricity are now waiting for their share of the spoils. The entire region is poised before transformation and the villagers dream of a better future:

Farmer Adom clears the bush for the construction of a new refinery as well as modern houses with bathrooms for himself and the other villagers.

Teacher Matthew is elated about plans for a luxury hotel. He wants to show tourists around the ancient fort, which was built by the Germans.

Gifty, a hawker, hopes to operate the bulldozers that will lay the foundations for a gas processing plant in her village.

Some years later and the bulldozers have arrived in Gifty’s village, but they are operated by Chinese workers. Other villages continue to wait for the promised developments. We encounter them again in 2014 and 2019, and still they wait. And as the bush reclaims the cleared land, the dreams of the communities diminish.

OIL PROMISES is a case study in globalisation from the perspective of those who never stop dreaming that they will see a share of the prosperity. Throughout, it becomes clear that the high-tech industry is operating in a parallel universe and is ruthlessly exploiting the natural wealth of their home region.

Over a period of 10 years, filmmaker Elke Sasse and journalist Andrea Stäritz have documented the developments in three small villages on the Western Coast of Ghana. The result of their work is an emotional film about people who dream of benefiting from incredible riches.

Animation artist Ebele Okoye includes her personal point of view and uses vivid animations to provide a commentary. As a citizen of a nation hit particularly hard by the oil curse, she takes a critical look at the activities and assurances of international oil companies, investors and politicians, and questions why, against all the evidence, the locals still take these promises at face value.

What happens when a number of small African fishing villages are pulled in and overtaken by the forces of globalisation? Could this story mirror those of the past, where profits disappear and the fishermen are left to pick up the debris?

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