Video counters racist image

28th March 1997 at 00:00
GERMANY. Berlin schoolchildren have just made an English-language video for tourists to counter a recent study concluding that Berlin is racist and doesn't welcome visitors. The city's tourism authorities are now considering whether to market it.

The video's launch coincided with the beginning of the European Union's Anti-Racism Year in Germany. It was filmed, cut and produced by a dozen 11 to 13-year-olds.

Berlin has large Turkish and Polish communities and around 80 per cent of those living in the inner-city area of Kreuzberg are from abroad. In effect, it is the second largest Turkish city in the world.

The young film-makers come from the Lenau-Ganztag primary school in Kreuzberg. English teacher Johannes Frank thought up the project after reading an article in a Berlin newspaper in May 1995. It focused on how the German central tourism office in New York was trying to change the image presented in a recent study which suggested that Jews, blacks, Hispanics and Asians were unwelcome in Germany.

Mr Frank decided it was time to counter the findings and set to work with his multi-national team of schoolchildren. The resulting 12-minute video, Welcome to Berlin, covers complex issues such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and Nazi attacks on Jewish synagogues, presents Russian street musicians on the Alexanderplatz (the centre of former East Berlin) and ends in a Turkish restaurant.

Mr Frank said: "It's great for pupils to tackle real-life issues and not just something they can throw in the bin."

The video took a year to make, with the children working after school and at weekends. They received financial support from the schools department of the city government. But the pupils and their supporters had to pay another Pounds 5,600 to get the video produced professionally.

The video was praised by the Berlin city government's foreign affairs commissioner, Barbara John. She said: "The charm of the film is, above all, that it is presented in English. I would be very pleased if the film, in its original longer form, could be placed high up on the list of advertising undertaken by this city."

It was Ms John's comments that prompted the pupils to invest in and then promote their product, hoping to convince the city's various tourist authorities, currently considering it.

Team member Antonio Gerhard, 13, said: "News over attacks on foreigners makes headlines, but that is only one side of the story. We want to show that we can live peacefully together." Jella Peter, also 13, added: "In our school there are children from many countries. The subject affects us all."

The children, said Mr Frank, also got to know their parents better while making the film. One pupil said on camera: "My father explained to me that tea in Turkey was always prepared this way in the old days."

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