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ZDF Germany’s peek into high society: Möndan!

It is so difficult to find the proper balance between entertainment and real mission,' says Peter Arens, commissioning editor at ZDF, about his pick. 'In my eyes, this was the most interesting program we had that had exactly both.'...
February 1, 1999

It is so difficult to find the proper balance between entertainment and real mission,’ says Peter Arens, commissioning editor at ZDF, about his pick. ‘In my eyes, this was the most interesting program we had that had exactly both.’

Aired last season, Möndan!’s mission was to explore high society in some of the world’s most chic cities: Monaco; Sylt, Germany; Portofino, Italy; Doville, France and San Tropez in the French Riviera. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with a touch of intelligence and a dab of irony, Möndan! took a sincere – rather than sensational – look at global personalities and the cities in which they dwell.

Enhancing the series’ mission was the filmmakers’ unique approach to storytelling. ‘It is rare to find filmmakers who propose a very broad topic and then find a very special way of how they want to explore it,’ says Arens. ‘The series did not have a lot of commentary, but rather, made wonderful use of music, camera work and editing.’

Written, directed, and produced by Dortmund-based Petra Höser and Freddie Röeckenhaus, Möndan!’s candid look at wealthy, urban life wasn’t appropriate for the 2:15pm daily Enigma Earth time slot Arens usually fills with cultural programming. ‘When the idea was proposed to us, we absolutely knew we wanted it and found slots for it. It was very special planning,’ says Arens, who paid around US$150,000 for the series. Arens eagerly found six 9:00pm timeslots within a two-week period, and the series was a tremendous hit among the viewers who tuned in.

According to Arens, the audience may have been somewhat apprehensive, at first, about yet another program peeking into the lives of people who have more money than they know what to do with. But, as each episode was aired (featuring personalities such as fashion icon Giorgio Armani), the audience was better able to appreciate the filmmaker’s wit and the program’s attitude.

‘The series gave viewers access to milieus – the true living surroundings of people, which you cannot get from the yellow press [the tabloids],’ says Arens. ‘The filmmakers just exposed these people and showed them in a very regular way. It was interesting because they spoke about how the subjects lived without making them look ridiculous. Yes, they are rich on one hand, but they are just people on the other hand. It was a very intelligent approach.’

A second Möndan! series is currently being produced for ZDF for the end of the year. Directed once again by Höser and Röeckenhaus, the series will explore the cities and citizens of London, Rio de Janeiro, Vienna, Beverly Hills, and Tokyo.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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