German ARD Network pubcasters NDR, SWR, WDR and RBB have commissioned Reeperbahn Special Unit 65, a new docuseries telling the story of FD65, Germany’s first-ever police unit dedicated to fighting organised crime.
The 5 x 43-minute series, which will premiere on the ARD’s digital platform later this year, hails from Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion, the prodco behind Netflix’s Rohwedder: A Perfect Crime, and My Husband’s Wife distributor Studio Hamburg Enterprises, and marks the first-ever co-production for the latter.
The series, which is currently in production, will lift the lid on the dark and depraved side of 1980s Germany and explores life in the notoriously famous St. Pauli Reeperbahn red-light district of Hamburg, during a time when the AIDS pandemic overturned the lives of pimps and prostitutes and cocaine became the latest money machine.
Told from the perspectives of former police officers and the criminals they were on the hunt for, the series delves into a world of brutal thugs, toxic love and murder, including the tales of the so-called ‘Godfather of St. Pauli’ and his ties to the US East Coast mob; rival pimp gangs in a violent war against each other; the Hells Angels; South American drug lords and Germany’s most notorious hitman.
Reeperbahn Special Unit 65 will present at the Berlinale Series Market’s Showcase Up Next: Germany, this week and is the first non-fiction format to receive an invitation to do so.
Red lights meet blue lights
Speaking to TBI, Tania Reichert-Facilides, head of Studio Hamburg Enterprises, described the series as “red lights meet blue lights” and explained: “The Reeperbahn is known in Germany as a Hamburg hotspot where stories evolve.
“[The series meets] a lot of very sassy personalities from a certain period in time when things were possible, outside of social boundaries. There was also the clash between law and order and life,” said Reichert-Facilides. “It’s taking place in Hamburg, but it’s an international, human story.”
With the series featuring contributors from both side of the law, Reichert-Facilides praised producer Christian Beetz, head of Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion, who she described as “a very talented guy when it comes to feeling and sensing how to get that interesting content and how to get the personalities to open up to him.”
Beetz added: “After having produced the Netflix Original A Perfect Crime we decided to realize our next high-end documentary series together with the German public TV network ARD in Hamburg. The network’s increasingly popular online platform is perfectly suited for us to also reach younger audiences.”
Studio Hamburg eyes co-production expansion
This first co-production deal for Studio Hamburg marks an “opening up” of business models for the company, revealed Reichert-Facilides, who told TBI that Studio Hamburg is looking for further co-production opportunities.
Studio Hamburg aims to be “a strong partner for producers and production companies” and would extend its partnerships “as far as going into development,” said Reichert-Facilides.
“Our core business is not production. Our core business will always be distribution. So the question is how do we get interesting rights,” she added, explaining the company’s push into co-productions.
Looking ahead, Reichert-Facilides expects the company to open up to “partners outside of the public broadcaster system” and, when it comes to content, to “distribute them in different ways.
“That might be co-production, international co-production, also the catalogue business – where we are very strong in Germany – just more possibilities to work together with us.”