ZDF “Liberame”: Unfortunately, more drama than substance

Diving is not the same as diving. What some do voluntarily in order to dine on an entertaining sailing trip across the Mediterranean, others do involuntarily because their soul seller is about to capsize right around the corner—and all the things when a dinner fisherman Jean wants to help him out of a catastrophic ordeal at sea. Where: Help, as ZDF learned from today in the six-part animated series “Liberame,” isn’t always the same as helping.

As a yacht sailing in the ocean off the African coast, with only five hobby trucks on board, meets a wrecked boat with about ten times the number of passengers, supposed lifeguards morally find themselves in rough seas: if they tow a wrecked refugee ship into sovereign European waters , they make themselves guilty of illegal entry. If you let it go, it is against international law.

Dilemma: inhuman, Kafkaesque, unsolvable—and thus the basis of a television series that could have what it takes to make an intelligent contribution to the ongoing fundamental debate about how Western societies with values ​​treat human rights, morals, and freedom. and democracy. And the way the script-trained duo of Astrid Stroehr and Marco Werch in “Tatort” let it flow, makes an incredibly purposeful impression at first, even apart from the lavish visuals.

Awakened shipyard owners Caro (Johanna Wocalek) and Jan Garby (Friedrich Muki) make a decision against the fears of his racist sister Fiona (Natalia Belitsky) and his lawyer girlfriend Helen (Ina Weiss) to tow the crippled boat north. Thanks to the volatile yet powerful Danielle (Mark Benjamin), philanthropy triumphs over obsessions – until a tow rope explodes in a night’s storm and seven refugees die with it, raising the question: accident or intent? Years later, when Syrian taxi driver Ismail (Mohamed Ashour) ambushed the Garbes in front of their Hamburg home, his answer was: the latter.

Not far from their shipyard, he and his wife Zahra (Kinda Humaidan) established a presence far from their war-torn home; But like the other survivors of that fateful night – especially Ismail Bilal’s brother (Tariq al-Says) – he accuses Jean’s crew of cutting the line. The meal shared by all participants except for Daniel, who disappeared without a trace, increases the toughness of the fronts. And how Adolfo J. Kolmerer connects the initial approach and subsequent departure through clever flashbacks to the first encounter on the high seas – this is the internationally shaped serial art.

A quick look at the directors’ profile in Berlin shows why they faded somewhat into mediocre German entertainment in the second trimester. Like what happened two years ago in the ZDF Dystopia “Sløborn” about the deadly consequences of a viral epidemic on the North Sea island of the same name, the Kolmerer series unfolds again in a kind of dreadful prose, under which a tragedy similar to the boat accident “Deaths of Friends” suffered recently in the same the place.

The source of all the viewer’s suffering is here and there: dark secrets. Wiersch & Ströher have cellars for their characters so full of corpses that the yacht and the series title “Liberame” should be interpreted as a public appeal to ZDF: Redeem me! Save me from melodramatic pity. From the mysterious shoulder look! From the standard drama of cheating in the closest circle of friends. And please free me from the evolution of Romeo and Juliet (yet cool: Mina Giselle Rover as 15-year-old Ellie Garb) from the bonding of descendants of feuding clans, without which such dramas seem illegal in this country.

Such a heft in the sequence, which has been sufficiently filled with 24,000 bodies of refugees at sea since 2014 – as reported by ZDF in the credits – seems to extend it to six times in 45 minutes and casts doubt that the reality in the Mediterranean is In the end it’s just a predictable way to ramp up the excitement all around. Too bad actually. Because photographer Christian Huck Kolmerer – with whom he had already perfected the four-part “Sløborn” deck – was able to visualize the traumas of all the characters in a distant and emotional way.

Theatrical artist Mohammed Ashour, himself the son of Syrian refugees, has particularly succeeded in using the power of his changing facial expressions to shock an entire generation of people around the world who have been psychologically and physically wounded in the civil war. And when hard-to-reach senior lawyer Helena responds “with a lot of work and a little love” to Jan’s question about her condition after years of separation, the script actually gets to the heart of the German majority community well in four words.

In addition, “Liberame” shows itself far from compelling visuals that are overloaded – linguistically, in terms of content, actually ubiquitous. This is really unfortunate given the fact that the refugees here are allowed to have a completely ordinary existence beyond the history of their journey and thus finally step out of the fantastically entrenched role of victim. Several characters in “Liberame” appear symbolically somewhere. Unfortunately, this only applies to the public for a short time.

Six complete volumes have already been completed in the ZDF Media Library. ZDF appears today, 5.9. And on Wednesday 7 September. Three consecutive episodes from 8:15 pm.

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