Synopsis by Mark Deming
A remarkable true story of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the strange machinations of the Nazi propaganda machine inspired this historical drama. Adolf Hitler and his associates saw the 1936 Olympics as an ideal opportunity to show the superiority of the fascist way of life to the world, but their plans hit a snag when the American Olympic team announced they would boycott the games unless the German team allowed Jewish athletes to participate. Much of the controversy hinged on Gretel Bergmann (Karoline Herfurth), a world-class high jumper who seemed a sure bet to make the German team except for the fact she was a Jew. German sports minister Hans von Tschamner und Osten (Thomas Thieme) and his assistant Karl Ritter von Halt (Johann von Buelow) quickly hatched a plan to placate both sides -- they would invite Bergmann to participate in a qualifying meet, but match her against a gentile athlete certain to beat her. Finding a female who could outjump Bergmann was a formidable task, and the Jewish champion soon found herself up against a little known competitor, Marie Ketteler, who hid a secret from the world -- Marie was actually a man (played bySebastian Urzendowsky). As fate would have it, both Bergmann and Ketteler made the team and struck up a friendship, but one that would soon be compromised by Ketteler's deeper feelings. And while Ketteler was in fact a man, he had been living in sexual limbo much of his life, having been raised as a girl by his overbearing mother (Marita Breuer), which only added to his dilemma. Berlin '36 received its world premiere at the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival.
boycott, confusion, friendship, Nazi, propaganda, scheme, transgendered