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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Achterbahn - Roller Coaster


Starts July 2

One can hardly believe that Peter Dörfler’s Achterbahn (script, camera and director) is not fiction but a documentary. There is suspense and engaging dialogue. Prison scenes and changing locations are highlighted by innovative camera work.The main character is Norbert Witte, a man in his fifties, whose story resembles a ride on a roller coaster, from high-flying ambitious business man to a down-hill run, landing in prison.

When the City of Berlin awarded him the amusement park Plänterwald for development, he had high hopes and big plans. His amiable nature, generosity and self-assured behaviour opened many doors. But at heart he was a showman and not a good business man. He overspent, went bankrupt and was charged with insolvency delay. As no warrant of arrest was issued, Witte reacted fast. During a clandestine action, he had his rides shipped to Peru where he saw his chance of starting a new life. He managed to rebuild his dream near a shopping complex in Lima, running the business together with his then 20-year-old son and eventually earning 100,000 dollars per month. The family moved into a house with swimming pool, enjoying the good life. Soon “protection money” had to be paid. The rides were prone to rusting in the humid climate and needed repairs, cutting into his profits. The business dwindled and so did his enthusiasm. His wife and smaller children were sent back to Germany. He and his son Marcel were to follow.

Money was badly needed and Elio, an old buddy, came up with a plan of smuggling gold. When this deal fell through, he already had the next one organized. Transporting cocaine with the rides for shipment to Germany seemed a good idea. Seven-hundred-thousand dollars could be gained. More “friends” took to the idea and in the end Witte had about 167 kilograms of cocaine (market value about four million euros) hidden in his famous “flying carpet.” He took off by plane, leaving his son in charge. Meanwhile, the police discovered the cocaine, informed Berlin and both Wittes were arrested and imprisoned. Norbert Witte got seven years in a “comfortable” German prison. His son Marcel, who had little to do with his father’s deal, was sentenced to twenty years in Peru.

Pia Witte, meanwhile divorced from her husband, is desperately fighting the authorities for better conditions for her son. She is in constant contact with lawyers in Lima and Berlin hoping against all odds for Marcel to come free. This family drama takes the audience on a roller coaster ride through varying emotions. How does a father cope with the knowledge that through his doing the son languishes in one of the world’s toughest prisons with little chance of getting out alive?

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