When the Iron Curtain cuts his tiny German village in half, Peter the bull gets separated from his 36 cows.
This true story was one of the more absurd consequences of Germany’s Cold War divide. In 1946, the sleepy farming village of Mödlareuth was torn apart. Soviets descended on the eastern half, Americans took over the west. The village with the 12-foot wall through the middle soon picked up the nickname ‘Little Berlin’.
The international press had a field day, but the tragedy unfolding in the local herd went unreported. While Peter, the only bull in the village, was stranded in the west, his cows were suddenly eating Soviet grass. A bovine tragedy waiting to be told.
Having stumbled across Peter’s story in a book about the Inner German Border*, filmmaker Kate McMullen couldn’t not make a film about him. Little Berlin is a 13 minute docu-comedy, a love story and a labour of love, dedicated to all victims of separation.
The film stars Dyfed Hereford Breeders’ Award Winner Laxfield Wilberforce, a Welsh-born pedigree with a very pink nose. Rugged but vulnerable, a Joaquin Phoenix on hooves, he exquisitely captures Peter’s innocence and desperation.
Kate and co-producer Paul Wauters spent two wet weeks in the Carmarthenshire hills, dodging cowpats to follow Wilberforce’s herd with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera. Cattle don’t respond well to direction, it turns out.
Filming continued in Mödlareuth, where a section of the wall still stands. Then came the tricky business of matching Welsh cows to a German wall in a French post-production house.
The film is narrated by Academy Award Winner Christoph Waltz, who was enticed into the recording studio by pleading looks from the herd. Waltz treats us to a tour de force of German detachment, peppered with bovine anguish.
Little Berlin was produced by And Also Paris and Dunk Films.
* Divided Village: The Cold War in the German Borderlands, Jason B. Johnson