A Documentary on Bridges

Seagersville Bridge in Pennsylvania. Photo taken in August 2010

A few days ago, German Public TV Channel ZDF, one of two stations based in Berlin, released a documentary on bridges in general for children. Loewenzahn (which is German for Dandelion), with its star Fritz Fuchs and his faithful companion Keks, a Saint Bernhard dog, took the viewers on a tour of bridges, how they were constructed, and how stabile they should be for people to get across. This was all in connection with the plot of the story, which was the fact that a bridge was removed for safety reasons, keeping the children from crossing the creek and entering the soccer field for practice. Fritz received the call for help in building a new bridge from one of the players and despite the criticism from another person working for TÜV (an agency which tests the safety of buildings and cars), he found a way to build a new one for the kids. A whole episode of Loewenzahn can be found by clicking on this link. As the episode is all in German, it provides people with a chance to learn (or brush up on) a little German.

This was the second episode produced on bridges in two weeks. ARD and its satellite station WDR, based in Cologne, had produced a two-part documentary on the Rhine Bridges in North Rhein-Westphalia, which will be featured in a separate article. But it did get my mind to thinking about how to educate the public on bridges, ways to restore and maintain them, and the historical perspective of these crossings. Despite the expertise we have available from engineers, preservationists and experts in restoration, there seems to be a gap between those who know about how to preserve a historic bridge, let alone build a bridge with high aesthetic value but a safe crossing and those who do not know about bridges and ways to build, maintain and restore them for people to use, let alone awe in their structural beauty.  Even more alarming is the fact that the majority of the public would like to save and restore a historic bridge but they do not have the know-how on how to do it. Or even if they do, the quest for knowledge on how to restore bridges is blocked by those who want the bridge removed at any cost.

As many people from the older generations (those born in 1987 and earlier) have become aware of historic bridges and have taken action towards saving them, there is a trend that indicates that even the younger generations have taken interest in the topic of bridges, how to build them, and how to restore them. While public awareness has mostly been successful through presentations, public forums and events and through news stories, there seems to be a lack of medium as to how bridges work and how they are restored to last longer. This means that more TV documentaries on these aspects are needed for the TV-viewers, using information that is neutral, practical and useful for people to learn from. If programs, like the ones mentioned here are being televised for people of all ages here in Germany, then it is a sign that the interest is there and increasing.

Keeping this in mind, here are a pair of forum questions for you to consider and discuss either with your own friends or through the online forums facebook and linkedIn:

1. Do you know of a TV-documentary on these bridges? If so, when and where was it televised? Do they deal with a tour of a city with bridges? What about the historical aspect of these structures? On a scale of 1-10 (1 being best) how would you rate it and what are your reasons?

2. If you want to produce a documentary on bridges to be televised, what content would you put in to interest the audience? What examples of bridges would you use for the documentary? Which TV channel would you release the documentary on?

3. Could you imagine a children’s documentary on bridges on TV similar to that of Loewenzahn’s? Why or why not?

 

Flensburg Files’ Fast Fact:
(Courtesy of sister-column the Flensburg Files)

The Dandelion series was conceived by its original host Peter Lustig in 1979 and first televised in 1981. The children’s series featured Lustig and each episode dealt with a theme that is current but child-friendly, with diagrams and scenes produced and demonstrated by the actor. Despite a scare with lung cancer in 1983 (which almost took his life), Lustig produced 200 episodes until he retired in 2006 and was replaced with Guido Hammesfahr who has hosted the episode ever since, under the name Fritz Fuchs. Helmut Krauss, who plays the neighbor Paschulke, is the only actor left from the Lustig series that still appears in the Fuchs’ series.  The series spun-off into a pre-school series in 2012 and was produced as a film in 2010 as part of the 30th anniversary celebration. More information on Loewenzahn can be found here.

 

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