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PresseheftnoboA film by Niko von Glasow
Screenplay Andrew Emerson · Kiki von Glasow
Niko von Glasow
Director Niko von Glasow
Editor Mechthild Barth · Mathias Dombrink
Camera Ania Dabrowska · Andreas Köhler
Sound & Sound Design Claas Berger
Photography Ania Dabrowska · Niko von Glasow
Executive Producer Ewa Borowski
Facilities Henrike Müller
Make up Nancy Friedrich · Claudia Reiter
Assistant to the Director Stephen Kennedy
Production Niko von Glasow · Anne-Sophie Quancard
Production Assistants Jens Kaulen · Julian Kazmierczak
Film Administration Jürgen Brock Mildenberger
Photographic Studio Fotostudio StempellSchulz
Digital Image Editing Jenny Cremer
Mixing Falk Möller
Reproduction CinePostproduction – Geyer Köln
Editorial Staff, WDR Jutta Krug · Katja De Bock
Many thanks to Jola Dylewska · Rafal Wroblewski
Kurt Steinhausen · Daniela Pukropski
Sybille Hofter · Tielmann Hahn
Dennis Todorovic · Andrea Gärtner
The book of the film is published by Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag
Supported by Filmstiftung NRW und DFFF
A co-production Palladio Film / WDR MMVIII
Niko von Glasow
Mandel von Glasow
D 2008, 84 Min., Colour, 35mm & digital. 1:1,85, Dolby-Stereo “I’m a filmmaker who has short arms due to the effects of the drug Thalidomide. The
first thing people react to when they meet me is how I look. Even if they don’t say any-
thing, they either stare or look away. They show that they’re uncomfortable around me.
I can hardly blame them; I’m very uncomfortable about it myself. All my life I’ve tried
not to think about my disability, tried to ignore the truth. Many disabled people find it
hard to deal with the disgusted, confused or pitying stares they receive when they’re
out in public.
Society needs to get used to the way we look, and stop seeing us as beings from another
planet. Of course we look different, but it is possible to see beyond that. I’ve found a way
to help make that happen.”
Director Niko von Glasow, whose short arms identify him as NoBody’s Perfect follows Niko von Glasow as he looks for
a grown-up “child of Thalidomide”, looks for eleven other eleven people who, like him, were born disabled due to the people affected by Thalidomide to join him in posing naked disastrous side-effects of Thalidomide, and who are prepared for a book of photographs. With humour and a surprising to pose for a book of photos. And to pose naked – to allow lightness of touch, NoBody’s Perfect is a portrait of twelve
those who regularly throw furtive glances at Thalidomiders extraordinary characters, from childhood to today. These are and other physically disabled people, to take a good, long people who have got used to furtive glances from passers-by, look. In the process Niko discovers many fascinating char- but now they have to stand completely unprotected in front acters who work in such diverse areas as politics, the media, of a camera, and look at their own bodies in a new light. sport, astrophysics and acting. Characters who have learnedto live with their disability to an impressive level of “nor-mality”. With a darkly humorous touch, and no deference to political
correctness, NoBody’s Perfect explores the specific problems
which these twelve extraordinary people have faced during
childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and shows them re-
acting with curiosity, enthusiasm or (like Niko himself) hor-
ror towards the photography project. The final results of the
photoshoot – in itself a frightening ordeal – give the models
entirely new perspectives on themselves. A public exhibition
of large-scale prints of the photos provokes surprising reac-
tions from passers-by.
Niko tries to confront the company responsible for Thalido-mide – Chemie Grünenthal – and its owners the Wirtz fam-ily, with his photos. These attempts are not met with anyresponse at all. Half a century after the Thalidomide scandal,one of Germany’s most affluent families is still able to closeits eyes to the images in front of them … Director’s Statements
Childhood and Thalidomide
A Crazy Project
During my childhood my parents did everything they could What has possessed me – a balding, big-bellied German to banish the dark side of my disability from our lives. Within Thalidomide man – to want to become a nude photographic the family it wasn’t an issue – there I was normal. And I went to a wonderful, tolerant, anti-authoritarian school, wheremost pupils had short arms or legs, and our few non-disabled I look like a pink, tubby, bespectacled penguin, and because classmates were the “different” ones. So my life in Germany, of my little arms I can’t even bring myself to take my shirt off at home and at school, protected me from having to confront on the beach. And yet I’ve persuaded myself and eleven other first-time models, who share my disability, to strip naked andpose for me.
When I was 10 we went on holiday to Italy, where my par-ents were no longer able to predict and prevent other peo- The idea was to take a series of honest, beautiful photo- ple’s reactions to my short arms. Children pointed, stared graphs which I could exhibit, and put into a film and a book.
and asked questions. A few were spiteful, most were just cu- So I had to find my unwitting victims and use my non-exis- rious. It didn’t matter which they were; their interest showed tent charm to persuade them to take part in this crazy proj- me I was different, and I didn’t like it at all.
ect. And I had to find the courage to expose myself, look atmyself, and accept the truth that NoBody’s Perfect.
Even today it’s mostly children who remark on my appear-ance, and often children of liberal upper-middle-class par- Up till the point in my life where the film starts, I’d been ents. Perhaps they’re just not brought up to respect the happy to avoid confronting my disability and body image. I privacy of others – their Mummies and Daddies are proud of hadn’t addressed disability in my filmmaking, and I’d been their Little Darlings’ curiosity, delighted that they show an determined not to think of myself as different from every- interest in everything, and that they’re so self-confident in one around me. So what if I can’t do press-ups, tie my their dealings with adults. It doesn’t occur to them to teach shoelaces or carry pianos up flights of stairs? The missionary their children that sometimes it’s better to keep one’s position isn’t the only way to make love. I could get through life just fine without these things.
I have a daughter and a son, and having my own children But a fact I couldn’t deny is that when people see me, the has allowed me to see that their interest in my disability is en- first thing they respond to is the way I look. Even if they tirely natural. They’ve asked me questions and I’ve explained don’t say anything, they react. Some stare, but most look everything. Nowadays they forget that I’m disabled, as long away politely, determined not to show they’ve noticed, or as I forget about it too. The issue arises maybe once a day, hide their embarrassment by violently scratching imaginary when their old dad gets an itch in some embarrassing place itches on their noses. And I could hardly blame them. I’ve al- which he can’t scratch discreetly. Otherwise they see me as ways been deeply uncomfortable about it myself. At least my a complete, unique person. Of course they know I have flaws, younger days of cape-wearing self-consciousness are far be- but these don’t have anything to do with my short arms. I’m hind me now, and I and my short arms are a familiar sight their father, and our love for each other is unconditional.
on the film festival circuit and on the streets near my home.
But I know many disabled people who are reluctant or un-able to go out in public, for fear of the disgusted, confused,amused or pitying stares they’ll encounter. And these are thepeople I want to turn into nude models! Director’s Statements
Many years ago, I had the idea of taking a series of beautiful The Search for Models
nude photos of disabled people. My psychiatrist advised meonly to do it if I was prepared to strip for the camera myself.
I started my search among my former classmates from my This horrified me into dropping the idea, and it might have school for disabled children in Cologne. I was amazed that stayed dropped forever except that the German TV company only two turned me down. Everyone seemed to understand WDR invited me to make a personal, original and funny doc- the importance of the project from a personal perspective, umentary about people affected by Thalidomide. I was far and as an aesthetic and political statement. My years of film- from enthusiastic. I’m a serious (by which I mean grumpy, making must have made me good at persuading others to do temperamental and unpredictable) filmmaker who values his brave and foolhardy things for no money – within a week I privacy and does his best to forget his disability. Why should had all my models. I met them, got to know them, and tried I want to make a film about Thalidomide, and how the hell to help them over their uncertainty and nervousness. And I encouraged each model to choose a person, animal or objectto accompany them in their photos.
But the invitation must have come at a point in my life whereI was realising I couldn’t – or shouldn’t – keep denying my This is a story told in pictures. The pictures in the exhibi- disability and distancing myself from those who share it. If tion, and on the cinema screen, portray people who’ve suc- I want people to stop staring, maybe I have to let them get it ceeded in a hostile world. Living proof that beauty can lie in out of their systems and give them something to stare at. And imperfection. These pictures speak of strength, integrity and force myself to do some good hard staring too.
dignity, which often contrast with the harsh reality of thelives, struggles, doubts and fears behind the images.
It wasn’t just a question of taking the photos. I had to ex- I show each of my models as an individual hero, and bring hibit them, and record the reactions of the art world and the them together into a group which, at the end of the film, general public, as well as of the models themselves. Then I presents a strong, triumphant and unified statement to the wanted to produce a book of the photos – but would anyone world. The film and its images should provoke exploration of buy it? Anyway, first things first – I needed my models.
the notion that nobody is perfect, and that by looking withhonesty at our own imperfections and idiosyncrasies we get Thalidomide was sold in almost every country of the world.
to know ourselves better, and allow room for spiritual At least 10,000 babies were affected worldwide, of whom 4000 died before reaching their first birthdays. The drugwas made by a German company, Chemie Grünenthal, andaround 5000 German Thalidomide babies were born – I’mone of the surviving 2,800. As Germany and the UK weretwo of the highest-affected countries, and as I live and workin both, these are the places where I based the project.
First, there’s STEFAN FRICKE, who as a child
DORIS PAKENDORF is in the middle of a di-
he thought he was a lion. Instead, he grew up to be an as- vorce. She smokes and drinks too much, but inside she’s a trophysicist. We visit the planetarium together and talk true lady. Her pose has a sculptural elegance as she holds a about time and space. Stefan has very short arms and legs, wine glass thoughtfully between the toes of her left foot.
and is almost spherical; his appearance and mine make ourdiscussion with some of our fellow models about the conceptof beauty especially unusual. Stefan’s Vietnamese wife left ANDREAS MEYER is an intellectual, a Conter-
him, leaving only some origami birds behind. Of all the gan activist whom I find rather stiff at first, but he has all the Thalidomiders I’ve met so far, he seems to be most accepting facts and figures of the Contergan scandal at his fingertips.
of, and at peace with, his situation. Sitting serenely among He says that Grünenthal’s head chemist started his career the paper birds, he comes across to me like a little ball- experimenting on Jews in the concentration camp at Krakow.
After sharing a few beers, Andreas and I become very closeand together we plan to found an underground Conterganterrorist movement. The morning after, heads pounding, it SIGRID KWELLE is a lesbian tango dance in- doesn’t look like we’ll do this after all – or will we….?
structor who lives in Berlin and paints in oils. This would be
a peculiar enough CV for any woman, let alone one with very
short arms. Sigrid is very active in the field of women’s
SOFIA PLICH was a social worker, and was unem-
rights, especially for disabled women.
ployed for many years. She dreams of being an actress, andof flying. In the build-up to her shoot, worrying about her ap-pearance, she comments that gravity has taken its toll on all MAT FRASER is a British actor and writer who of us now that we’re middle-aged. So for her photo, I ask her
toured the UK with his show “Thalidomide!! – a musical”.
to jump, so I can show her in mid-flight, defying gravity.
Some of my models are uncertain, reluctant – Mat can’t waitto thrust his genitals and his political views at me. He chal-lenges and bickers with me constantly, and makes no secretof giving himself a helping hand right before his shoot sothat everything looks as big as possible for the camera.
THEO ZAVELBERG is a gardener, a man of na- Then came FRED DOVE, a broadcaster and pre-
ture, with a face like an ancient oak tree. Shy and reserved,
senter on the BBC World Service and one of the loveliest he hides behind a rose bush for his photo. KIM MORTON, from Belfast, has been a profes- PETRA UTTENWEI LER, from Stuttgart
sional singer, author, and Mayor of her district council. She
veiled herself secretively for her photo. Her great charm and staged a hunger strike, which won higher compensation for talent for flirting left me almost speechless. Just as well I’ve British victims of Thalidomide – three to four times as much been happily married for twenty eight years! as her German counterparts. She brings a photo of her sonto keep her company in her session – he’s a soldier inAfghanistan. She’s one of six sisters, and they’ve never seen And now it’s my turn: NIKO VON GLASOW.
each other topless, let alone naked. Despite her personal and My prop is indeed something very dear to me – my lively, political strength, posing naked for me is an intimidating cheeky son Mandel. He has no interest at all in my little arms; he’s far more amused by being asked to pose alongsidehis naked father. Like a happy little Oedipus, he points andlaughs at my willy, and makes the ordeal a whole lot more World-class dressage rider BIANCA VOGEL knows
bearable than it would otherwise have been.
exactly what her prop will be – her beloved 800 kilo horse,Roquefort. I can’t say no to this beautiful, intelligent lady, When the photo shoots were finished I invited everyone to a but how the hell are we going to squeeze the huge beast into big party, a short-limbed Last Supper, where we relaxed, ex- the studio? In the end I had to compromise the searing hon- changed stories and got happily drunk together.
esty of the photos and resort to digital trickery.
Has the experience changed me at all? When it was over, Iwent with Mandel to Dover Beach, where I took off my T-shirt and we ran into the sea. In the past, I would have beenbothered by people gawping at my short arms – now, I wasonly worried about the chilly English drizzle which fell ontothe waves, and onto my skin.
A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
Overcoming fear is always a great triumph.
How did you get into filmmaking?I always wanted to make films. When I was five I used to make my cuddly toys fight each other so I could photograph I live in London with my wife Kiki, who is a writer and film- the action. I made loads of Super-8 films. Straight after maker, and our children Juli and Mandel, who are 12 and 10.
school I worked with Fassbinder, and spent ten years as an as- We have two cats and two guinea pigs.
sistant to several directors including Alexander Kluge andPeter Zadek. Then I studied film at New York University and at the Film School in Łódˇz. Poland. That’s where I made my I spend half my time in Cologne, where I come from. Ever since school I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Germany.
I’m always happy to go back there, and happy to leave.
To what extent has your disability influenced your life?In many respects it has, of course. Positively too. For exam- ple, I’ve been with my wife Kiki for 28 years. This fidelity It probably has something to do with my disability. In proper and this strong relationship are thanks to my short arms, be- world cities like London or New York, I don’t get stared at so cause women don’t come onto me so much, and I can’t just leap into bed with some woman every time I’m at a party. So My family background plays a part too, because my Jewish fa- ther always wanted to emigrate. He didn’t achieve this. SoI’ve become a sort of half-emigrant. But I love Cologne. Eng- When did you become aware that you were disabled? land is both far enough away, and close enough. And of As a child, I was barely aware of it. That only really happened course, I dream of making English-language films. But it’s when I hit puberty, when at first I didn’t get on with girls as probably just that I like travelling.
well as the other boys did. In the end, I always had very nice,very pretty girlfriends. It was always difficult at parties, where Did you also want to get away from the pressure of your fam- I was forced to recognise that I was different. But that only ily, who are very well known in Cologne? lasted a couple of hours each time. I don’t feel disabled all There’s the Jewish-melancholy side of my father, ErnstBrücher. His sister is Hildegard Hamm-Brücher. She became What effect does your disability have on your wife? a politician and he became a publisher. Hildegard Hamm- I think it’s normal for her. She probably has more problems Brücher is a wonderful woman; she’s not just my aunt and with my personality than with my physical disability. If she godmother, she’s my friend too. My father was the publisher pitied me, we would have separated a long time ago.
of DuMont Art Books, which was one of the best publishing Love and pity don’t go together, because pity requires dom- houses in its field during the 60s and 70s. And on my inance – you only pity those who are worse off than your- mother’s side is the creative-capitalist strand of the family. self. In an equal partnership, you can’t pity each other.
One of my great-grandfathers was Franz von Lenbach, acount and artist from Munich. And my mother comes from When and how did your children first realise that you were the newspaper and book publishing dynasty, Neven DuMont.
There are also a couple of nice diplomats, among others.
When they were three or four they noticed it, wondered what That’s a lot of family. As individuals they’re all interesting it was, and became slightly physically distant from me. I and likeable, but as a clan they can be a bit much.
spoke to them, explained everything, and their discomfortquickly disappeared.
Sometimes it amazes me how my son quite naturally holdsmy hand when we’re out walking. He wants to hold my hand.
It draws attention to us, but he does it anyway because helikes it and it’s completely normal.
Did you go to a special school?I went to a school for disabled children in Cologne. It wasthe 60s, and it was a very anti-authoritarian school. Like“Summer Hill for Disabled People”. Our teachers wereyoung, and treated us with an incredible amount of love.
A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
There were a few non-disabled children too, and you really didn’t notice that you were disabled because everyone looked I wanted to overcome my greatest fear, the fear of acknowl- edging my disability. And to present to people a funny, in- Nowadays, when I’m out and about and I look around, I feel teresting film, to demonstrate my theory that if you spend a that, in comparison to the “normal” people around me, I longer period of time – like the 90 minutes of the film – with disabled people, you get used to them, see them as quite nor- If you look closely, most people look odd.
mal, even become friends with the concept of “disability”.
The joy, the humour, the love for life which this film shows Thanks to your family, didn’t you have a rather privileged “Thalidomide childhood”?I didn’t have a “Thalidomide childhood” at all, because I You feel the same about the photos? grew up relatively isolated, in a wonderful big garden sur- Yes. The film is the story of a Thalidomide film director who rounded by nice people. So I never had to confront reality.
exposes himself in order to persuade other people affected byThalidomide to expose themselves for a series of nude pho- When strangers meet, they usually greet each other by shaking tos. It’s the story of this journey.
hands. How do people greet you?I notice straight away if people shy away. Then I shy away too, and two shy people stand looking at each other. We both The photo of Kim Morton is hanging in the National Por- notice it and get even more uncomfortable. The discomfort trait Gallery in London. There are lots of exhibitions in pub- is very pronounced with children and young people. Inci- lic spaces in Germany – in Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt and dentally, women just shake my hand, much more matter-of- other cities. We want them to be hung in museums and gal- factly than men. If I can tell that someone is simply unsure leries, and we want to show them to as many people as pos- what to do, I remove that uncertainty by making a joke, or patting them on the back. You can hide your uncertainty bypatting me on the back or taking a bow. But the uncertainty is there and you have to deal with it. You can’t pretend it The book has the same title as the film, Nobody’s Perfect,
isn’t there – that’s pointless.
and it’s being published by Sandmann Verlag. The 12 mod-els write about their lives, so you can see the photos and read our stories from our perspectives. I think it’s a very moving, There are some who are lucky, who’ve found a partner and enjoy a very good sex life. But for many it doesn’t happen, be-cause it’s so hard to overcome the physical timidity. If we ap- In the 60s, Thalidomide children were a part of everyday life. pear intelligent and happy, we can find partners. But if Now they’ve grown up into disabled adults. How are they depression and malcontent set in, it will always be very dif- They’re doing as differently as you would expect from 2,800different people. Even though I myself am disabled due to How did you come to make this film? Thalidomide, it was only through working on this film that The TV company WDR approached me to make it. At first I I fully realised that everyone is different. Even the difference didn’t want to do it at all, but my wife said: “Niko, it’s time between having no arms, 10-cm-long or 40-cm-long arms can you confronted this subject.” So I made the film.
change everything. But the most crucial difference is howyou deal with these disabilities spiritually, as well as how eachperson is shaped by their individual childhood experiences.
If your parents raised you with love and honesty, you’re prob-ably better able to cope than if you were shoved into a hos-pital or just given away. A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
What dealings did your family have with Grünenthal, the com- What differentiates you from many other disabled people is that we can name the cause of your disability. The company, Kurt Neven DuMont, my grandfather and former publisher of the Koelner Stadtanzeiger newspaper, very quickly took a Worldwide, roughly 10,000 children were born disabled be- vehement stand against Grünenthal and supported the needs cause of Thalidomide, and around half of them survived.
of the victims of Thalidomide. He spoke out with great Roughly 5,000 were born in Germany, and around 2,800 strength against the company. He cared about the fate of all survived. We don’t have any more accurate figures than that Thalidomide children, not just about my fate.
because Grünenthal refuse to publish them.
Grünenthal belongs to the Wirtz family. This company and its We still talk about Thalidomide children, even though they’re proprietors caused our disability. They are not only respon- now approaching the age of 50. We don’t talk much about the sible for our disabilities, but also for the deaths of countless children. They have tried by all possible means to evade this You could say that Thalidomide children looked very funny.
responsibility. After the settlement of the trial in the 70s, As children we were living “demonstration models” of dis- they paid 100 million DM into a trust – tax-deductible of ability. Now the situation has changed, and only those of us course, so the state reimbursed half of it.
who have become top sportsmen and women, singers like The 100 million DM ran out in 1987. Now we get a pension Thomas Quasthoff, or directors like me, are presented as from the German state which was recently doubled, from a “demonstration models”. But many, many of us are unem- maximum of € 545 to a maximum of € 1090. But with € ployed and will never find work. The fear of employing dis- 1090 you can’t, for example, cover the costs of care. You have abled people is too widespread, and everyone – including me to imagine what it’s like to wake up in the morning and be – is afraid of contact with disabled people. Everyone thinks unable to get out of bed by yourself, because you have no that getting involved with disabled people makes life more legs. Even if you just want to scratch your own backside, you need help. Most Thalidomiders need care, and care is very ex-pensive.
That reminds me of the scene in the film where a black boymakes fun of disabled people. The same is true for all physically disabled people. Most children leave us in peace, especially if they’ve been Yes, but the difference in our case is that specific people are well brought up. But there are two types of children who are responsible for causing our disability.
particularly annoying: Firstly, the children of liberal, I have great sympathy for other disabled people, but in our “muesli”-type parents, who are so proud of the interest their case, someone caused it. Basic morality states that, if you kids take in everything. These parents send their children hurt someone, you must be held responsible and make over to us: “Ask him what’s wrong with him”. I find that ig- norant. You shouldn’t do it, even children know that. But Since the TV film was shown, Grünenthal supposedly plans “muesli-children” have no boundaries. And then there are to pay a further 50 million, half of which is of course once under-privileged children, who often get stared at them- again tax-deductible. A ridiculous amount: if we enjoy only selves, who’ve had no real upbringing, and who also have no the average German life-expectancy and reach the age of 81, boundaries. These children will point and say: “Look, he’s that means I’ll live another 35 years which works out as € got short arms”. And that just hurts.
1.50 a day. That wouldn’t buy me an ice cream.
A sincere apology from the Wirtz family would be very help- Do you feel differently in the company of people like you, than ful. The new head of the company, Sebastian Wirtz, is in his when you’re with non-disabled people? mid-30s, so he was born into his situation. And in fact, he Until now I used to discreetly cross the street if I saw another himself is very much a victim of Thalidomide, because the Thalidomider approaching. I was scared of them, because issue will pursue him throughout his life, as it will the rest they were a reflection of myself: “Oh God, that’s what I look of his family. I can imagine them taking on Thalidomide vic- like too”. I’m not scared of disabled people, and I have many tims as shareholders in the company. It would cost them a disabled friends. But I’ve always avoided Thalidomide vic- lot, but it would gain them so much publicity and cause such tims. It’s only through making the film that I’ve become a sensation for them and their company, that their problems would be alleviated and this awful shadow would be liftedfrom the family. A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
Victims of Thalidomide as shareholders in Grünenthal? Do Thalidomide victims only have defects to their limbs and They make billions upon billions of profit. Why don’t they extremities, or are there other defects? just give us some of it? Even a member of the Wirtz family It’s not just the recognisable external defects. All other or- can only sleep in one bed and eat from one plate.
gans can be affected: ears, eyes, heart, liver, everything. Theonly organ which isn’t affected is the brain. Well, indirectly Have you suggested this to Grünenthal? People treat us kindly, but day by day we are ostracized or They’re scared of us. They’re really frightened of coming in hidden. Society has always hidden disabled people away, be- contact with us. During all the attention surrounding the cause people don’t like to deal with cripples. But it’s not just Adolf Winkelmann film (“Thalidomide – One Single Pill”) society that hides us – many of us hide ourselves away be- Sebastian Wirtz met some Thalidomide victims. But it was- cause it’s simply too stressful to keep confronting this hos- n’t a genuine, committed meeting, it was a pure PR exercise tility. It’s a subtle kind of hostility which isn’t limited to any which completely backfired. The tokenistic offer of 50 mil- particular section of society, but which appears across the lion can only be a tiny plaster, where a huge bandage is re- board as a fear of contact with disability.
quired. They don’t really want to help the people affected by Thalidomide. One fact remains. The huge suffering of This is another reason why so many victims of Thalidomide Thalidomide will persist, even after we’re all dead, and I just are so spiritually damaged that they no longer want to live.
hope that industry and politicians draw conclusions from The suicide rate among Thalidomiders is much higher than what has happened. The laws are already better than they the state average. Depression is a significant collateral dam- were. But I also hope that my children don’t inherit this suf- age caused by society’s hostility.
fering. That’s another reason why it’s so important for me Of course there are other Thalidomiders who are doing very to talk honestly with my children, and with the public at well, because they make good money as, for example, lawyers.
large, about my disability and my life.
But those are exceptions.
Life as a disabled person is simply more expensive than a We’ve just heard that Mäurer & Wirtz have obtained a tem- porary injunction against the Thalidomide victims who havecalled for a boycott of their luxury products. What is your po- What are your next plans and projects? sition regarding the call for a boycott? Definitely the Tibetan Film School which we founded last There should certainly not be a boycott of Grünenthal’s med- Autumn, and of which I’m the director.
ical products. But I will obviously not buy any luxury or cos- For now it’s a nomadic film school, which operates where Ti- metic products made by the company Mäurer & Wirtz, betans are currently living; both in Tibet, and in exile in products such as 4711, Tabac, Nonchalance, Tosca, Sir Irish India. We’ve started to raise money, we’re holding the first Moos and whatever the others are. Not until the Wirtz fam- seminars and making short films. We hope to buy premises ily or Grünenthal have paid adequate compensation. People in the next two or three years and to set up a proper film can do whatever they want, but I myself won’t use any of these products. I’m not allowed to call for a boycott, and It’s all financed by donation, and operated on a voluntary that’s not what I’m doing. But everyone has a brain to think with and a heart to feel with. And who doesn’t enjoy soli- The lecturers and professors are friends and contacts from the industry and from companies involved in filmmaking.
There are Thalidomide victims who are so badly off that they They volunteer to deliver the training and they pay for their go hungry at the end of the month because they simply have own flights – the Tibetans just provide accommodation. nothing left to eat. Or who are trapped indoors for at least amonth if the electric wheelchair on which they are depend- And what projects is your company Palladio Film working on? ent breaks down, because the repairs take so long and they We have three feature films in development, including a mu- sical and a horror film. It’s getting ever harder to finance a
film, so for now I’m enjoying working on smaller produc-
tions such as Nobody’s Perfect, just because you can make
and realise them more quickly. It’s a bit boring to make one
film every five years.
Niko von Glasow: biography
Niko von Glasow (né Brücher), producer and director for Pal- Niko von Glasow lives in London with his wife Kiki and their ladio Film, began his training with Rainer Werner Fassbin - children Juli and Mandel. He runs his company Palladio der (Lola and Theater of the world). He then worked for a
number of film directors including George Stefan Troller,Hellmuth Costard, Alexander Kluge, Peter Zadek and Jean- Niko von Glasow: filmography (as director)
Jacques Annaud. Niko has also worked for film distributors,film studios, and the first European Low-Budget Film Festi- 2008 NoBody’s Perfect
val in Hamburg. He studied drama coaching with John Cost - Int. Filmfestival Locarno 2008: Semaine de la Critique o poulos and film directing with Jack Garfine. Niko studied 2007 Look At Me (Schau mich an) (TV)
film at New York University and at the Film Academy of Lódz 2004 Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweisspiraten)
in Poland. This is where he made his first feature film in Chamizal Independent Film Festival 2005 (US): 1990, Wedding Guests, which won several awards including
the German Film Critics Award and the Grand Prix Lino Cine-Jeune de l’Aisne (Frankreich) 2006: Ventura. In 1994 Niko wrote, directed and produced Marie’s
Song starring Sylvie Testud. This film also received several
1994 Marie’s Song (Maries Lied)
awards at renowned international film festivals. In 2004 he Nominated for German Film Prize for Best Film; directed and produced Edelweiss Pirates starring Ivan Ste-
German Film Prize: Best Camera Direction & Best bunov, Bela B., Jan Decleir and Anna Thalbach. In 2007 Music; IFF Kiev: Best Film, Best Décor, Best Costume Niko’s TV film Look At Me was broadcast in WDR’s “Men-
1990 Wedding Guests (Hochzeitsgäste)
schen Hautnah” series. This is a personal portrait of his life Festival Premiers Plans: Grand Prix Lino Ventura; as a filmmaker born with short arms due to Thalidomide.
Berlin Film Festival: German Film Critics Prize; In 2007 he began filming his cinema documentary No-
Dresden Film Festival: Dresdner Film Prize; Body’s Perfect. Current projects are the foundation of the
Tibetian Film School (www.tibetianfilmschool.com) and the
development of three feature films: Pig, a girl from Tibet
and Touching Bluebell.
The Wirtz Family’s Business Concerns
The company Chemie Grünenthal GmbH, founded in 1946 in The perfume manufacturer Mäurer & Wirtz GmbH & Co. Stolberg in the Rheinland, is now called Grünenthal GmbH KG (House of Perfumes) in Stolberg is a daughter concern of and is based in Aachen. Its sole partner is Grünenthal Dalli-Werke, and its daughter concerns include Cosmeurop Pharma GmbH & Co. KG whose shares are owned by the Parfums, Théany Cosmetic, and NewYorker Cosmetics.
Grünenthal works primarily on the research, development Main Product Lines:
and production of medication for the alleviation of pain.
4711 · Tabac Original · Nonchalance · Betty Barclay
The active agent Tramadol (private brand Tramal) which was 4711 ICE · TNT · Carlo Colucci · Pussy Deluxe · Tosca
developed by Grünenthal, is the most widely sold painkiller S. Oliver · Gin Tonic Fragrances · Otto Kern · Sir Irish
Grünenthal has further research and business operations inthe fields of gynaecology, anti-infectives and dermatology, According to Manager Magazine (2/2005), the Wirtz’s group and in the manufacture and marketing of the contraceptive of companies generated a turnover of around € 1.3 billion in pill Belara and the pain relief plaster Transtec.
2003, and had around 7,000 employees. Until 1969 Grü- The Wirtz family also owns Dalli-Werke GmbH & Co. KG, the nenthal was run by Hermann Wirtz, followed by (among oth- former soap factory founded by Andreas August Wirtz in ers) his son Michael Wirtz until 2005. Since 2005 his son 1845 in Stolberg. The company makes the well-known Dalli Sebastian Wirtz has been a shareholding member of the man- brand products, as well as countless trademarks for discount stores (soaps, crèmes, hair care products, household cleanersetc). Tandil washing powers, stocked by Aldi, are probablythe best-known example.
The Thalidomide Scandal – Key Points
From October 1st 1957 until November 27th 1961, Chemie Widukind Lenz’s findings were in existence on 16th Novem- Grünenthal (as the company was then called) produced and ber 1961, but the drug was not taken off the market until marketed the active agent Thalidomide under the brand the day after the publication of an article in the Welt am name Contergan. The drug was especially effective against Sonntag newspaper on 26th November 1961. morning sickness, and was also released as a tested and non-addictive sedative and sleeping pill for pregnant women.
The figures are inexact:Roughly 10,000 damaged children were born, around 4,000 In 1957 Thalidomide came onto the market under the brand of them in Germany. Up to 50% of them survive to this day.
name Contergan. The drug quickly became Germany’s most It is not known how many affected babies died before birth.
popular sleeping pill and sedative, and also enjoyed great Contergan was not released in the USA, following a trial commercial success abroad. Products containing Thalido- phase during which several children were born with disabil- mide were soon being sold by licensing partners in 46 coun- ities. Following a warning from the Swedish biochemist tries. The targeted advertising of the product played a key Robert Nilsson, East Germany did not even begin the li- role in this success, guaranteeing that the active ingredient But just two years after it appeared on the market, a neurol- The main proceedings lasted from 18th January 1968 until ogist warned of the danger of damage to the nervous system 18th December 1970. Standing against the three public pros- posed by long-term use of Contergan. These warnings in- ecutors and the chief prosecuting counsel (RA Karl-Her- creased in number, demonstrating that the non-toxicity of mann Schulte-Hillen) for the 312 joint plaintiffs, were 20 the agent could not be scientifically substantiated.
defence lawyers acting on behalf of the 9 (latterly 5) defen-dants. They were charged with premeditated or negligent So, in May 1961, Chemie Grünenthal applied to the regula- physical injury and causing death by negligence. tory agency responsible within the Nordrhein-Westfalia in-terior ministry, for a prescription requirement for Thali - domide, which came into force in August 1961. However this They waived their claim for billions of marks’ worth of dam- only applied in Nordrhein-Westfalia, Hessen and Baden- ages, and accepted compensation of 100 million marks. And Württemberg; in all other parts of Germany Contergan con- they also agreed not to pursue further claims against Grü- tinued to be freely available in pharmacies.
From 1959 onwards, doctors and clinics noticed an accu- On 18th December 1970, the 283rd day of the trial, the crim- mulation of terrible deformities in newborn babies. But as inal proceedings against Grünenthal were brought to an end there was no legal requirement to report birth defects, the due to insufficient evidence of liability and lack of public in- true extent of the catastrophe did not immediately come to light. Nevertheless several scientists began looking for thecause of this increase. Initial speculation concentrated on The sum of money paid into the compensation trust ran out the side-effects of the testing of atom bombs, which at the time was the subject of much discussion. But when it becameclear that neither East Germany, Belgium nor Switzerland All compensation is now paid by the German state.
was affected by a similar wave of birth defects, atomic radi-ation was ruled out as a cause.
Widukind Lenz, a doctor in Hamburg, was the first todemonstrate the connection with Contergan – independentlyfrom his research, the same connection was demonstratedin Britain and Australia. By 1961 Grünenthal had been pre-sented with 1600 warnings concerning defects which hadbeen observed in new-born babies. But the medication re-mained on the market.
Production & World Sales
Members Present: Jim Gilbert, Ethan Ebenstein, Mike Brown, Harold Schneider, Janet Moore, Julie Ebenstein and Jim Gilbert called the meeting to order at 8 am. Harold presented the new CPEF page which is currently under construction on the www.cppschools.com website. He also demonstrated the CPEF Facebook account which is now up and operational. • Jim Gilbert will forward a complete list of c