The Tunnel (NBC documentary)

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The Tunnel was a 90-minute black-and-white documentary film that chronicled how three West Berlin university students organized the escape of 59 friends and family members by digging a tunnel underneath the Berlin Wall. Produced by Reuven Frank and narrated by Piers Anderton, it was an NBC White Paper installment that was broadcast on December 10, 1962 and sponsored by the Gulf Oil Corporation.[1]

The Tunnel earned three Emmy Awards in 1963. It was the only documentary to receive the award as The Program of the Year.[2] It was also honored for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Documentary (awarded to Frank) and Outstanding Achievement in International Reporting (awarded to Anderton).[3][4]

The Tunnel was the basis for a pair of similarly named German projects (Der Tunnel) which were released just under four decades after the original. One was the 1999 documentary directed by Marcus Vetter, which featured the NBC footage accompanied by firsthand accounts from the actual participants.[5] The other was the 2001 television movie production directed by Roland Suso Richter, which was loosely based on the events recorded in the original.[6]

Production[edit]

An internal memo issued by Frank to the crew working on the documentary included the following outline of the goals of television news production:

Every news story should, without sacrifice of probity and responsibility, display the attributes of fiction, of drama. It should have structure and conflict, problem and denouement, rising and falling action, a beginning, a middle, and an end. These are not only the essentials of drama; they are the essentials of narrative. We are in the business of narrative because we are in the business of communication.[7]

Controversy & postponement[edit]

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) officially announced on October 11, 1962 that it was going to televise the documentary on October 31 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (EST).[8] Reluctant to add to global tensions in light of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the television network decided on October 23 to indefinitely postpone the broadcast.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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