“I was introduced to people in the neighbourhood, which helped”: 4 Blocks creative team talk making drama

“I was introduced to people in the neighbourhood, which helped”: 4 Blocks creative team talk making drama

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Kida Khodr Ramadan (Ali “Toni” Hamady) at the screening (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)
Kida Khodr Ramadan (Ali “Toni” Hamady) at the screening (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

The RTS celebrated the release of the second season of award-winning German thriller 4 Blocks with a special screening in central London.

4 Blocks tells the story of the Hamady crime family, which is engaged in a bloody fight for control of the drug trade in the Neukölln district of Berlin with the rival al-Saafi clan.

Kida Khodr Ramadan, who plays the head of the clan, Ali “Toni” Hamady, was at the screening, and told the audience: “It’s a pleasure to see you all here in my first time in London."

The first season of 4 Blocks aired in 2017 on German pay-television channel TNT Serie, which is owned byTurner Broadcasting System Europe. Internationally, it airs on Amazon Prime Video. series two was released on Amazon last December.

Following the screening of the first two episodes of series two, some of the creative team behind the series spoke on stage to CNN International reporter Anna Stewart.

Anke Greifeneder, who is in charge of original production at TNT Serie, explained that German indie Wiedemann & Berg Filmproduktion had pitched her an idea for a drama about a Lebanese-German drug gang in Berlin.

Three writers – Hanno Hackfort, Bob Konrad, and Richard Kropf – “had done a lot of research with police, judges and journalists, but I wanted to do [tell the story] from the angle of the clans. I wanted to know about their universe – it was a story that hadn’t been told yet,” she said.

The drama reflects the reality of the Neukölln district in Berlin, the “four blocks” of the series’ title, which is a no-go area for police, claimed Greifeneder.

Hannes Heyelmann, who is Managing Director of Turner in central and eastern Europe and an executive producer on 4 Blocks, added: “A lot of international audiences are tired of the same LA beach, the streets of New York and the Eiffel Tower in Paris – they want to explore new cities and cultures. To couple this with a suspense–driven drama is a great mix.”

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel took an apartment in Neukölln while he was prepping the series. “I was introduced to people in the neighbourhood, which helped,” he said.

Although the leading characters are played by trained actors – the two exceptions are the rappers Massiv (Latif Hamady) and Veysel (Abbas Hamady) – many small parts are filled by people with no acting experience. “Half the people that you see on screen are not actors – they grew up there and pretty much are what they are on screen in real life. That’s your research right there, every day of shooting.”

He shared directing duties with Özgür Yıldırım, who directed the final four episodes of the seven-part series two. “4 Blocks is about [Lebanese-German] family, religion and traditions, – things about which a German audience has no idea about. [With the] violence, it’s a very interesting cocktail.”

Turner has ordered a third and final season of 4 Blocks, which starts shooting in the spring and will be directed by Yıldırım.

“It was very tempting to do it for ever,” conceded Greifeneder. “That would be a very German thing to do. We like security – we’re the most over-insured people in the world.”

But, she added: “We want to end on a high note. It will be the third and last series.”

Yıldırım wouldn’t give the audience any clues about the denouement of 4 Blocks, other than promising to “be very honest” and “realistic” with the story’s ending.

Greifeneder added: “It’s not Game of Thrones, but some people are going to die.” 

4 Blocks was screened by the RTS and TNT Serie/Turner at the Soho Curzon cinema in London on 23 January

 

All photography by Paul Hampartsoumian

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The RTS celebrated the release of the second season of award-winning German thriller 4 Blocks with a special screening in central London.