The small escape
A tiny Isetta as an escape car used to smuggle people from East to West Berlin
Based on a True Story
30 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, BMW recounts the story of the desire for freedom, ingenuity and engineering skill.
Berlin Wall Museum
Thousands of exhibits in the Berlin Wall Museum on Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, commemorate the history of the once divided city, the tightly controlled border between East and West and the people who sought their way to freedom against all odds. On the upper floor near the window, which overlooks Checkpoint Charlie, there is the smallest escape car ever used: a BMW Isetta. Klaus-Günter Jacobi (79) regularly accompanies visitors through the museum as a tourist guide.
What only few people are aware of: Jacobi does not only know all about many escape attempts, but that it was his idea to hide a person inside the tiny bubble car and to cross the border with the unnoticed passenger. This is how his best friend managed to escape from East to West Berlin. 30 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, BMW recounts the tale of Klaus-Günter Jacobi, his friend Manfred Koster and the mini-car, which helped nine people escape the GDR. This story is the plot of the movie “The Small Escape”.
The elaborately produced blockbuster-style movie takes the audience back to the year 1964. Jacobi’s family had already left the East of the city in 1958, three years before the construction of the Berlin wall. When his old friend Manfred Koster asked him to help him escape from the GDR, he came up with a bold plan. His BMW Isetta was to serve as the escape car. The moto-coupé measuring only 2.30 meters in length and 1.40 meters in width would arouse little suspicion with the border soldiers, or so he hoped.
A very tight fit
Even today it stills seems virtually impossible to hide a person inside a BMW Isetta. The bubble car is already a very tight fit for two people on the seats directly behind the front door. The hiding place for his friend was built behind the seat bench directly next to the engine. Car mechanic Jacobi carried out the conversion in his former training workshop in Berlin-Reinickendorf. He cut an opening into the trim behind the seat bench, shifted the shelf upwards and removed the spare wheel, heating and air filter. He also exchanged the 13-litre fuel tank for a 2-litre canister to make space for the hidden passenger.
Freedom and self-determination
“The Small Escape” shows how the BMW Isetta was turned into an escape car and how the risky border crossing played out. The thrilling history lesson was produced by director Alex Feil, camera man Khaled Mohtaseb and set designer Erwin Prieb in Hollywood blockbuster style. The props, costumes, vehicles and street sets were created in Budapest to stage a faithful 1960s Berlin setting. A checkpoint complete with wall and border strip was recreated resulting in an oppressive atmosphere which continues to grow throughout the course of the film to then culminate in a happy end.
“It’s all about freedom, independence and dreams. Our campaign recognises the drive and courage of the people who made this successful escape possible”
Jens Thiemer, Head of BMW Brand Management
Advertisements in magazines and daily newspapers promoted the
film and the story on the website.
Teasers in social media were used by BMW worldwide and helped to promote the campaign.
The BMW Museum takes visitors back in time to a divided Germany
In addition, the unique escape story became a special exhibition at the BMW Museum. Visitors were able to examine the Isetta, as well as props from the film, and experience the confines of the hideout first-hand.
The campaign went global
sparking conversations across the world. The story was covered in hundreds of media outlets globally, even making it to morning TV shows.
The press response was impressive.
A lot of the media reported on the escape story, our film and the exhibition. In times of global protectionism and with growing car annoyance they spread our message: BMW stands for freedom and self-determination.
I'M NOTHING WITHOUT A GREAT TEAM:
Max Lederer - Executive Creative Director
David Leinweber - Group Creative Director
Andreas Ernst - Managing Director
Jan Anderßen - Group Client Service Director
Florian Panier - Head of TV
Yannick Schreiber - Senior Project Manager
Alex Feil - Director
Khalid Mohtaseb - Director Of Photography
Erwin Prib - Production Designer
Vera Portz - Executive Producer
Birgit Damen - Producer
Emely Sudhaus - Unit Production Manager
Csaba Lódi - Art Director
Filip Marek - Gaffer/Lighting Designer
Sosa Juristovszky - Wardrobe Stylist
Melinda Szepesi - Line Producer
András Hárskúti - 1st AD
Iain Wainwright - Editor
Eric Schaechter - VFX Supervisor
Alessio Bertotti - VFX Supervisor
Sermed Darah - VFX
Emma Ashton - Casting
Debs Hinkinson - Casting
Phil Kay - Score
Christian Vorländer - Score
Simon Heeger - Score
Jens Thiemer - Head of Brand Steering and Marketing
Ann-Kathrin Raabe - Head of international Advertising and Campaign development