Action and Integration in Ottakring

A new ORF1 TV series about tensions in contemporary Vienna shows “Cops are people too”

Fahri Yardim and Cornelia Ivancan in Cop Stories | Photo: G. Weeks

Martin Leutgeb & Serge Falk | Photo: G. Weeks

CopStories, Episode 1: A Viennese taxi driver who hates foreigners pulls up in in front of his apartment building in Ottakring, positioned just so as to prevent his new Muslim neighbours from moving in with their baby grand piano. Someone calls the police. The officers from the Kreitnergasse station show up and talk to the taxi driver and his wife, and finally convince him to move his car.

Unfortunately, the situation escalates: A group of Turks hanging out in front of the building taunt him, so that instead of moving his car, the taxi driver slams it into gear, burns rubber and crashes into the piano, still in the middle of the road, splintering it into a thousand pieces. The family is barely able to jump away in time, and the driver is arrested. The Muslim man’s daughter, who is autistic and lives for the piano, becomes deeply disturbed. The police have their work cut out for them.

Fahri Yardim and Cornelia Ivancan in Cop Stories | Photo: G. Weeks

Fahri Yardim and Cornelia Ivancan in CopStories | Photo: G. Weeks

In another vignette, a police inspector of Turkish descent, Altsn Uslu, played by German actor Fahri Yardim, confronts the drug-dealing activities of his cousin to protect his own younger brother. According to Paul Harather, director of four of the first season’s episodes, the theme of Vienna’s Turkish community continues throughout the series. The actor Yardim, however, is far from satisfied.

“I did not feel like I was addressing integration at all,” he said, dismissing a compliment on his performance. Still, Yardim has managed to be cast not only as a policeman and one of the “good guys” in CopStories but also plays a similar role in the long-running German series Tatort (Scene of the Crime) – a massive change from the years in German television where actors of Turkish descent were always cast as criminals. Surely, this is progress.

The series benefits from the expertise of Colonel Georg Rabensteiner from the Landeskriminalamt Vienna, who advised the producers about typical conflict situations to make the scenes as realistic as possible. In addition, Rabensteiner and his colleagues arranged crash police training courses for the series’ actors, who learned how to storm buildings and take down and arrest suspects.

Although the nitty gritty of daily police work comes through in the details of the first episodes, there is also plenty of humour: for example, scenes with a woman who claims that her toaster has been stolen with the bread still in it and files a complaint with Inspector Tina Zauner (Cornelia Ivancan) or the trials and tribulations of love-struck police officer Matthias Gerber (Martin Leutgeb), who secretly meets with call girl “Chantal”.

Martin Leutgeb & Serge Falk  | Photo: G. Weeks

Martin Leutgeb & Serge Falk | Photo: G. Weeks

The cast includes Romy Prize winner Serge Falk as Chief Inspector Lukas Moosberger. Falk is the only cast member to have also appeared in the Dutch original series Van Speijk upon which CopStories is based. In addition, there are several veteran actors: Johannes Zeiler stars as Commandant Andreas Bergfeld, Martin Zauner as Chief Inspector Wilmer Eberts and Proschat Mandani as City Councilwoman for Integration, Selma Kumran-Effenberg.

The premiere of CopStories is scheduled for 5 March on ORF 1, with two episodes back to back, starting at 20:15 and 21:05 respectively.

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