A Documentary Film by Jessica Pierce

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The Mosel Shortcut is a documentary film about the globalization of Germany’s Mosel told through the voices of the Valley, & the building of a mammoth bridge.

The Mosel Shortcut explores the affects of globalization on Germany’s historical wine growing region, The Mosel Valley. The film looks through the eyes of local people as they experience seemingly unstoppable changes to their land, lives, and communities. The Mosel Shortcut creates public awareness of the risks and challenges of globalization on one of the few agricultural regions in the world that has managed to sustain a harmonious balance with nature. 

How This Project Began

A passion for Riesling and an internship offer with one of the most exciting winemakers in Germany brought me to the Mosel Valley on January 14, 2013. I moved to Germany on the end of a yearlong intensive master’s program at Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences with an idea that I would learn more about making Riesling at the iconic estate of Dr. Loosen. I did learn all about Mosel Riesling, but during my stay, I was able to spend time with the local people of the Mosel Valley.

I realized after only a few weeks of living in Germany the stories of the people of the Mosel Valley are even more exciting than the Mosel Rieslings. These stories tell of a land and people who have held onto their agricultural way of life as the world changes in ways beyond imagination as a result of globalization. The German government is officially inviting globalization into the Mosel. They decided to build a bridge and motorway across the Mosel Valley under the guise of making the Frankfurt-Hahn airport easily accessible to the rest of Europe, promoting tourism, and creating jobs for the region. As an intern at the winery, I witnessed this incursion.

What I Am Doing

While I came to the Mosel for one reason, I decided to stay here for another. The bridge is only in the beginning stages of construction. The forest has not been clear-cut, and significant drilling has not started on the Ürzig side of the river. I will document the process and watch the changes in the landscape. I will record the thoughts of the people living below the construction zone. I will make sure everyone is aware of this epic disaster, if not only to protest The Mosel High Bridge, but to avoid a repeat of this mistake in other culturally significant regions.

As the younger generations seek to be a part of the global world that exists at the Valley’s horizon lines, the ageing agricultural population’s stories will be lost if not documented. The community is aware of globalization, what it is and how it has affected them from the outside in, but, now, its at their own doors. Globalization’s needs are endless, insatiable, and are spreading into the Valley, marked by the construction of The Mosel High Bridge. I am currently creating the documentary film that will share the Mosel Valley’s story.

The Mosel Valley Before and After Construction

Before the Bridge and Motorway Construction
Before the Bridge and Motorway Construction
After the Bridge and Motorway Construction (CG Image)
After the Bridge and Motorway Construction (CG Image)

Concerns and Effects of The Mosel High Bridge

  • Engineering issues are a major concern, and recent plans for The Bridge have not been released to the public. The government has sited industry secrets as one reason why the plans have not been made public record, but because of construction delays, there is speculation there are additional problems due to the unstable, brittle slate soils of the Valley’s steep slopes. The concrete posts supporting the bridge, piercing into the ancient vineyards soils, will provide an unstable and dangerous platform for the bridge.
  • The Valley is currently in danger of landslips because of the drilling and vibrations from construction.
  • The forest at the top of the vineyards will be clearcut. The natural irrigation system held by the forest will be forever rerouted by the motorway that meets the bridge. The microclimates throughout the vineyards will never be the same. The future of the forest’s survival is unknown.
  • The notch carved at the top of the ridge to allow for the bridge will also allow cold air from the Wittlich Depression to flow into the river valley. This will affect the microclimates of the vineyards around the Mosel bend.
  • Fumes from an oil-based, cargo trucking industry will be carried downstream. The pollution will permeate the plants and the water systems of the agriculturally-based region.
  • The bridge will create a massive financial burden in a time of economic uncertainty. The original estimates of construction costs were initially €270 million, but it continues to rise with every construction obstacle and delay.
  • Wine production in this ancient cultural landscape is one of the very few large-scale human industries that has managed to maintain a harmonious balance with nature. This has made The Mosel eligible for UNESCO World Heritage status, but the bridge construction will prevent the Mosel from ever receiving UNESCO site status.
  • The bridge will be a scar on the visual landscape, a mammoth structure towering over ancient vineyards and historic villages.
The Landslip Zone at Graach. The motorway which will connect to the bridge will be built along the top of this unstable section of vineyard land.
The Landslip Zone at Graach. The motorway which will connect to the bridge will be built along the top of this unstable section of vineyard land.

The Plan

I am compiling oral histories and historical research in order create a film that will both discover and document the changes in the cultural landscape of the Mosel Valley. I am inspired by the works of Carl O. Sauer and his ideas about a peoples influence on their environments. Like Sauer, I look at the ways that humans control nature and develop their culture out of that control; I ask questions about how present landscapes were shaped over time by people and by natural processes.

I use an ethnographic approach that allows me to view the Mosel as a cultural landscape, not just a geographic location. I am interviewing wine growers, cellar masters, restaurateurs, hydrologist, geologists, historians, and local business owners to capture many different perspectives about the Mosel Valley. I document their daily lives, capturing their stories about their connections with the land, and their relationship with the landscape.

These unique perspectives about the past and future of the region will help us better understand the panorama of the Mosel Valley, and the changes defining the landscape: governmental reorganization of the vineyard land, employment of machines in the vineyard, two world wars, post-war production of sweet wines, and a generation of young people fleeing agricultural work. These changes are all necessary fragments of the Mosel’s portrait, but attention will focus on the most recent, and largest impact on the cultural landscape, the construction of the new Mosel High Bridge.

Standing over a frozen lake, discussing the water reservoir held by the forest with Geologist Roswitha Temper
Standing over a frozen lake, discussing the water reservoir held by the forest with Geologist Roswitha Temper

A Peek at Some Pre-Production Interviews


I am in contact with people all over The Mosel Valley–since arriving in Germany over 4 months ago I began searching for people with interesting and informative connections to the land.  I have taken hours of test footage with my little Bloggie camera to get a sense of the potential of this project. After collecting over 9 hours of video footage and countless hours of oral histories, the project’s continuation showed itself vital. The picture below is a link to a Youtube video of some rough cuts of test interviews I have compiled. Contributors so far are Reinhard Löwenstein, Rudi Trossen, Ernst Loosen, Alexandra Künstler, Markus Reis, and the Junglen family.

(Click picture for video) Wine tasting with some local friends in Zeltingen-Rachtig
(Click picture for video) Wine tasting with some local friends in Zeltingen-Rachtig

A Short History of the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport

The Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, located just east of the Mosel Valley, was an important NATO air force base during the Cold War. Directly connecting the air base with the North Sea harbors would have been advantageous for transporting tanks and weapons across Europe. This could be possible by building a bridge, allowing the B50 highway to cross directly over the Mosel Valley instead of going around. Plans were drawn but the project did not get approval and lay waiting for the occasional group to pick up and again abandon the bridge idea over the years. Reasons for putting off the building of the bridge range from structural issues, lack of traffic, and increasing costs. Also, it seemed unnecessary to go ahead with the plan since the Cold War had ended and other roads and bridges have been added to the infrastructure of Germany over the many years since the plan was first imagined.

The German government turned Frankfurt-Hahn into a commercial airport in 1993. A major investor, Fraport AG, took on the development of Hahn with hopes that it could be used to relay some of the traffic from the larger Frankfurt am Main Airport. Hahn is situated in a remote location and does not have access to a train connection. Because of this inconvenience, the airport has served as a hub for discount airlines like Ryan Air. The airport was not profitable and Fraport, the largest shareholder of the airport, did not get the return on their investment that they had hoped for. In 2009, Fraport sold its 65% of shares to the Germany federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate for €1. The state also assumed the airports €120 million of accumulated debt along with the purchase.

One of the redeeming qualities of the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is its capacity for colossal cargo airplanes. Its military design makes the airport a perfect place to land some of the largest cargo in the world, and it holds a world record for doing so. But what good is it to ship cargo to the middle of Nowhere, Germany? So in 2008, the Mosel High Bridge idea was revived by the German government with the intention of making Frankfurt-Hahn easily accessible to the rest of Europe, while also helping Germany build its way out of a financial crisis through major construction projects. Now that the government had assumed control of Hahn as well as its debt, it would make sense that they would want to take advantage of the cargo shipping capabilities. Building a bridge and motorway succeeds in globalizing Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, but at the cost of destroying more than it will create.

A row of cranes on the horizon
A row of cranes on the horizon

Where Does Your Money Go?

I know what you are thinking, “Will she be doing special effects explosions or helicopter chase scenes? That’s a lot of money”.

I need filmmaking tools: a camera and sound equipment. The Bloggie camera I’ve been using is great for indoor interviews, but it is nowhere near professional grade. On some shoots, I will need to rent a second camera and an assistant. I will be hiring a professional to help me with post-production and editing work; I want the film to look and sound great, and I just don’t have those skills. The more money I have, the more professional contributors I can involve, and the quality of the film will benefit enormously from their efforts. I must reach my goal, if not exceed it. This project has already started, but I need your help for it to continue.

The actual videography of the project will take place from August 2013-December 2013. Post production work alongside a professional editor will take approximately 2 months, and the film will release in Spring 2014. I am currently looking into film festivals and social media releases for The Mosel Shortcut.

The little staircase in the steep Erdener Treppchen vineyard
The little staircase in the steep Erdener Treppchen vineyard
A dark cloud over The Mosel Valley at the construction site
A dark cloud over The Mosel Valley at the construction site

Thank you to everyone who has helped make this possible so far!

Special thanks to Sarah Washington, Knut Aufermann,Terry Theise,Thomas & Ernst Loosen, Bernard Schug, Stuart Pigott, Carl & Blinda Pierce, Julie Kantor, Reinhard Löwenstein, Rudi Trossen, Markus Reis, Alexandra Künstler, and Harald, Anne, Jannik & Marius Junglen.

And here are a few links to some great press about the film project.



If you would like to support The Mosel Shortcut documentary film project, please use the Paypal donate button. Your money will go directly towards  the production of the film. 

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or comments and check out The Mosel Shortcut Facebook page to keep up with the project’s progress. https://www.facebook.com/TheMoselShortcut 

Thank you for your support!
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