Landing at Series Mania, UFA Fiction’s ‘Disko 76’ Tells Local Story With International Potential, Classic Dance Floor Hits

Spinning audiences back to the mid-1970s, UFA Fiction’s latest period series “Disko 76” is set in a pivotal time in the industrial heartland of West Germany as a new American pop music craze takes over the airwaves and dance floors.

The six-part series, which premiered at the recent Berlinale Series Market, continues its international rollout at Series Mania in Lille before bowing on the RTL+ streaming platform on March 28 and on RTL Group channel Nitro on April 1.

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UFA Fiction quickly won over RTL+ with the idea from former UFA Fiction producer Benjamin Benedict of a family story set in the disco era, says fellow producer Sinah Swyter.

Boasting classic hits from the likes of Donna Summer, ABBA, Kool and the Gang, Boney M. and many more, the series follows Doro (Luise Aschenbrenner), a rebellious young woman constricted by married life who finds freedom with the arrival of disco music in her hometown of Bochum, first in a neighboring U.S. military base, later, and with her help, in her brother Georg’s (Jonas Holdenrieder) newly acquired pub. She also falls for a mysterious and talented dancer, played by popular actor Jannik Schümann (“Sisi”).

As the music and dance parties thrill the town’s youth, the new fad leads to consternation and anger among the older generation, pitting Dora against her own strict father.

In addition to taking on socio-political issues of the time, the narrative weaves in metafictional breaks, providing the show with a modern quality, Swyter points out.

As an UFA Fiction production, “Disko 76” also exemplifies “cross-divisional content collaboration” within Bertelsmann, which owns the RTL Group, of which UFA Fiction is part.

“On the one hand, the collaborative connection is obvious, as UFA, as a production house, produced a series for the Bertelsmann television broadcaster RTL and its streaming service RTL+,” Swyter explains. “On the other hand, it goes beyond this collaboration, as the series’ novel adaptation of the same name is also published by Goldmann Verglag [part of the Penguin Random House publishing group] and BMG was also involved in the project as a music consultant.”

As a period show, “Disko 76” looks set to continue UFA’s recent successes with historical series, among them as “Ku’Damm,” “Charité” and “Faking Hitler.”

“What certainly unites all historical series is the audience’s fascination with a bygone time and thus a different life with different fashion, music, values and social conventions,” Swyter says. “Historical series per se have something escapist about them.”

She adds, however: “For me, ‘Disko 76’ is not a typical historical drama series. It chooses its own tonality and finds itself on a spectrum between drama and comedy. Furthermore, the series is fully aware of its current view of the time we are narrating.

“‘Disko 76’ tells the story partly with a contemporary commentary and it tells it very quickly, with metafictional elements of modern storytelling. The socio-political issues and upheavals of this time are told, but the entertainment and fun are treated at least equally.”

The series, she adds, “has the potential to reach a very wide audience,” not only people who have fond memories of the 1970s but also younger audiences “due to the modern narrative style and the young ensemble. It’s basically a coming-of-age story and a lot of people can relate to that.”

Indeed, Aschenbrenner and Schümann lead the large ensemble cast of well-established young actors.

“Through their interpretations and conceptions of the characters, Jannik Schümann and Luise Aschenbrenner immediately succeeded in making it impossible not to cast them as Robert and Doro. They exhibit great acting skills. And Jannik was able to master the somewhat difficult dance choreography extremely well and make it look incredibly easy. Luise also created such an idiosyncratic, fallible, but also humorous character that you gladly go on a journey with her.”

The cast also includes Vanessa Loibl (“Unsere Wunderbarten Jahre”); Emma Nova (“In Berlin Wächst Kein Orangenbaum”); Merlin Sandmeyer (“Die Discounter”); Natalia Wörner (“Die Diplomatin”);  Farba Dieng (“Toubab”); Julia Jendrossek and Aljoscha Stadelmann.

While the story is set in Bochum in a very specific time of change in the Ruhr region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Swyter is confident “Disko 76” will strike a chord with international audiences.

“The sound and dance are international, so you can connect globally. The stories we tell are personal, but also related to the major issues of the time, which did not only take place in West Germany.

“Challenging the given, the generational conflict and the search and finding of one’s own identity did not only exist in Germany in the 1970s. The invitations to this year’s Berlinale Series Market and the Series Mania Festival in Lille have already shown us that ‘Disko 76’ is also attracting international interest. ‘Disko 76’ travels from Bochum via Berlin to Lille and hopefully even further.”

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