ELLIS ISLAND

Stairs of Separation

In the early 20th century, hundreds of thousands of impoverished European families are making their way to the promised land: America. Primarily Germans, Italians, Irishmen, Scandinavians, and Russians – in this case mainly Jews – arrive in large numbers, fleeing persecution but also in search of a better life. They encounter the overstretched and indeed corrupt bureaucrats on Ellis Island, who are responsible for issuing entry permits. Corruption and bribery are at work, and their grip is hardest on the poorest of immigrants. Some of these unfortunate individuals are held for weeks in ‘quarantine’, extorted for their very last penny, if not already sent back to Europe via the ‘Stairs of Separation’.

A few young officers and doctors have had enough of the bad treatment of the immigrants and the preying on the vulnerable, and they start to rebel against the corrupt bosses. They are supported by former immigrants and by a well-known photographer, Lewis Hine, who brings the catastrophic conditions on the island into the public eye.

This story is not only of current interest in the United States today, as shown by the fierce discussions surrounding the proposed wall along the US-Mexico border, but also in Europe following the dramatic events in Africa and the Middle East and the resulting enormous wave of refugees.

  • Idea: Konrad Jay
  • Screenplay: Dario Poloni
  • Screenplay Consultant: Michael Hirst
  • Executive Producers: Uwe Kersken, James Flynn, and Morgan O’Sullivan (Green Pavilion Ltd.)
  • Co-production: G5 fiction and Green Pavilion Ltd
  • In cooperation with national broadcasters from Germany, Italy, and Ireland. The production is in the final stage of financing and negotiations are in progress with an American broadcaster.