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New ZDF documentary offers personal portrait of Bin Laden

First sales to Globosat Brazil, RTVE Spain and TVN Poland

Mainz, 5th September, 2016

Bin Laden is one of the most notorious figures in recent history, infamous for ordering the 9-11 attack on the United States and viewed as the father of modern Islamist terrorism. Now, a new documentary from ZDF, internationally distributed by ZDF Enterprises, uses recently released documents to paint an intriguing picture of the last years of his life in his hideout in Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden – Up Close and Personal focuses on the period after the multiple terrorist assault against America, when Bin Laden was hiding with part of his family in an ordinary looking house in Abbottabad.

As the title suggests, the programme reveals a more personal side of a man we are more used to seeing portrayed as a monster, including correspondence with one of his wives and some of his children. Copies of these letters were found in Bin Laden’s compound and have now been declassified by the American authorities.

The newly released documents featured in the documentary also include the terrorist leader’s communications with his Al-Qaeda group as he struggled to remain in touch with the reality of their military and terrorist campaigns during his lengthy period in hiding.

Alongside this revealing portrait, the programme shows how the Americans tracked Bin Laden through the couriers who passed on his messages and gradually tightened their net, eventually trapping and killing him in a Special Forces operation on 2 May 2011.

The programme, directed by Alexander Berkel of ZDF History and produced by ZDF and ZDF Enterprises, uses interviews with experts along with graphic novel elements to recreate life inside Bin Laden’s compound. The contributors include retired Pakistani Brigadier Shaukat Qadir, one of few people allowed to see inside the compound before it was demolished by the authorities in 2012.

Osama bin Laden – Up Close and Personal also features Peter Bergen, of CNN, author of a book on Bin Laden and one of the first Western journalists to interview him in Afghanistan in 1997; Pulitzer prize-winner Steve Coll, now Dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and author of a book on Bin Laden’s family; his fellow Pulitzer prize-winner Greg Miller, national security correspondent at the Washington Post, and Guido Steinbach, an expert on Al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism.

The documentary has been sold to Globosat Brazil, RTVE Spain and TVN Poland. Alexander Berkel has also written a book to accompany the programme.


About ZDF Enterprises

ZDF Enterprises was founded in 1993 as a commercial subsidiary of ZDF, one of the largest and most highly regarded TV broadcasters in Europe. Headquartered in Mainz, Germany, ZDF Enterprises is responsible for the international distribution of programmes, managing international co-productions, acquiring licences and merchandising strong programme brands in its own name, not only for ZDF but also for third parties. ZDF Enterprises has successfully established itself as an independent player on the German and international stage. As part of a strong group, the company manages the largest German-language stock of programmes in the world and also a steadily expanding portfolio of international productions, including series and mini-series, TV movies, documentaries and children’s programmes. Many business areas in television and media have been made accessible through the ZDF Enterprises group as part of the ongoing development and diversification activities. This allows ZDF Enterprises to provide a comprehensive, full-service package today, while covering every step in the production and distribution chain and supporting successful TV programmes from development to production, marketing TV licences, merchandising rights, online rights and much more besides.

Contact ZDF Enterprises

Christine Denilauler (Vice-President Marketing and Corporate Communications), ZDF Enterprises GmbH, Erich-Dombrowski-Str. 1, D-55127 Mainz/Germany. Tel: +49 6131-9911130; Fax: +49 6131-9912130; E-mail:,


Christine Denilauler

Christine Denilauler

Vice President Marketing and Corporate Communications

+49 (0) 6131 / 991–1130
+49 (0) 6131 / 991–2130
ZDF Enterprises GmbH
Erich-Dombrowski-Str. 1
55127 Mainz | Germany