BMW Films Returns, In a Big Way

BMW changed the game in the early 2000's with their self-appointed Films, donning a cinematic exuberance that echoed their cars' enigmatic driving prowess, something that no other car manufacturer was doing at the time. A-List celebrities, like Madonna, were cast alongside the very best in BMW's own: E39 M5, 740i Sport, and so on. Watching them made you proud to be a BMW enthusiast; the cars back then were exciting and I think that's also what made seeing them on film, doing what they do best, even more of a treat.

Today, BMW Films has made a return to the beloved screen, but not in a way you'd expect. Indeed, the star in this film is the BMW Isetta, the quirky microcar that some may best remember as Steve Urkel's lady magnet machine. By sharp contrast to its bubbly appearance, the Isetta takes on a braver, noble character in the new film.

BMW Films: The Small Escape

Today, Klaus-Günter Jacobi (79), a retired car mechanic, leads tourists through the Berlin Wall museum. Amongst the memorabilia on an upper floor is a modest Isetta, one that actually belonged to Jacobi himself, and one that normal people would simply walk right past. And that is precisely what he had hoped back in 1964.

You see, this Isetta was rather special modded example, but not in the way you or I would imagine. Jacobi's car was modified to fit people, or I suppose more specifically to hide them. A bit more than just a trim here and there allowed Jacobi to fit his friend Manfred inside the car and across a scrutinizing border checkpoint to freedom. Out went the spare wheel, heating, and air filter elements. Out went the 13-liter fuel tank in favor of a modest 2-liter version, just enough to make the short, but arduous journey.

BMW Isetta: Hero During Berlin Wall Era

This singular, successful effort inspired others to purpose the Isetta for heroic purposes. In that same year, nine people in total found freedom in West Berlin all with the help of BMW's microcar. 

“Since their invention, automobiles have brought freedom and self-determination to humankind. Cars bring people together. This is something one should always also keep in mind in the current debate. The movie emphasises this. The moving escape story with the BMW Isetta can also be seen as a symbol of the invaluable value cars and individual mobility can have. It’s all about freedom, independence and dreams. Our movie recognizes the drive and courage of the people who made this successful escape possible”, says Jens Thiemer, Head of BMW Brand Management.

I think its meaningful historical significance and ingenuity makes this one of my favorite BMW Films to date. This film isn't the adrenaline rush from the early 2000's, but it's a different time. A different world. One that begs us to examine the past to ensure we humble not only our present, but our ever-important future. It's perhaps the most fitting that the car designed out of an exercise in thinking differently was the one chosen to do exactly that in a social and political context for just cause.

BMW Isetta Microcar Hero