Germany houses more billionaires than any other European country. By all outside appearances, they're part of a secret society of which little is known. They often refuse to be photographed and they shun the spotlight at every turn. The DW Documentary series attempts to lift the veil with Top of the World: The Discreet Lives of the Super-Rich. The film aims to identify the wealthiest figures who exist on the fringes of the public eye, explore their styles of living, and expose their views on issues like income disparity.
"They prefer to fly under the radar to avoid envy," observes one reporter early in the film. Others relate their self-imposed isolation to shyness or paranoia. Some heirs might fear their fortunes will be publicly tainted by ties to the Third Reich.
Dirk Rossmann is one subject who isn't weary of exposure. As Founder and CEO of the Rossmann drugstore chain, he hasn't shied from being a public face for his massively successful enterprise. He freely admits that this publicity served as a pleasurable stroke to his ego as well.
Rossmann is a bit of an anomaly amongst billionaires. Unlike other countries like the United States, the perception of wealth is not necessarily prized in Europe. It's not a status to be flaunted, but obscured. The commonality lies in the income inequality plaguing these countries. The working class continues to suffer losses while the riches of the elite continue to multiply.
How well do the rich understand the plights of those who exist below the poverty line? How do they feel about the idea of wealth distribution? Do they hold themselves in any way accountable for the massive economic divide?
The filmmakers follow self-made billionaires, as well as those who have inherited their wealth over generations. We're introduced to entrepreneurs who are investing in innovative new companies they hope will one day flourish into worldwide success stories. Meanwhile, the narrative is framed around the publication of Manager Magazine's special ranking of the country's wealthiest citizens.
Top of the World: The Discreet Lives of the Super-Rich offers probing insights on a variety of public perceptions and private realities.
Directed by: Florian Opitz