A self shooting observational documentary producer/director making engaging, thought-provoking films about real people, often filming over extended timeframes.

Cold War Spies : Synopsis

Days that Shook the World II: Cold War Spies “Gary Powers and the Rudolf Abel Spy Swap”

Drama Documentary
My Role
Executive Producer
Chris Kelly
Production Company
Lion Television
BBC Two Network
History Channel
First UK Transmission dates
10.30pm, 13th Dec. 2004
7pm, 14th Dec. 2004
BBC Two Network
(Repeated both UK and
as well as on DVD)
Digi Beta

The Cold War was a time of mistrust and suspicion. Espionage became the favoured tactic to stay one step ahead of the enemy. Among the Cold War spy stories, two days stand out; the shooting down of America’s top secret U-2 spyplane and the day that the Soviets and Americans traded spies on a bridge in Berlin...

It’s May 1st 1960 and it appears that Cold War relations are starting to thaw. Six months ago, Nikita Khrushchev became the first Soviet Leader to visit America and in two weeks time a key Nuclear Disarmament Treaty will take place in Paris.

Yet behind the facade, America is playing a game of ‘cat and mouse’, desperate to find out the full extent of the Soviet’s military capabilities. The U-2 Spy plane is their secret weapon and can fly higher than any other plane, photographing military installations from 13 miles up in the sky.

This is a dramatised reconstruction of the last U-2 over-flight of the Soviet Union based on personal testimony from those directly involved. They include the US pilot, Gary Powers, the Russian Major responsible for shooting down the plane and the local peasant who was first on the scene.

It’s February 10th 1962. The most dramatic spy exchange of the Cold War is about to take place on the Glienicker Bridge in Berlin. Two years ago, Gary Powers, an American U-2 Pilot, was shot down over Sverdlovsk, some 650 miles south of Moscow. After a show trial in Moscow he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in one of Siberia’s worst prisons, Vladimir Prison. The American government now want him back.

They approached 45 year old New York lawyer, James Donovan, to see whether he could effect a trade for Powers, since he represented Soviet Master Spy, Colonel Abel, who was caught in Brooklyn, New York, after one of his accomplices defected.

It is a swap that continually threatens to spiral out of control, as Donovan’s adversary Secretary Schischkin, Head of the KGB in Western Europe, continually threatens to keep Powers. It is an event that will pave the way for future Cold War exchanges, but remains the most sensational, as it continually teeters on the brink of collapse right until the actual exchange.

Filmed on location in England and Berlin.