Germans are reliving the euphoria of the month-long World Cup through a new documentary from a director who followed the German team and manager Juergen Klins-mann onto the team bus and into the locker room.
Director Soenke Wortmann received unusual access to make Germany: A Summer Fairy Tale, spending six-to-eight hours a day with the team to give viewers an inside look that includes Klins-mann's motivational talks to his players.
The 108-minute film opened in 100 theaters across Germany on Tuesday and will open in more later in the week. Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the red-carpet premiere at the Berlinale Palast theater at Potsdamer Platz, autographing soccer balls and film posters.
Other guests included Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, German soccer hero and chief World Cup organizer Franz Beckenbauer, team captain Michael Ballack, and current national team manager Joachim Loew.
Earlier in the day, Merkel praised the way Germany hosted the World Cup during her speech on Germany Unity Day, a national holiday marking the reunification of Germany in 1990 at the end of the Cold War.
"The world got to know a new Germany," she said.
Wortmann, who shot much of the film himself with a hand-held camera, told reporters at the premiere that he was now having trouble getting used to just watching the German national team play on television after spending so much time with them.
"It's an unaccustomed thing to see the national team games on television again," he said.
The World Cup "changed Germany in a positive way, and I have the feeling the country has become a bit more relaxed," he said.
Although Germany finished third, the team far exceeded expectations and delighted fans with its high-powered offense under Klinsmann. Its offensive style of play was seen as an example of a hidebound German institution willing to open up and change, and the tournament helped Germans learn to wave their flag after decades of reticence connected to the legacy of the Nazi regime and World War II.
It was also an organization success, with media speculation about racist attacks and hooliganism failing to materialize. Instead, the tournament became a monthlong street party.
"It was beautiful to feel how touched and moved the players were," Wortmann said.
Franz Beckenbauer has apologized for questioning South Africa's ability to host the 2010 World Cup.
Beckenbauer, head of the organizing committee of this summer's World Cup in Germany, caused a stir last month when he reportedly said the tournament -- the first to be held in Africa -- was "beset by big problems."
His comments came amid national and international concerns over the state of stadium construction, transportation arrangements and security plans in South Africa.
Irvin Khoza, chairman of the local organizing committee, released a letter from Beckenbauer on Tuesday.
"I am very sorry that these statements were falsely portrayed and I shall do everything in my power to support the World Cup in South Africa 2010," he said.
In the letter addressed to his South African counterpart, Danny Jordaan, Beckenbauer said he was surprised at the outcry and that he had been responding to "media reports that there are certain difficulties relating to stadia construction, etc."
"At no point did I mention that Germany could be a substitute organizer. On the contrary, it is my own and my colleagues' understanding that it is most important that the upcoming World Cup in South Africa is a success," he said.