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In Memoriam – Frank Beyer (1932-2006) at The Museum of Modern Art

Frank Beyer, known for having directed some of the most powerful and historically significant films in East Germany, died on October 1, 2006. The Museum of Modern Art will show two of his internationally renowned films during the months of February 2007 in honor of his work and life. Variety praised Frank Beyer as “one of the most famous and controversial filmmakers.”

Read former DEFA screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase's Eulogy for Frank Beyer

Both films are in German with English subtitles and will be shown at The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019; (212) 708-9400; www.moma.org. Admission: $10/8/6 (not including Museum gallery admission)

Jacob the Liar (Jakob der Lügner) (1974)
Screenplay by Jurek Becker. With Vlastimil Brodský, Erwin Geschonneck, Reimar Johannes Baur, Armin Mueller-Stahl. 101 min.
Fri. Feb. 9 at 8:00 pm. Sun. Feb. 11 at 2:00 pm. Fri. Feb. 16 at 8:00 pm.
(2/9/07 screening introduced by Prof. Barton Byg, DEFA Film Library, UMass Amherst)

Jacob the Liar is set in a Jewish ghetto in Poland, under Nazi occupation. Jacob is a man who becomes a hero in spite of himself – by inventing news reports about an impending Nazi defeat to bolster the spirits of others in the ghetto. A film about hope, human dignity, responsibility, and guilt, Jacob the Liar was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1977.The film was remade in Hollywood in 1999 and is considered an important model for Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1997).

Naked among Wolves (Nackt unter Wölfen) (1963)
Screenplay by Bruno Apitz and Frank Beyer. With Erwin Geschonneck, Gerry Wolff, Herbert Köfer, Armin Mueller-Stahl. 124 min. Sat. Feb. 10 at 7:30 pm. Thurs. Feb. 15 at 8:00 pm. Thurs. Feb. 22 at 6:30 pm.

Set just prior to the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, Naked among Wolves is the true story of the prisoners who risked their lives to hide a small Jewish boy from their Nazi captors. Shot in Buchenwald just 17 years after its liberation, Naked among Wolves features many actors who had themselves been imprisoned by the Nazis. Based on Bruno Apitz’s famous autobiographical novella (1958), this movie became a prize-wining DEFA film of international renown.

Frank Beyer studied directing in the early 1950s at the famed Prague Film School (FAMU), with Milos Forman, among others. During this time he assisted important directors from the DEFA Studios in East Berlin. His early films, after he joined the Studios as a director in 1957, dealt mostly with antifascist topics. His 1963 feature, Naked among Wolves (Nackt unter Wölfen), was the first East German film to portray life in a concentration camp. When Trace of Stones (Spur der Steine) was banned in 1966 by GDR state officials for being “politically inappropriate,” Beyer’s film career was abruptly interrupted; he didn’t direct another film until his return to directing with the 1974 international success, Jacob the Liar (Jakob der Lügner)
, which was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film.  Since German unification, Beyer primarily worked in television, creating feature films such as St. Nicholas Church (1995), an account of the collapse of the GDR. In 1990 Beyer became a member of the Academy of Arts and in 1991 he was awarded the State Film Prize in Gold for lifetime achievement. The Film Museum Potsdam recently purchased the Frank Beyer collection, including materials that provide an in-depth view of his life and work.  Frank Beyer died on October 1, 2006, aged 74, in Berlin after a long illness.

These memorial screenings were organized by the Department of Film and Media, The Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut New York and the DEFA Film Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.


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