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The Power of Images: Representing Germany Ten Years after Reunification

Conference sponsored by DEFA Film Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Held in the Hotel Northampton Ballroom and at Northampton Film Festival Sites
Downtown Northampton, MA, 4-7 November 1999

Wednesday, 3 November:

Film Screening:

Jacob the Liar (Jakob der Lügner),  Dir. Frank Beyer, 1975. Director present.

Thursday, 4 November:

Festive opening of the conference

Since this evening coincides with the 10th anniversary of the decisive Alexanderplatz demonstration that precipitated the opening of the Berlin Wall five days later, a panel of distinguished guests will discuss what images of Germany were invoked in both East and West in those turbulent days and what has become of them since. Participants include one of the leading figures of German film of recent decades: Frank Beyer, whose Oscar®-nominated film Jacob the Liar will be screened at the Northampton Film Festival on 3 November.

The 6: 00 program begins with a welcome by Barton Byg, Director of the DEFA Film Library (UMass) followed by opening remarks by: Fred Byron, Vice Chancellor for Research (UMass); Lee R. Edwards, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts (UMass); and Dr. Lutz Goergens, Deputy Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The opening evening’s film program will feature the 1999 feature Night Shapes (Nachtgestalten), set in contemporary Berlin (director Andreas Dresen present), shown at 7:00, and a poetic documentarist’s view of the Berlin Wall: Jürgen Böttchers’ presentation of his film The Wall (Die Mauer), shown at 9:30. Moderator will be Kraft Wetzel, one of Germany’s leading film critics.

Friday, 5 November

Book Table: Schoen Books, Hotel Northampton Lobby. Schoen Books at the Old Firehouse in South Deerfield, MA specializes in new and out of print books concerning European history of the 20th century with a particular interest in German history, the Holocaust-works by exile writers and refugees and Jewish life and culture. They carry books in French, German and Hebrew and do searches for college libraries and academics. They issue catalogues monthly that go via post and e-mail. They can be visited by appointment at 413-665-0066 or schoen@schoenbooks.com

Panel: Unification and Historical Memory Session I, Moderator: Prof. Karen Remmler, Mount Holyoke College

  • "Germany’s Holocaust Memorial Problem--and Mine," Prof. James Young, University of Massachusetts
  • "Lenin’s Wagon or The Myth of Authentic Sites," Holger Teschke, Author and Dramaturge

 Panel: Unification and Historical Memory Session II

  • "Debate or Misunderstanding? Walser, Bubis, and the Prospects for German-Jewish Dialogue," Prof. Jay Rosellini, Purdue University
  • "Between Yesterday and Tomorrow--Searching Jews in Germany," Eveline Goodman-Thau, Jerusalem

Panel: Literature, Cultural Studies and Popular Culture Session I, Moderator: Prof. Sara Lennox, University of Massachusetts

  • "Ten Years After: Gender Relations in a Changed World. New Challenges for Women’s and Gender Studies," Prof. Irene Dölling, Director, Institut für Frauenforschung, Universität Potsdam
  • "Femmes Fatales in the Wild East: Gendered Allegories of Europe in Post-Unification Popular Culture," Prof. Katrin Sieg, Indiana University

Panel: Literature, Cultural Studies and Popular Culture Session II

  • "Spies and Other Nasty People: How DEFA Saw the West in the Berlin-Wall Era," Ralf Schenk, Film Critic and Historian
  • "What Is/Was a Wall: Perspectives from Marginalized Voices," Marta Carlson and Amy Harper, University of Massachusetts (with video presentation)

Reception at ICESTORM International, 78 Main Street, Suite 401. ICESTORM International invites all conference participants to join them in celebrating the first DEFA film to be released on DVD, Jacob the Liar, and the new catalogue of video releases.

Northampton Film Festival: The Valley Advocate Weekend Kick-off Party, Northampton Center for the Arts. Admission with separate fee or Film Festival Full Pass.

Saturday, 6 November

Book Table: Atticus Albion Bookstore, Hotel Northampton Lobby. Book table with German and film studies books.

Panel: Perspectives on the German Media (film/television), Session I

  • "German Television’s Mid-Atlantic Accent: From Sunset Strip to St. Pauli Strip," Prof. Michael Geisler, Middlebury College (VT)
  • Prof. Hansjürgen Rosenbauer, Director, ORB Television for Brandenburg
  • "From RIAS Berlin (Radio in the American Sector) to the RIAS Berlin Commission: Keeping the U.S.-German Friendship in Broadcasting Alive," Rainer Hasters, RIAS Berlin Commission

Panel: Perspectives on the German Media (film/television), Session II. Moderator: Prof. Barton Byg, DEFA Film Library

  • Kraft Wetzel, Media Curator and Film Critic (Die Zeit, Neue Züricher Zeitung)
  • Kevin Crane, Programming and New Technology Services Manager, WGBY/57 Television, Springfield

Panel: German/U.S. Cultural Interchanges in Berlin as New Capital City, A Roundtable/Discussion

  • Prof. Karen Ruoff Kramer, Director, Stanford University Berlin Program
  • Dr. Volker Hassemer, Director, Partner für Berlin
  • Ingrid Scheib-Rothbart, Broadway Media Consulting/Fassbinder Foundation
  • Discussion with other conference presenters

East German Underground films. Claus Löser, filmmaker and curator, will give an introduction to the films. Admission with separate fee or Film Festival Full Pass.

Northampton Film Festival: Artists’ Reception. Admission with separate fee or Film Festival Full Pass.

Sunday, 7 November

Panel: Film Studies/Cultural Studies

  • "Ich wollte ewig einen richtigen Film machen! Und als es soweit war, konnte ich’s nicht!: Parables of Failure in Three Films from the DEFA Nachwuchsgeneration in 1989-90," Laura Jackson, Western Kentucky University
  • "Ghosts of Babelsberg. Narratives of the Wendefilm", Massimo Locatelli, Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen, Potsdam
  • "Der Potsdamer Platz: Cinematic Cyphers," Ingeborg Majer O’Sickey, SUNY Binghamton
  • "East-German James Bond with Steel-Blue Eyes: Armin Mueller-Stahl, DEFA Stardom and the Image of the Socialist Germany," Claudia Fellmer, University of Southampton, UK

Northampton Film Festival Film-Making Forum, "Writers and Directors," Northampton Center for the Arts. Frank Beyer and Ralf Schenk will participate in a forum on how directors and writers work together. Admission with separate fee or Film Festival Full Pass.

Northampton Film Festival:

The Northampton Film Festival will feature four programs in cooperation with the DEFA Film Library (University of Massachusetts), and ICESTORM International (Northampton, MA) with support from Progress Film-Verleih GmbH, and the DEFA Foundation, Berlin:

  • The original Jacob the Liar (Frank Beyer, 1975), remade by Columbia Pictures in 1999 with Robin Williams, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Alan Arkin, Wednesday, 3 November, 2:00 , Academy of Music. Frank Beyer will be present at the screening, and a reception at Silverscape Designs follows (4:00-6:00). After the conference, Mr. Beyer will travel with the film to New York for screenings at the Museum of Modern Art on November 9 and 11 (see daily program also).
  • The School Ghost (Das Schulgespenst), a DEFA children’s film, Saturday, 6 November, 10:00, Academy of Music. Admission with separate fee or Film Festival Full Pass.
  • The Sons of the Great Mother Bear (Die Söhne der großen Bärin), a DEFA Western, Saturday, 6 November, 1:00, McConnell Hall, Smith College. Admission with separate fee or Film Festival Full Pass.
  • East German Underground films, Saturday, 6 November, 3:30, McConnell Hall, Smith College. Claus Löser, filmmaker and curator, will give an introduction to the films (see daily program also).
  • Lisa Lewenz’s documentary A Letter Without Words, Sunday, 7 November, 6:00 at Wright Hall, Smith College as part of the Film Festival’s Jewish series.


  • In the conference space, Partner für Berlin will hold an exhibition on the development of Berlin as the new federal capital of Germany.
  • In the Film Festival Center, there will be an exhibit of finalists from a competition among UMass students to design a video cover for ICESTORM’s video release of East German underground films.
  • In the Gallery of the the Northampton Center for the Arts, the exhibition Zeitenwende, a photo series by Bernd Lasdin of former East Germans before and after unification, will be sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Boston.


The DEFA Film Library gratefully acknowledges support from numerous sources in the Five Colleges and beyond. These include: ICESTORM International Inc. and Northampton Film Festival (local partners); General Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany; Goethe-Institut Boston; Inter Nationes (Bonn); Progress Film-Verleih GmbH; Partner für Berlin, the RIAS Berlin-Kommission, the Max Kade Foundation, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, a State Organization of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the Five Colleges: Five College Lecture Fund, Five College Film Council, Hampshire College European Studies Program, Amherst College German Department, Mount Holyoke College German Studies Department, Mount Holyoke College Film Studies Department. At the University of Massachusetts: Vice Chancellor for Research Frederick W. Byron, Jr.; Dean Lee R. Edwards, College of Humanities and Fine Arts; the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies, the European Studies Program, and the Departments of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Judaic Studies.

Also at the conference: the premiere of ICESTORM International, Inc.’s video release of the documentary The Fall of the Wall: The Path to German Reunification, and When the Wall came Tumbling Down: 50 Hours that Changed the World.

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