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SOLIDARITY! DEFA and Latin America

The DEFA Film Library’s 4th East German Summer Film Institute

Please Contact filmtour@german.umass.edu with ANY Travel Details!

East German Film Series                                                           Cuba-Film Festival

June 25-28, 2007                                                                          June 22-24, 2007

June 25-28, 2007
Screenings free and open to the public.
Most films in GERMAN, with simultaneous interpretation into English.

Monday 6/25

2:00 - 5:00 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College

Augenzeuge Newsreels
(GDR) 6/19/1972 (#26): Fidel Castro Visits the GDR
(GDR) 6/11/1976 (#24): Cuban Cement Works
Eyewitness was the weekly newsreel played in East German cinemas from 1946 through 1980; they display the official version of world news shown to East Germans. Our two examples show Fidel Castro's visit to the East Germany in 1972, and solidarity between East German and Cuban workers building a Cuban cement factory in 1976.

Three Letters (Drei Briefe)
(GDR) Max Jaap, 1962 (b/w, 19')
Three international students write letters home about their time in East Germany. Antonio Dega, a Cuban studying shipbuilding, writes home about the beauty of the Baltic Sea and studying in German. Julienne, from Togo, praises the training she is receiving in midwifery in Dresden. Mohammed Kasim, an Iraqi in Berlin, builds television sets for sale in the GDR.

When You Think of Chile (Wenn du an Chile denkst)
(GDR) Konrad Weiss, 1977 (b/w, 24')
Konrad Weiss' lyrical, music-filled homage to Chile's struggle for social justice addresses East German youth. He focuses on the lives of Chilean children as a means to document the situation in Chile in the years before and after Pinochet's military coup. In simple terms, Margareta chronicles the rise of Salvador Allende's Unidad Popular and its success in bringing prosperity to Chile's population. Esteban, one of a poor Chilean farmer's eight children, looks to Allende for liberation from 300 years of struggle against Spanish imperial influence.

Song International (clips)
(GDR) Jürgen Böttcher, 1971 (b/w, 45')
Part of an international leftwing movement focusing on songs of political struggle, the Festival of Political Song took place in East Berlin every year from 1970 to 1990. Founded and organized by East German political music groups, the Festival was to be a place for young people from around the world to meet and exchange songs and ideas based on anti-imperialist internationalism. This film documents the 1971 Festival, whose participants joined together to demand the release of Angela Davis from prison in the USA. Groups from all over the world, including Chile's Quilapayún, perform their "revolutionary" message, and the film starts with a performance of Lyric Song Club performing “Left March,” by Hanns Eisler and Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Gladys Marìn – Chile
(GDR) Horst Winter, 1974, 16', b/w
Gladys Marin (1941-2005), a member of the Chilean Communist Party and an anti-Pinochet activist, visited the GDR and other socialist countries after leaving Chile in 1974. This film documents the activities of the International Solidarity Movement, which fought for the release from prison of Luis Corvalán, the Secretary-General of the Chilean Communist Party and helped Chilean democrats immigrate to socialist countries. While the film cites 1,000 Chilean immigrants in East Germany, statistics elsewhere register 2,000 to 5,000. The film recalls the brutal killing of many Chileans during Pinochet's coup – including folk singer Victor Jara – and details the political and financial support offered to progressive forces in Chile by people in socialist countries.

Venceremos solidaridad – We Will Triumph through Solidarity (clips)
(Venceremos solidaridad – Wir werden siegen durch die Solidarität)
(GDR) Joachim Hadaschik, 1977, 45', color
Luis Corvalán, the Secretary-General of the Chilean Communist Party, who lived in the Soviet Union from 1976 until 1990, visited East Germany in early 1977. In this film, he meets with leading officials of the East German Communist Party, ordinary East Germans and Chilean immigrants, and emphasizes the ongoing importance of the support offered by the International Solidarity Movement.

Strong Bonds Unite Us (Uns einen starke Bande) (clips)
(GDR) Joachim Hadaschik, 1980, 39', color
Party Secretary Erich Honecker and leading members of the East German government visited Cuba in 1980. This film shows their meetings with Fidel Castro and Cuban workers, as well as displays of industrialization and progress in the socialist island's development.

8:00 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
SONG OF THE RIVERS (Lied der Ströme)
(GDR) Joris Ivens, 1954, 100', b/w
An allegorical documentary about the workers of the world, whose common destinies and hopes for peace are symbolically united by the rivers that run through their respective lands. Originally filmed for the 1953 Congress of the Weltgewerkschaftbund (WGB) in Vienna, Song of the Rivers became the classic filmic expression of the International Solidarity Movement. The film was shot on the Volga, the Mississippi, the Nile, the Yangtze, the Amazon and the Ganges and combines these images of five continents with the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and the poetry of both Bertolt Brecht and Paul Robeson.

Tuesday 6/26

2:00 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
THE LIGHT ON THE GALLOWS (Das Licht auf dem Galgen)
(GDR, in collaboration with Cuba & Bulgaria) Helmut Nitzschke, 1976, 103', color
In 1793, the French are at war with England. Two friends, Debuisson and Sasportas, are sent to Jamaica, the English colony where their mission is to free the slaves. Bit by bit they are able to recruit people for their operation. Meanwhile, Napoleon comes to power in France. Debuisson, the nephew of a Jamaican rum producer, fails in postponing the revolt until instructions come from the new government and, when a black man kills a warden, events spiral out of control. Based on an Anna Seghers' story, which also inspired Heiner Müller's play "The Mission," which interprets the story as a debate about Stalinism.

4:00 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
(GDR, in collaboration with Cuba & Bulgaria) Konrad Petzold, 1971, 100', color
Florida, 1830 – Of all eastern Native American tribes, only the Seminoles have resisted being moved to reservations. Having retreated to Florida, they live a simple horticultural life. But white plantation owners, angry at the increasing numbers of black slaves fleeing to Seminole protection, want to take their land. Plantation owner Raynes, in particular, has convinced the military to wipe out the Seminoles. His rival Moore, a sawmill owner from the North who has a Seminole wife, is against slavery and considers it unprofitable. Chief Osceola sees the coming danger; he tries to avoid provoking the whites, but cannot prevent the war that breaks out in 1835. Osceola was primarily filmed in Cuba.

8 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
THE ASCENT OF THE CHIMBORAZO (Die Besteigung des Chimborazo)
(East and West German co-production) Rainer Simon, 1989, 110', color
In German with English subtitles
A film about Alexander von Humboldt's 1803 scientific expedition to what was thought to be the highest mountain in the world, the Chimborazo in Ecuador. At great risk to his own life as well as those of his companions, Humboldt carefully measures and documents flora, fauna, soil, rocks, water – even the air itself. His encounters with the indigenous people leads to a fascination with their cultural practices and language, and shows German culture and society in a new light. With their help, the expedition survives snow, cold, loss of direction and the thin mountain air.

Wednesday 6/27

2:00 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
I WAS, I AM, I WILL BE (Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein)
(GDR) Walter Heynowski & Gerhard Scheumann, 1974, 80', b/w
I Was, I Am, I Will Be offers a glimpse into Chilean concentration camps in spring 1974 and was one of the first international films to expose this element of the Pinochet regime. The filmmakers gained exclusive access to two of the largest camps, Chacabuco and Pisagua, against the explicit orders of the Junta Chancellery. In interviews with prisoners – as well as residents of northern Chile, the Norte Grande – the film attempts to convey "the oppressive feeling of fascism as an everyday reality."
Heynowski and Scheumann were prominent East German documentary filmmakers; granted their own studio, H&S, from 1969 to 1989 they filmed 43 documentaries on world revolutionary movements. Since the fall of the wall, Heynowski and Scheumann have been criticized for a fanatical adherence to party doctrine, and the inclusion of false information and unethical behavior in their documentaries.

8 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
PRELUDE 11 (Preludio 11)
(GDR and Cuban co-production) Kurt Maetzig, 1963, 91', b/w
Codeword: Prelude. Daniela – a single mother, whose boyfriend left for the US – believes wholeheartedly in Cuba’s revolutionary new order. Meanwhile, in Florida, a plot is afoot. Under the command of an American officer, four Cubans ex-patriots and a Guatemalan land on the Cuban coast to prepare a US invasion of the island. Daniela’s superior, the corrupt Cuban officer Palomino, is secretly helping the invaders and the young woman becomes entangled in the intrigue. Based on a novel by Wolfgang Schreyer, this film was shot on location in the face of escalating international tensions.

Thursday 6/28

2:00 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
TANGO DREAM (Tango Traum)
(GDR) Helke Misselwitz, 1985, 18', color
Sitting at her typewriter, listening to tango music, she dreams. Buenos Aires and Montevideo are far away, a different world where, long ago, the tango came into being. A dream about dance and music, as well as about unfulfilled desire and wanderlust behind the Berlin Wall.

2:30 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
ISABEL ON THE STAIRS (Isabel auf der Treppe)
(GDR) Hannelore Unterberg, 1984, 69', color
Twelve-year-old Isabel and her mother live in East Berlin. They escaped from Chile, where her father is fighting against the Pinochet dictatorship. At first the neighbors made an effort to welcome them; then they became more distant. But Isabel and Philipp, the neighbors’ son, are close friends. Though Isabel’s mother has a job and spends time with other Chilean exiles, she feels lonely and unwelcome in Germany. Every day, Isabel sits on the stairs waiting; she has not seen or heard from her father for six years. Based on a radio drama by Waltraud Lewin.

8 pm - Stirn Auditorium, Amherst College
BLOND TANGO (Blonder Tango)
(GDR) Lothar Warneke, 1985, 120', color
For five years Rogelio, a Chilean exile, has been in the GDR, where he works as a lighting technician at a theater. Though his colleagues try to make him feel welcome, he feels lonely and isolated. He dreams about the soubrette Cornelia and transforms his dream into reality in his letters to his mother. He writes about how happy he is – in this fantasy relationship – and about his marriage plans. On the same day that Rogelio decides he cannot continue with this lie, he learns that his mother died a year earlier – and that his uncle has been writing letters in her name to protect him from the grief of her death. Based on the novel by Omar Saavedra Santis.

June 22-29, 2007

Held in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, the DEFA Film Library’s biennial Summer Film Institutes provide an opportunity for scholars to spend a week together in a relaxed setting watching movies and discussing East German film from a variety of perspectives. Under the direction of Professor Barton Byg, the 2007 East Film Institute will explore the relationship between East Germany and Latin America in the domain of film and filmmaking. The Institute will be preceded by a weekend Cuba–Film Festival, featuring films about Cuba and by Cuban directors, which will provide a counterpoint to East German titles screened during the Institute.

After the Second World War, the commitment to international solidarity framed relations between East Germany and leftist liberation struggles around the world. This Institute will explore how international solidarity was represented in feature and documentary films, and to what extent it countered preconceived notions of race and culture common to Germany and Europe. Institute discussions will crystallize around two “case studies:” the early importance of Cuba coincided with an optimistic period in European communism, between the Twentieth Soviet Party Congress and the crack-downs effected in the GDR in 1965/66 and in Prague in 1968; later events in Chile provide a strongly contrasting case, with a revolution carried out at the ballot box and then subverted by the US-supported Pinochet. Specific topic areas covered during the Institute will include:

* Exploration and Romanticism
* Colonialism
* Race and Resistance
* Cold War and Neo-Imperialism
* Solidarity – East German Documentary Classics
* Exile, Longing, Globalization.

The focus on DEFA and Latin America raises a series of important questions, including:

* How did antifascism and Cold War conflicts affect relations between the GDR and Latin America?
* What was the cultural impact of GDR Solidarity Committees and of cultural, political and economic exchanges?
* What role did the presence of exiles play within GDR culture as a whole?

The classic expression of international solidarity appeared in two world-renowned East German documentaries, Lied der Ströme (Ivens, 1954) and Mein Kind (Ivens & Machalz, 1956). We will also investigate the intensification of Cold War politics manifested in the controversial investigative approaches of documentarists Heynowski and Scheumann. More complex perhaps than documentary films is the relationship of East German feature film production to international relations. Feature films address a wide range of themes, including long-standing European attitudes towards the exotic, postwar internationalist commitment, the experience of exile and Cold War politics. Well-suited to an exploration of the first two themes are films situated in the historic past, such as Die Besteigung des Chimborazo (Simon 1989), which portrays the Latin American expedition of Alexander von Humboldt, and anti-colonial themes in films such as Osceola (Petzold 1971) and Das Licht auf dem Galgen (Nitzschke 1976). Issues of exile and longing are thematized in feature films such as Blonder Tango (Warneke 1986). Analysis of co-productions, such as Kurt Maetzig’s Cold War thriller, Preludio 11 (GDR/Cuba, 1964), can give us insight into both representational issues and bi-lateral institutional relations.

The Cuba-Film Festival and East German Summer Film Institute on SOLIDARITY! DEFA and Latin America are made possible with the help of the DEFA Foundation, PROGRESS Film-Verleih, the Max Kade Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Department of German Studies at Amherst College, the Amherst Cinema Arts Center, the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, and German and Scandinavian Studies & Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

For more information, contact the DEFA Film Library:

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