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Sonnensucher (Sunseekers)

1958/1972, East Germany (DEFA), b/w, 115 min.
Dir.: Konrad Wolf
Karl Georg Egel and Paul Wiens
Camera: Werner Bermann
Music: Hanns-Dieter Hosalla
Cast: Manja Behrens, Ulrike Germer, Guenther Simon, Willi Schade
16mm, English subtitles
- renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:

Sun Seekers was banned in 1958 at the urging of the USSR, since it treats Soviet/German relations in mining uranium in the GDR's Wismut region, to support the nuclear arms race. Encouraged by the "thaw" promised by the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Konrad Wolf's film presents a highly dramatic and differentiated view of the Nazi past, Stalinist political practices, and the energetic chaos of the early postwar period. The film's style combines Wolf's Russian sensibilities with echoes of Italian neo-realism as well as Pabst's Kameradschaft (1931). Releasing this film was one of Wolf's first priorities when a new regime took power in the GDR in 1972, and in 1989 the film was revived along with the banned films of 1965 as part of DEFA's best - if thwarted - tradition.

About the Director:

On October 20, 1925 Konrad Wolf was born in Hechingen, Baden-Württemberg. His father, Friedrich Wolf, was a prominent doctor as well as a writer, known especially for his anti-fascist activism. Because of Friedrich Wolf's political activities, the family went into exile in 1934. In March of that year, they settled in Moscow. Konrad and his brother Markus attended the German Karl-Liebknecht-School in Moscow. In 1936 the Wolf family became citizens of the Soviet Union. In December of 1942, at 17 years of age, Konrad voluntarily enlisted in the Red Army. In January he was sent to the front, where he served primarily as an interpreter. He took part in the liberation of Warsaw in 1945 and was later awarded the Red Star for his military service. After the war ended, Wolf worked for the Berliner Zeitung as a reporter of local news and took part in the founding of DEFA. In 1954 Wolf began his career as a director with DEFA. Over the course of this career, he directed numerous films and became internationally renowned for his work, especially his anti-fascist films.

Wolf took over the position of President of the Academy of Arts in 1965, a post that he held for 17 years. He died on March 7, 1982 before completing his final film Busch Singt. He received numerous awards for his filmmaking, such as the Karlovy Vary Grand Prize for Lissy in 1957, the Special prize of the Jury at Cannes 1959 for Sterne, and Prize for the Arts of the Society for German-Soviet Friendship for Sonnensucher and Ich war neunzehn in 1975.

Major Films: 

Einmal ist keinmal (1954/55), Genesung (1956), Lissy (1957), Sonnensucher (1958), Sterne (1959), Professor Mamlock (1960/61), Der geteilte Himmel (1963/64), Der kleine Prinz (1966), Ich war neunzehn (1968), Goya (1971), Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz (1974), Mama, ich lebe (1977), Solo Sunny (1980), Busch singt (1982).

Related reading:

Byg, Barton. "Konrad Wolf: From Anti-Fascism to Gegenwartsfilm." Studies in GDR Culture and Society, 5: Selected Papers from the Tenth New Hampshire Symposium on the German Democratic Republic. Margy Gerber, ed. (1985): 115-124.

Coulson, Anthony S. "Paths of Discovery: The Films of Konrad Wolf." DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. Seán Allan and John Sandford, eds. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 164-182.

Good, Jennifer. "'So begannen wir und wurden—Sonnensucher': Konrad Wolf's Artistic Interpretation of Changing GDR/USSR Relations." Ms. Currently available in DEFA Film Criticism in English: An Anthology. University of Massachusetts Amherst, DEFA Film Library, 1999.

Silberman, Marc. "Remembering History: The Filmmaker Konrad Wolf." New German Critique 49 (Winter 1990): 163-191.

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