DEFA Film Library
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Cinema of East Germany
Iris Gusner is one of very few women to succeed as a feature film director in East Germany. She trained as a director under Mikhail Romm at the renowned VGIK Film Academy in Moscow from 1960-67. After a brief stint with East German television, she moved in 1968 to the DEFA Studio for Feature Films, where she started as assistant director to Konrad Wolf on his film Goya. Her much-heralded debut film, The Dove on the Roof, was banned for showing workers "in distress" and not widely circulated until 2010. She finally achieved broad acclaim in 1979 with her lively portrayal of women workers in All My Girls. Her unique semi-autobiographical feature film, Were the Earth Not Round, was followed by other films that focused on the role of women in the GDR. In 2009, Gusner and (West) German filmmaker Helke Sander published a fascinating autobiographical counterpoint entitled Fantasie und Arbeit: Biographische Zwiesprache (Fantasy and Work: A Biographical Dialog).
A film series is a joint effort between the Goethe-Institut Boston and the DEFA Film Library, which specialize in West and East German films respectively. Pairs of films from both country explore shared themes of the Cold War beyond all walls and boundaries.
A film series commemorating the great turning point – the Wende – that took place in Germany 20 years ago, showcases 10 feature and 4 documentary films made by East German filmmakers from 1988-1994. Organized by the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in collaboration with The Wende Museum, the series features films that got lost in the midst of social change, many of which were never subtitled or screened outside of Germany.The Lost Angel, 1966) and Konrad Wolf (I Was Nineteen, 1967). Simon made his directing debut in 1968, with the children’s film How to Marry a King. His major films include: Till Eulenspiegel (1975), based on a film script by Christa and Gerhard Wolf; The Airship (1983); The Woman and the Stranger (1984), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival; and Jadup and Boel (1981), which was banned by officials and not released until 1988. Since shooting The Ascent of the Chimborazo (1989) in Ecuador, Simon’s work has focused on the life and culture of the indigenous people of Ecuador. Also known as a documentarist, writer and photographer, Simon teaches film workshops for young filmmakers in Ecuador.
Four films based on the work of
renowned East German Jewish writer Jurek Becker are available to book
for your institution, including While All Germans Sleep (Beyer, 1994), Bronstein's Children (Jerzy Kavalerowicz, 1990), Shortcut to Istanbul (Dresen, 1990) and Jacob the Liar (Beyer, 1974)
with a Cause film series
was the most comprehensive retrospective
Shadows and Sojourners: Images of
Jews and Antifascism in East German Film
Included are thirteen subtitled films that range in approach from focusing directly on the Jewish experience to exploring German guilt and the role of anti-Nazi resistance. Featuring such acclaimed German directors as Frank Beyer (Jacob the Liar, Naked Among Wolves), Kurt Maetzig (Marriage in the Shadows, Council of the Gods), Wolfgang Staudte (The Murderers Are among Us, Rotation), and Konrad Wolf (Professor Mamlock, Sterne), the series is suitable for screening at film festivals, cinemathèques and classrooms. Titles are available in different formats, as noted, and can be booked individually.
Divided Heaven: From the Ice Age to the Thaw
DEFA Film Library is offering an intriguing selection of films that
address Berlin divided and united with an emphasis on the East German
perspective. The films on tour will offer a variety of perspectives on
the history and people of this dynamic city, from the Berlin Airlift
and the post-war openness of the divided city, to poetic images that
reflect on urban identities East and West
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