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Artist in Residence 2012: Iris Gusner

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).

Made in West | East Germany

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.

Wende Flicks: Last Films From East Germany 

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.

Artist in Residence 2010: Jörg Foth

Jörg Foth is an insightful analyst of German society and film history, who is deeply familiar with the works of his generation. Starting in the early 1980s, he actively lobbied for a role for the youngest generation of DEFA filmmakers in East German studio structures, many of whom are represented by films in our WENDE FLICKS series. Mentored by director Ulrich Weiβ (Miraculi), Foth himself later became the mentor of director Peter Welz (Burning Life) and was integral to the creation of the Young Filmmakers Group at DEFA, shortly before the East German film studios were closed. His films include Biology!, one of the only East German films to address ecological issues, and Latest from the Da-Da-R, made in collaboration with the cabaret duo of Mensching and Wenzel and featuring the actress Irm Hermann.

Filmmakers Tour 2008: Rainer Simon 

Acclaimed (East) German director Rainer Simon visited North America from September to November 2008.  Most of Simon's films have been newly subtitled. The film tour program includes six feature films and three documentaries.  Rainer Simon started his career at the East German DEFA film studios in 1965, working as an assistant director under Ralf Kirsten (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.

The Films of Jurek Becker

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)
The touring series is supported by the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst, as well as the DEFA Foundation, PROGRESS Film-Verleih, ZDF television, and the Academy for Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg.

Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany

The Rebels with a Cause film series was the most comprehensive retrospective
of East German cinema ever screened in the U.S.  Screened first at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in October 2005, it brought together scholars, directors and actors of the DEFA to present the films and reflect on the political complexities of artistic production in the East German state-owned DEFA studios.  These films were crafted by inventive filmmakers who dared to test the limits of censorship, and whose films’ political engagement and depth add to their creative merit in the context of film history.  For this series of 21 films, the Museum of Modern Art looked for a range of voices and styles from five decades of filmmaking, placing an emphasis on creative energy, artistic innovation, and challenges to authority – hence the title, Rebels with a Cause.  All titles on tour are on newly restored 35mm prints with English subtitles.

Shadows and Sojourners: Images of Jews and Antifascism in East German Film

The Shadows and Sojourners film series is the first North American retrospective of East German films representing the intertwined themes of German/Jewish relations, antifascism, and the Holocaust. Presenting unique views of the Jewish experience and critiques of Nazi Germany seldom seen by U.S. audiences, these classics of the East German antifascist tradition are hailed by the British Film Institute as "the most consistent and coherent analysis of fascism of any national cinema."

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.

Berlin, Divided Heaven: From the Ice Age to the Thaw

The city of Berlin has had a history unlike any other. Early in the century it was a world center of modernism, later the capital of Hitler's Third Reich. Then, after the city was virtually destroyed by war, the iron curtain was drawn through it. Berlin became a microcosm of the Cold War, as the capital of communist German Democratic Republic in the East, and an island city of West Germany, "cut off" from the Federal Republic. The fall of the Wall in 1989 and subsequent unification of Germany the following year began a new and challenging age for Berlin, now the capital of a "new Germany." While this change challenged all Germans, those from the East were most radically affected, as their country longer existed.

The 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
and the architectural effects of unification turmoil. You may select just one, all, or a few, as they
contribute to your own emphasis. All titles on tour have English subtitles.

For questions related to the website please contact
Jessica Hale