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The Films of Jurek Becker: A Touring Film Series

Four films based on the work of renowned East German Jewish writer Jurek Becker are available to book for your institution:

•    While All Germans Sleep (Beyer, 1994)
•    Bronstein's Children (Jerzy Kavalerowicz, 1990)
•    Shortcut to Istanbul (Dresen, 1990)
•    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.

Jurek Becker (1937-1997), one of the most important (East) German authors of the 20th century, was born in Poland in 1937. As a child he lived in the Jewish ghetto of Lodz, Poland, and survived the Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. His novel Jacob the Liar, published in 1969, established his reputation worldwide. Many of Becker's novels, short stories and scripts for television and cinema productions focus on explorations of Jewish identity.

Since the author's death, Christine Becker has edited and published a collection of her husband's letters ('Ihr Unvergleichlichen!'- 2004), followed by a collection of his essays, lectures and interviews entitled Mein Vater, die Deutschen und ich: Aufsätze, Vorträge, Interviews (2007). Both appear with Suhrkamp Verlag. Christine Becker is sometimes available to introduce the films on the tour.

Jacob the Liar
Dir. Frank Beyer, East Germany, 1974, color, 96 min.

Jacob invents news stories to bolster the spirits of the other Jews living in a Polish ghetto under Nazi occupation. The bitter comedy, written by Jurek Becker, is loaded with human quirks and nuances. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1977, this film was remade in Hollywood in 1999, starring Robin Williams.

Available Formats: 35mm, 16mm, DVD, VHS

Bronstein’s Children
Dir. Jerzy Kavalerowicz, Germany, 1990, color, 98 min.

A teenage son discovers his father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and two others beating an old man who is handcuffed to a bed. The captive is a former Nazi guard (Rolf Hoppe), now held by his Jewish former prisoners. The film is a story of the intergenerational conflicts and questions of personal justice arising from the Holocaust.

Available Formats: 35mm, VHS, DVD

Shortcut to Istanbul
Dir. Andreas Dresen, Germany, 1990, b/w, 42 min.

A story about an encounter between a young Turkish guest worker living in West Berlin and an East Berlin girl, a few days after the Wall is opened. Filled with helplessness, insecurity and comedy, this film is a parable about the relationship between East and West Germans, and between Germans and foreigners, as they slowly try to learn to understand each other. Prix Europe 1992, Prize of the Signees of the Oberhausen Manifesto 1991, Grand Prix Poitiers, France 1991. Based on Becker’s short story Romeo.

Available Formats: DVD

While All Germans Sleep
Dir. Frank Beyer, Germany, 1994, color, 72 min.

After 50 year, Marek remembers his dangerous adventure as a 5-year-old, when he and his friend, Itzek left a Polish transit camp one night in 1942 - a few days before their evacuation to Auschwitz - to go get the toys they forgot at the ghetto. Based on Becker's personal memories and his 1980 published short story The Wall.

Available Formats: DVD

If your institution or cinema would like to join the tour, please contact Hiltrud at video@german.umass.edu

DEFA Film Library Homepage

For questions related to the website please contact
Jessica Hale