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MoMA presents series from DEFA studios, illustrating wealth and innovation of filmmaking in former East Germany

Series of Features and Shorts Includes Works Banned by Former East German Officials

Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany

The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters
October 7–23, 2005

NEW YORK, September 19, 2005
—The Museum of Modern Art presents a series of 21 films produced by the German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) state-owned DEFA (Deutsche Film AG) film studios. The films in Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany, a collaboration among MoMA’s Department of Film and Media, the Goethe-Institut New York, and the DEFA Film Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst, runs October 7–23, 2005, at The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. The series, which will tour throughout the United States and Germany, is the most comprehensive retrospective of East German cinema ever screened in the U.S. and includes several works banned by the Socialist Unity Party in 1965 and never before screened in this country. Several of the works in the series utilize the medium to undercut the communist regime in humorous and satirical ways. The dramatic features, documentaries, and animations in the series chronicle the angst, insecurities, and problems of identity faced by German citizens under the postwar Communist administration, as well as their energy and buoyant spirits as they dealt with this new regime. Almost all of the films will be screened in new 35mm prints, in German, with new or improved English subtitles, and several posters from films in the series will be exhibited in the Titus 1 Lobby. The opening night screening (October 7) of Egon Günther’s Der Dritte (Her Third, 1971) will be introduced by its lead actor, Jutta Hoffmann. The exhibition is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film and Media, The Museum of Modern Art; and Juliane Wanckel, Program Manager, Goethe-Institut New York; with Hiltrud Schulz, DEFA Film Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Over the course of almost 50 years (1946–92), the DEFA studios produced more than 7,500 films, ranging from dramatic features dealing with the problems of rebuilding war-ravaged Germany and the chilly climate of interpersonal relationships through the Cold War years to Grimm’s fairytale adaptations shot in the company’s Studio Babelsberg. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the films, many of which had rarely been seen in Germany, have been screened to acclaim both domestically and internationally: in recent international critics’ surveys more than a dozen have been voted among the 100 best German films ever.

The titles in the exhibition reflect the sociopolitical contradictions under which the directors labored, often to the extent of the films being banned: the 1965 Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany was responsible for censoring much of DEFA’s output. After 1965 directors learned to convey messages of dissent more subtly. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, coincided with the premiere of DEFA’s first feature dealing with homosexuality—Coming Out, directed by Heiner Carow. Carow is represented in this series by Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The Legend of Paul and Paula, 1972), a cult favorite about an affair between a single mother and a bureaucrat.

Among the titles in Rebels with a Cause are noted works by Frank Beyer (Karbid und Sauerampfer [Carbide and Sorrel, 1963]) and Kurt Maetzig (Das Kaninchen bin ich [The Rabbit Is Me, 1965/1990]). Beyer’s comedy follows a cigarette factory employee in postwar 1945 as he tries to transport nine barrels of carbide across the country to his factory to provide raw material—and employment—for himself and his colleagues. Encounters with a randy widow, incompetent Soviet and American officers, thieves, and black marketeers shed light on the chaotic disorder that prevailed in the immediate aftermath of the war. The Rabbit Is Me is a searing condemnation of political opportunism in the 1960s in which a young woman has an affair with the judge of her convicted brother, only to find that her lover has used the case to advance his career by imposing a maximum sentence.

Gerhard Klein’s Berlin—Ecke Schönhauser… (Berlin—Schönhauser Corner, 1957) echoed many of the “youth” films that were being produced in Europe and the United States at the time, demonstrating the fluidity of themes that were preoccupying directors worldwide. With powerful performances by a group of young actors, particularly Ekkehard Schall, the film highlights the ennui of postwar youth and their ill-considered and ill-fated moneymaking schemes. The film was received negatively by East German officials—as was Jürgen Böttcher’s banned Jahrgang 45 (Born in ’45, 1966/1990), which features strong performances by Monika Hildebrand and Rolf Römer as a pair of dissatisfied newlyweds—for being too critical of the utopian social ideals that the Socialist authorities wished to portray. Even as late as 1990 films such as Peter Kahane’s Die Architekten (The Architects) illustrate the stifling social and occupational conditions under which citizens of the GDR labored. From a sociological point of view, Rebels with a Cause opens a window on daily life in East Germany under communism. The films in the series also illustrate the wealth of talent—on both sides of the camera—that flourished in tandem with innovations in West German cinema during the same period.

The exhibition is supported by the Max Kade Foundation Inc.; the University of Massachusetts Amherst; The International Council, MoMA; Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Germany; German Film Service+Marketing GmbH; the DEFA-Stiftung; ICESTORM Entertainment GmbH; PROGRESS Film-Verleih GmbH; Wilhelm-Fraenger-Institut, Berlin; and the Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv Berlin.

Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany coincides with a series of East German cinema events in New York in October, which also includes:

Faces of DEFA—A Photo Exhibit. Portraits by Sandra Bergemann and interviews by Christoph Lemke at Deutsches Haus at New York University, 42 Washington Mews (at University Place),
October 6–31.

DVD premiere screening of Naked Among Wolves (Nackt unter Wölfen, 1963). Frank Beyer’s film gives an account of the true story of Buchenwald concentration camp inmates who risked their lives to hide a small Jewish boy. Goethe-Institut New York, 1014 5th Ave. (@ 83 St). October 14, 7:30 p.m.

Round Table Discussion: Lost in Unification. Placing East German Film in World Cinema. Includes film critic Heinz Kersten, film historian Ralf Schenk, screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase, US filmmaker Jennie Livingston, director Helke Misselwitz, and Yale University professor Katie Trumpener. Moderated by Barton Byg, Director of the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Event takes place at Goethe-Institut New York, October 15, 1:00 p.m.

No. 86

Press Contact:
Paul Power, (212) 708-9847, or paul_power@moma.org

Public Information:
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Friday, October 7

8:00 Der Dritte (Her Third). 1971. GDR. Directed by Egon Günther. With Jutta Hoffmann, Barbara Dittus, Armin Mueller-Stahl.
Told in a series of flashbacks, Her Third recounts 18 years of a woman’s life. After two failed relationships, each of which produces a child, a newly liberated Margit discovers herself. This engaging story is also a testament to the evolving self-confidence and independence of East German women. 111 min. (Introduced by Hoffmann)

Saturday, October 8

2:00 Monument (The Monument).
1990. GDR. Directed by Klaus Georgi, Lutz Stützner. Animation by Barbara Atanassow, Holger Havlicek. 4 min.

Die Architekten (The Architects). 1990. GDR. Directed by Peter Kahane. Screenplay by Kahane, Thomas Knauf. With Kurt Naumann, Rita Feldmeier, Uta Eisold. Filmed as the GDR crumbled, this finely drawn portrait of life in East Berlin depicts a young architect whose circumstances and goals are strangled by communist dogma, represented in part by the older generation. 97 min. (Introduced by Kahane)

4:00 Das Fahrrad (The Bicycle). 1981. GDR. Directed by Evelyn Schmidt. With Heidemarie Schneider, Roman Kaminski, Anke Friedrich.
Susanne, a single mother living a somewhat carefree lifestyle, lands in deep financial trouble and attempts minor fraud. Authorities were critical of this portrayal of a less-than-ideal socialist citizen, now seen as a rare view of everyday socialism from a woman’s perspective. 89 min. (Introduced by Schmidt)

6:00 Eine Liebesgeschichte (A Love Story). 1953. GDR. Directed by Richard Groschopp. A writer tries to get a love story published. 7 min.

Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The Legend of Paul and Paula). 1972. GDR. Directed by Heiner Carow. With Angelica Domröse, Winfried Glatzeder, Heidemarie Wenzel.
Author Ulrich Plenzdorf and director Carow winningly portray everyday life in East Berlin in this story of undefeatable, passionate love between a single mother and a married bureaucrat. Featuring the music of the East German cult rock band The Puhdys. 106 min.

8:30 Das zweite Gleis (The Second Track). 1962. GDR. Directed by Joachim Kunert. With Albert Hetterle, Annekathrin Bürger, Horst Jonischkan.
Station Inspector Brock is witness to a robbery but, guilt-ridden by his failure to stand up to the Nazi regime years ago, he fails to report one of the culprits. The Second Track is the only East German film to deal with the sensitive subject of former Nazis leading normal lives in the GDR. 80 min.

Sunday, October 9

2:00 Der Dritte (Her Third).
See Friday, October 7, 8:00. (Introduced by Jutta Hoffmann.)

5:00 Es geht um die Wurst (News from the West). 1955. GDR. Written and directed by Harald Röbbeling. “Poisoned sausages in East Germany!” Karl (the irrepressible Erwin Geschonneck) panics when he hears this news on West Berlin radio. 8 min.

Karbid und Sauerampfer (Carbide and Sorrel). 1963. GDR. directed by Frank Beyer. With Erwin Geschonneck, Kurt Rackelmann, Rudolf Asmus.
Toward the end of World War II, workers in Dresden send a colleague hundreds of miles north to pick up welding supplies for their factory. His attempts to move the supplies through the Soviet occupation zone lead to an uproarious odyssey full of hijinks and misadventure. 80 min. (Introduced by Beyer)

Monday, October 10

4:00 Das Kaninchen bin ich (The Rabbit Is Me).
1965/1990. GDR. Directed by Kurt Maetzig. With Angelika Waller, Alfred Müller, Ilse Voigt.
A young student has an affair with a hypocritical judge who once sentenced her brother for his political activities. Made in 1965 to encourage discussion of democratization of East German society, the film was eventually banned by government officials. 109 min.

6:30 Die Mutter (Mother). 1958. GDR. Directed by Manfred Wekwerth, Harry Bremer. With Helene Weigel, Fred Düren, Erich Franz.
Bertolt Brecht’s grand epic of political theater, written in 1931, is an adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s novel and tells the rousing story of an oppressed Russian woman who is transformed into a militant revolutionary. Filmed by DEFA, this production retains much of Brecht’s original cast, and includes a landmark performance from Weigel.
147 min.

Wednesday, October 12

6:00 Working Life: Five Documents

Der Kreis (The Full Circle).
1989. GDR. Written and directed by Klaus Georgi. Animation by Barbara Atanassow, Ralf Kukula.
An explosion in a huge industrial plant leads to chaos. 4 min.

Wer fürchtet sich vorm schwarzen Mann (Who’s Afraid of the Bogeyman). 1989. GDR. Written and directed by Helke Misselwitz.
A close-up of Berlin coal carriers from Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Deeply felt, unromanticized sketches depicting rough men and their resolute female boss. 50 min.

Rangierer (Shunters). 1984. GDR. Written and directed by Jürgen Böttcher.
This GDR version of cinema verité allows viewers a glimpse into the physically demanding and dangerous precision work of experienced shunters. 21 min.

Mädchen in Wittstock (Wittstock Girls). 1974. GDR. Directed by Volker Koepp. The first of seven masterful films made over a 23-year period, each one chronicling the lives of three funny and sensitive young women in a small town. 20 min.

Konsequenz (Consequence). 1987. GDR. Written and directed by Klaus Georgi. Animation by Peter Missbach, Lutz Stützner, Ellen Herrmann, Stefan Kerda.
Cars on a highway stop, their exhaust pipes billowing fumes. A driver coughs, the driver behind him also coughs ... 2 min.

Program 97 min.

8:00 Dein unbekannter Bruder (Your Unknown Brother). 1981. GDR. Directed by Ulrich Weiss. With Uwe Kockisch, Michael Gwisdek, Jenny Gröllmann.
Returning from a Nazi camp for political prisoners in 1935, Arnold Clasen is ambivalent about reestablishing contact with his resistance group, afraid of being watched. This milestone film both sustains and breaks with the antifascist traditions of East German cinema. 108 min.

Thursday, October 13

6:00 Das zweite Gleis (The Second Track).
See Saturday, October 8, 8:30.

8:00 Das Fahrrad (The Bicycle). See Saturday, October 8, 4:00.

Friday, October 14

6:00 Jahrgang 45 (Born in ’45).
1966/1990. GDR. Directed by Jürgen Böttcher. Screenplay by Klaus Poche, Böttcher. With Monika Hildebrand, Rolf Römer, Paul Eichbaum.
Inspired by Italian Neorealism and Jean-Luc Godard, Böttcher developed a sensitive style characterized by social observation and poetic verse in his only feature film. Newlyweds Alfred and Lisa decide to divorce. Alfred takes a few days off to clear his head, wandering through Berlin and meeting strangers. 94 min. (Introduced by Böttcher)

8:00 Der Fall Gleiwitz (The Gleiwitz Case). 1961. GDR. Directed by Gerhard Klein. Screenplay by Wolfgang Kohlhaase. With Hannjo Hasse, Herwart Grosse, Hilmar Thate.
Considered one of the most modern and experimental films in DEFA’s history, the eccentric The Gleiwitz Case is a detailed reconstruction of the 1939 surprise attack by a Nazi unit on the radio station at Gleiwitz, a German town on the Polish border. The attack, blamed on Polish forces, served as Hitler’s justification for marching into Poland—thus starting World War II. 69 min. (Introduced by Kohlhaase)

Saturday, October 15

6:15 Working Life: Five Documents.
See Wednesday, October 12, 6:00.
(Introduced by Misselwitz and Böttcher)

8:15 Einmal in der Woche schrein (Yell Once a Week). 1982/1989. GDR. Written and directed by Günter Jordan.
This sensitive report of rebellious teenagers in Berlin’s “wild” East was banned before its first screening. 15 min.

Berlin—Ecke Schönhauser (Berlin—Schönhauser Corner). 1957. GDR. Directed by Gerhard Klein. Screenplay by Wolfgang Kohlhaase. With Ekkehard Schall, Ilse Pagé, Ernst-Georg Schwill.
This classic teen cult film is a perceptive social portrait of a city whose political and economic divisions affected its entire population. Greeted with suspicion by cultural authorities, the film was instantly embraced by the East German public for its truthful portrayal of everyday life. 82 min. (Introduced by Kohlhaase and Jordan)

Sunday, October 16

2:00 Monument (The Monument).
Die Architekten (The Architects).
See Saturday, October 8, 2:00.

5:30 Jahrgang 45 (Born in ’45). See Friday, October 1, 6:00. (Introduced by Böttcher)

Monday, October 17

6:00 Der Fall Gleiwitz (The Gleiwitz Case).
See Friday, October 14, 8:00.

Friday, October 21

8:00 Die Mutter (Mother).
See Monday, October 10, 6:30.

Saturday, October 22

2:00 Dein unbekannter Bruder (Your Unknown Brother).

See Wednesday, October 12, 8:00.

8:45 Das Kaninchen bin ich (The Rabbit Is Me). See Monday, October 10, 4:00.

Sunday, October 23

1:30 Eine Liebesgeschichte (A Love Story).
Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The Legend of Paul and Paula).

See Saturday, October 8, 6:00.

3:45 Es geht um die Wurst (News from the West).
Karbid und Sauerampfer (Carbide and Sorrel). See Sunday
, October 9, 5:00.

5:45 Einmal in der Woche schrein (Yell Once a Week).
Berlin—Ecke Schönhauser (Berlin—Schönhauser Corner).
See Saturday, October 15, 8:15.

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