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
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
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),
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.
Press Contact: Paul Power, (212) 708-9847, or
The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019
Hours: Wednesday through Monday: 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday: 10:30
a.m.-8:00 p.m. Closed Tuesday
Museum Adm: $20 adults; $16 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D.; $12
full-time students with current I.D. Free, members and children 16 and under.
(Includes admittance to Museum galleries and film programs)
Target Free Friday Nights 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Film Adm: $10 adults; $8 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D. $6
full-time students with current I.D. (For admittance to film programs only)
Subway: E or V train to Fifth Avenue/53rd Street
Bus: On Fifth Avenue, take the M1, M2, M3, M4, or M5 to 53rd Street. On
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The public may call (212) 708-9400 for detailed Museum information. Visit us at
REBELS WITH A CAUSE: THE CINEMA OF EAST GERMANY
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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