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Rewriting (East) German Film Summer Film InstituteAuf der Sonnenseite

The Fifth Biennial East German Film Summer Film Institute

DEFA Film Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst

July 12-19, 2009

Summer Film Institute Report
Film Schedule

Image from On the Sunny Side (Auf der Sonnenseite, 1962) starring
Manfred Krug and Ottilie Zinn

2009 Summer Film Institute

By Victoria Lenshyn, SFI Coordinator

Our 5th biennial Summer Film Institute, Rewriting (East) German Cinema: Issues in Film Methodology and Historiography,  held on the Smith College campus July 12 –19, was a great success!  Guest directors Sabine Hake (University of Texas Austin) and Larson Powell (University of Missouri-Kansas City) organized a stimulating program of 12 film screenings and 11 seminar discussions, which focused on case studies in East German film history, as well as relationships of East German to other German filmmaking.

We were also pleased to welcome 30 distinguished participants from eight countries, including Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, the UK and the US. These included both beginning and advanced scholars in a range of fields. See some of their comments below.

Many of the films screened were lesser-known titles that were never subtitled. We were able to screen two of these  – the Wolfgang Staudte film Rosen für den Staatsanwalt (1959) and Orpheus in der Unterwelt (dir. Horst Bonnet, 1974) – on 35mm the Pleasant Street Theater. Other titles highlighted in the free public film series included Das Versteck (dir. Frank Beyer, 1977), Bismarck (dir. Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1940), Verwirrung der Liebe (dir. Slatan Dudow, 1959), Monolog für einen Taxifahrer (dir. Günter Stahnke, 1963/90), and Auf der Sonnenseite (dir. Ralf Kirsten, 1961).

The week opened with a warm reception at Sam’s Café in the Atrium of the Smith College Art Museum, attended by Five College faculty and a range of dignitaries, including: the German Consul General in Boston, Friedrich Loehr, UMass Amherst Chancellor Bob Holub, UMass Fine Arts Center Director Willie Hill, and the director of the Goethe-Institut Boston, Detlef Gericke-Schoenhagen, who also stayed for the week to participate in the Institute.

Before closing the week with dinner and dancing, participants of the Institute discussed future projects incorporating DEFA and other German films in teaching, an overview of future directions for continuing German film research, and plans for the 2011 Summer Film Institute: DEFA, Africa and the African Diaspora.

The 2009 SFI was supported by the DEFA Stiftung, DAAD (German Academic Exchange), UMass Graduate Dean and Provost for Research, the Goethe-Institut Boston, Smith College, and the Five College Consortium.


"What a fantastic and encouraging experience!  It was a Starstunde for academia and DEFA scholarship. This is what it should be like: people of joint interest sitting around a table and discussing without hostility. I was very impressed and found the seminar extraordinarily stimulating."
- Karen Ritzenhoff, Central Connecticut State University

"I must admit I haven’t learned so much in such a short time for quite a while. So: thank you for making this possible, I’m sure this was just the beginning of a long lasting team working effort."
- Henning Wrage, University of Wisconcin

"Once again I thank you [Barton Byg] and Sky for the fantastic seminar, for your hospitality and for the warm and friendly atmosphere.  I have the feeling that I made some new and good friends. And I really learned a lot!"
- Detlef Gericke-Schoenhagen, Goethe-Institut Boston

“The Summer Film Institute is excellent: great films, inspiring discussions, and lots of ideas for projects I am going to take home.”
- Sebastian Heiduschke (Oregon State University)


2009 marks the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Cold
War.  As its ideological divisions and artistic legacies come into clearer view, previously neglected aspects of East German cinema become available to critical reassessment as well - and with it, the concepts and methodologies that have guided much of the scholarship on postwar German film.  In this week-long seminar, we propose to focus on media historical and institutional perspectives that until know have been neglected or ignored given the continued preference for thematic and textual readings.  In so doing, we also want to use the continued provocation of East German cinema to confront a number of historiographical and methodological issues in the study of postwar German cinema, including questions of periodization, institutional continuities, conceptions of cinema as a public sphere, and film's contribution to the audio-visual legacy of the twentieth century.

Organized by co-directors Sabine Hake (UT Austin) and Larson Powell (UMKC), the seminar will use a series of case studies to address the following issues:

* the historical continuities between UFA and DEFA (e.g., Überläuferfilme)
* notions of film authorship and ideology (e.g., Wolfgang Staudte)
* DEFA as a production model and cultural institution (e.g., KASGs)
* the function of multimediality and intermediality (e.g., television, radio)
* actors, stars, and issues of performativity (e.g., Manfred Krug)
* the relationship between film aesthetics and technology (e.g., ORWO film)

This week-long seminar brings together a group of 20-25 scholars from various disciplines (German studies, film studies, history, art history, social sciences, theater studies).  Our meetings will consist of a combination of discussions and screenings; the screenings will be open to the public (35mm prints in collaboration with the non-profit theaters of Amherst Cinema Arts Center / Pleasant Street Theater).  There are plans to publish the seminar-related work of the participants in an anthology.

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Registered Participants (in alphabetical order)

Eliza Ablovatski (Kenyon College)
Seán Allan (University of Warwick)
Ofer Ashkenazi (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)
Gregory Baer (Carthage College)
Michele Ricci Bell (Union College)
Hunter Bivens (University of California Santa Cruz)
Benita Blessing (Ohio University)
Sophie Boyer (Bishop’s University, Canada)
Kerry Dunne (University of New England, Australia)
Kyle Frackman (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Detlef Gericke-Schönhagen (Goethe-Institut Boston)
Sebastian Heiduschke (Oregon State University)
Kai Herklotz (Carleton College)
Mariana Ivanova (University of Texas at Austin)
Deborah Janson (West Virginia University)
Kathleen Lotze (University of Amsterdam)
Thomas W. Maulucci, Jr. (American International College)
Laura McGee (Western Kentucky University)
Gabriele Mueller (York University, Canada)
Emily Pugh (Bard College)
Delene White (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Henning Wrage (University of Wisconsin)

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Organizers, Program Faculty and Institutional Hosts

Sabine Hake (University of Texas at Austin) hake(at)mail.utexas.edu
Larson Powell (University of Missouri-Kansas City) powelllar(at)umkc.edu
Alexandra Keller (Smith College)
Joseph McVeigh (Smith College)

Sky Arndt-Briggs (University of Massachusetts Amherst) sky(at)german.umass.edu
Barton Byg (University of Massachusetts Amherst) byg(at)german.umass.edu
Hiltrud Schulz (DEFA Film Library)
Bartlett Doty (DEFA Film Library)
Jason Doerre (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Victoria Lenshyn (University of Massachusetts Amherst) vlenshyn(at)german.umass.edu
Evan Torner (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

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Film Schedule

A free public film series will accompany the seminar "Rewriting (East) German Cinema: Issues in Film Methodology and Historiography" – the fifth biennial Summer Film Institute organized by the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst.  Twelve German films, most never screened before in the US, will screen at Smith College and Pleasant Street Theater. All films in original German; only four with English subtitles (see below).

Films with English Subtitles

Monday -- July 13, 2009 -- 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
 Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

Dir. Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1940
German with English subtitles, 118’
Bismarck - Murnau Stiftung

One of the so-called "genius films" made during the Third Reich that use biographies of famous Germans to construct a national history and identity. Directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner as the first of two films devoted to the Iron Chancellor, here played by character actor Paul Hartmann. Because of its unique mode of production and reception as a state commissioned film, Bismarck raises important questions about filmmaking within a state-controlled cinema and about the generic conventions and aesthetic traditions that made possible the enlistment of biography in larger ideological projects. In this context, Bismarck also allows us to consider the historical continuities between the Ufa studio during the Third Reich and the DEFA studio after 1945.

Tuesday -- July 14, 2009 -- 8:00 - 10:00 p.m. Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

The Kaiser's Lackey Kaiser's Lackey
Der Untertan, Dir. Wolfgang Staudte, 1951
German with English subtitles, 97’

The famous adaptation of the eponymous Heinrich Mann novel by director Wolfgang Staudte and known for its critique of authoritarian power structures, in the family and the state, as one of the libidinal sources of National Socialism. Diederich Hessling, here played by Werner Peters, functions as a socio-psychological type against which the GDR imagines its alternative vision of class, family, and public life.

Wednesday -- July 15, 2009 -- 8:00 - 10:00 p.m. Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

Look at This City! Look at this City
Schaut auf diese Stadt, Dir. Karl Gass, 1962
German with English subtitles, 85’

Directed by documentarist Karl Gass, and produced by the DEFA studio for weekly newsreels (Wochenschau), the film tells the history of Berlin from 1945 to the building of the Wall in August 1961.  At the end, the eventual liberation of West Berlin from its capitalist occupants is briefly imagined.  The film’s title ironizes West Berlin mayor Ernst Reuter’s words from September 1948 with clips of the military and spy presence in the West, with the aim of justifying the latter as an “antifascist protective wall.” The film contains the caustic commentary of Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, who later became the chief commentator on GDR television and manager of the agitation program, "The Black Channel."

Friday -- July 17, 2009 -- 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall, Smith College

The Hiding Place 
Das Versteck, Dir. Frank Beyer, 1978
German with English subtitles, 102'
Das Versteck
With a screenplay by director Beyer and Jurek Becker, this film showcases actors Manfred Krug and Jutta Hoffmann (Her Third). Max and Wanda have been separated for a year, but Max wants to win Wanda back.  He’s wanted by the police and asks Wanda to hide him. Although Wanda already has a new boyfriend, she succumbs; but her boyfriend won’t play along, and he reports the alleged suspect to the police.

Films in German with No Subtitles

Sunday -- July 12, 2009 -- 7:30 - 10:00 p.m. Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

Ernst Thälmann: Leader of the Working ClassErnst THaelmann 
Ernst Thälmann: Führer seiner Klasse
Dir. Kurt Maetzig, 1955
German with no subtitles,

The second of a two-part biopic about the leader of the German Communist Party during the Weimar Republic, communist martyr during the Third Reich, and role model for “the first advanced socialist society on German soil.” As one of the most expensive, heavily promoted DEFA films made during the freezes and thaws of the Cold War, the Thälmann films rely heavily on an older iconography of political leadership, beginning with the approach to mise-en-scène, heroic narratives, notions of masculinity, and cult of honor, duty, and sacrifice.

Monday -- July 13, 2009 -- 8:00 - 10:00 p.m. Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

Love’s Confusion Verwirrung der Liebe
Verwirrung der Liebe, Dir. Slatan Dudow, 1959
German with no subtitles,

Slatan Dudow’s best-known and last completed film, a big-budget production featuring Angelica Domröse (of later The Legend of Paul and Paula fame), Annekatrin Bürger and Willi Schrader.  The film ran into trouble with official socialist morality due to its frank depiction of sex (including nude bathing scenes) and portrayal of consumerism, along with a very stylized version of comedy.

Tuesday -- July 14, 2009 -- 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Pleasant Street Theater, Northampton

Orpheus in the Underworld
Orpheus in der Unterwelt, Dir. Horst Bonnet, 1974Orpheus in der Unterwelt
German with no subtitles,

One of DEFA’s last wide-screen (70 mm) films, and an opulent production with a budget of 4 million marks.  Orpheus, a music teacher at a girls’ school in Thebes, actually does not miss Eurydice that much – until the gods and Offenbach in person pressure him to retrieve her from Hades.  Directed by Horst Bonnet, with Rolf Hoppe and Fred Düren, and sets by Alfred Hirschmeier, in ORWO color with Dolby stereo sound.

Wednesday -- July 15, 2009 -- 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

Roses for the State’s Attorney
Rosen für den Staatsanwalt, Dir. Wolfgang Staudte, 1959Rosen für den Staatsanwalt
German with no subtitles, 97’

One of the critically acclaimed films made by Staudte after his move to West Germany and like his first DEFA film, The Murderers Are among Us (1945), centrally concerned with the Nazi past and its legacies. The two films made by Staudte in East and West Germany will be used to examine authorship as an important category in the study of national cinema but also to consider its different meanings under different modes of production.

Thursday -- July 16, 2009 -- 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

Monolog for a Taxi Driver
Monolog für einen Taxifahrer, Dir. Günter Stahnke, 1963/1990
German with no subtitles,

Stahnke had made his debut in 1962 with “Peter und das Einmaleins mit dem Sieben,” but both this film and its pendant “Fetzers Flucht,” also made for TV, were banned as “formalist” and “decadent” and not shown until after the Wende.
With a script by Günter Kunert, the film follows the night-time meanderings of a taxi driver through a city filled with urban anomie and ominous situations suggesting the Kafkaesque. Although other films banned in the context of the XIth Plenary of the SED are now justly celebrated in film history, this television work is almost completely unknown.

Excerpts from From Our Time
Aus unserer Zeit, Dir. Rainer Simon, 1970
German with no subtitles, 20'

A group film made by an Autorenkollektiv and involving a large cast with, among others, Ekkehard Schall (of Berlin Schönhauser Corner) and Hans Hardt-Hardtloff, narration by Brecht’s co-worker Margarete Steffin, and music by Peter Rabenalt.  Four episodes, one on Brandenburg in 1945 (“Two Sons”), a meeting of an old professor and his former student (“The Duel”), honeymoon reminiscences of a young couple (“Ordinary People”), and a German-Russian cooperation for Radio Havana (“The Computer Says: No”).

Episode III - "Ordinary People" ("Gewöhnliche Leute"):  Adele and Hannes, who both work construction, spend their honeymoon in Kossin, Hannes' hometown. For them, it becomes a time of recovery and, in particular, of memory of years past: scenes from everyday life, which show their love of work, commitment, conflicts, and joy of success.

Thursday -- July 16, 2009 -- 8:00 - 10:00 p.m. Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, Smith College

On the Sunny SideOn the Sunny Side
Auf der Sonnenseite, Dir. Ralf Kirsten, 1961
German with no subtitles, 101’

A star vehicle for Manfred Krug, actor, singer, writer, and arguably the most popular DEFA star of the 1960s and 1970s. Based on his autobiography as a former steelworker, the film rewrites the genre of the romantic comedy with two ideal-typical socialist workers and, in so doing, promises to reconcile traditional genre conventions, social realist styles, and modernist sensibilities.

Friday -- July 17, 2009 -- 8:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Dr. Sommer II
Dr. med. Sommer II, Dir. Lothar Warneke, 1970
German with no subtitles,
90'Dr. Sommer

The story of a young, idealistic doctor at a hospital in a small town in the GDR, and his on-the-job training as a rookie surgeon.  The solo directorial debut of Lothar Warneke (after his co-direction of Mit mir nicht, Madame!), and a key film launching DEFA’s “documentary fiction” school of the 1970s, which included Rainer Simon as well.  Film also displays Warneke’s typical existential concern with life and death, found in his other films like Apprehension or Bear Ye Another’s Burdens.

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Major funding for the DEFA Film Library Summer Film Institute has been provided by:

DEFA Foundation
German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

With thanks as well to:

Smith College, Departments of Film Studies and German Studies and the PRAXIS Internship Program
UMass Amherst, German and Scandinavian Studies, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Five College Film Council
Goethe Institute Boston
Max Kade Foundation, Inc.

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