AMHERST, Mass. - Twenty-five years after its original release in Europe, the University of Massachusetts DEFA Film Library is re-releasing the award-winning East German film on which the new Robin Williams film "Jakob the Liar" is based. The official re-release of "Jacob the Liar" will take place Nov. 3 at the Northampton Film Festival in Northampton, Mass., and will inaugurate a conference at the University exploring the role of images in constructing contemporary German identity.
"The Power of Images: Representing Germany Ten Years After Reunification," will take place Nov. 4-7. A reception immediately preceding the screening on Nov. 3 is open to ticket holders and the press and will include introductory remarks by "Jacob the Liar" director Frank Beyer; UMass East German film archive director Barton Byg; ICESTORM International Inc., film distribution company managing director Gerhard Sieber; and organizers of the Northampton Film Festival.
The centerpiece of the pre-screening event will be Beyer, who will discuss the significance of "Jacob the Liar" in East Germany. Beyer will also discuss how "Jacob the Liar" came to be stored in the UMass film archive and why it is having its premiere at the Northampton Film Festival.
In addition, Beyer will take part in a brief question-and-answer period with the press. Following the Northampton screening at the Academy of Music, "Jacob the Liar" will travel to New York where it will be shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on Nov. 9. This showing will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the 61st anniversary of the infamous Nazi looting of Jewish businesses and synagogues known as Kristallnacht ("night of broken glass" in reference to the thousands of windows broken during the event).The film will be shown again at MOMA on Nov. 11. Film director Frank Beyer will also attend both of these screenings.
The original East German version of "Jacob the Liar" was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 1977 Academy Awards ceremony and has been called a precursor to "Life is Beautiful." Like "Life is Beautiful," it combines comedy and pathos to tell an unconventional story about the Holocaust. Since its original release, many critics have come to view it as one of Germany''s greatest films.
The re-release of "Jacob the Liar" for distribution to theaters is being overseen by the DEFA Film Library at UMass. The library, which was founded in 1998, is the only archive and study center outside Europe devoted to the films of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). It operates under agreements between the University and the holders of worldwide rights to the entire film production of DEFA Studios, the official state-run production company which operated in East Germany between 1946 and 1992. In all, it contains approximately 950 feature films, 820 animated films, and more than 5,200 documentaries and newsreels.
In conjunction with the theatrical re-release of the original "Jacob the Liar," a video version of the film was released on Oct. 19. This home version of the film is available in both VHS and DVD format with the DVD version including English, Spanish, French, and Hebrew subtitle options, as well as a 60-minute documentary about Frank Beyer.
The video version of the film is distributed by ICESTORM International Inc., an affiliate of one of the largest independently owned home entertainment distributors in Europe. Located in Northampton, Mass., ICESTORM has forged a partnership with the UMass DEFA Film Library to make DEFA films accessible for the first time to audiences worldwide.