UMass Amherst Film Library Helps Coordinate East German Film Series at National Gallery of Art

AMHERST, Mass. - Films from the East German film library at the University of Massachusetts will be featured in a series presented by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Sat. April 4 to Sun. April 19. A retrospective of films featuring former East German film star Armin Mueller-Stahl will follow through May 3.

The series will begin with a special screening of the first film created in post-war Germany, "The Murderers Are Among Us," at 2:30 p.m. in the East Wing Auditorium of the National Gallery of Art. UMass German professor and director of the East German film library Barton Byg will introduce the film which deals with national guilt over Nazi war crimes.

A reception at the Goethe-Institut Washington will follow the film screening. German corporate, cultural, and foreign service representatives as well as University alumni and administrators are expected at both events. The screening and reception are both free and open to the public. (Interested persons should contact Barton Byg at 413/545-6671 or the Goethe-Institut Washington at 202/289-1200 ext. 144 to RSVP by March 31.).

The series will include 13 of the nearly 200 feature films now available through the Deutsche Film Aktien-Gesellschaft (DEFA) Film Library at UMass. As the only site of its kind outside of Germany, the DEFA Film Library serves as an archive and study center of films from the former East Germany, according to Byg. It allows scholars as well as journalists, media producers, and the general public a chance to view everyday life behind the Iron Curtain as depicted in films created by the state-run East German film company DEFA between 1946 and 1992.

Among the films of particular interest in the series is "Apaches," one of numerous East German westerns created by DEFA. Also noteworthy are "Turning Point," an exploration of German involvement in wartime atrocities; and "Jana and Jan," the story of two teen-age "punks" who attempt to navigate life in the uncertain world of a Germany about to be reunited.

"These films were virtually inaccessible in the West until German unification due to the Cold War, East German self-isolation, and marketing obstacles," says Byg. "And yet, because of these circumstances the DEFA films offer not only pure cinematic value, but also a fascinating view of a little-known period of modern history."