UMass DEFA Library to Re-Release Original East German Version of the Film "Jakob the Liar"

September 10, 1999

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AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts DEFA Film Library of East German cinema is re-releasing to theaters East Germany''s best-known film, "Jakob the Liar" to coincide with the release of a new Hollywood version of the film starring Robin Williams.

A sneak preview of the original "Jakob the Liar" will take place Wednesday Sept. 15 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass. This special sneak preview - which will benefit both the theatre and the Boston Jewish Film Festival - will occur nine days before the release of the new Hollywood version of the film on Sept. 24. The official re-release of the original East German version of the film will follow on Nov. 3, almost 10 years to the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.

The original East German version of "Jakob 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 original "Jakob the Liar" features a performance by Armin Mueller-Stahl, who also appears in the new version of the film. As part of a commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mueller-Stahl will take part in a film festival in Northampton, Mass., Nov. 3-7. Also attending the festival will be the director of the original "Jakob the Liar," Frank Beyer.

The re-release of "Jakob the Liar" for distribution to theaters nationwide 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 "Jakob the Liar," a video version of the film will also be made available on Oct. 19. This home version of the film will be available in both VHS and DVD format from ICESTORM International Inc., a distribution company recently opened in Northampton, Mass. to help DEFA films reach a home video market worldwide.