AMHERST, Mass. – East German filmmaker Iris Gusner will visit the Five College area from Sept. 25 through Oct. 1 for a retrospective of her films, including the premiere of the DVD release of All My Girls
(1979) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a special screening of her unique semi-autobiographical film Were the Earth Not Round
(1981) at Amherst Cinema.
One of very few women to succeed as a filmmaker at DEFA, the East German state-owned movie-making powerhouse, Gusner was one of the first filmmakers to focus on the role and emancipation of women in East Germany. During her stay in Amherst all films will celebrate their U.S. premieres and have been newly subtitled by the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst.
Gusner’s oeuvre is marked by her portrayal of female characters. She trained at the renowned VGIK film school in Moscow under director Mikhail Romm and worked with him on his classic documentary Ordinary Fascism (1965). In 1970, she started at the DEFA Studio for Feature Films, as assistant director to Konrad Wolf on his film Goya (1971). Her much-heralded debut film, The Dove on the Roof (1973/2010), was banned for showing workers “in distress.” She achieved acclaim with her lively portrayal of women factory workers in All My Girls, which became one of her most successful films.
Complementing the Gusner restrospective, sociologist Ursula Schröter will speak on women’s issues and policies in Germany during the Cold War and since unification. Schröter has published widely on family law and policy concerning women and youth in both Germanys and has served as vice-chairwoman of Germany’s Association of Democratic Women since 1994.
Gusner will introduce her films and answer questions at several screenings:
- Tuesday, Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m., 227 Herter Hall, UMass Amherst, All My Girls (Alle meine Mädchen, GDR, 1979, 83 min., color/b&w). Film student Ralf is assigned to document the work of a brigade of six young women workers at a Berlin light bulb factory. The team has fun and works well together ... until factory bosses try to impose changes.
- Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m., Amherst Cinema, general admission; students free; Were the Earth Not Round (Wäre die Erde nicht rund, GDR, 1981, 87 min., color). While studying geology in Moscow, Christiane from East Germany and Hatem from Syria fall in love and have a child. This poetic, semi-autobiographical drama explores the strength and limits of will and desire.
- Friday, Sept 28, 4 p.m., Thatcher House, UMass Amherst, The Blue Light (Das blaue Licht, GDR, 1976, 82 min., color). Based on a Grimm’s fairy tale. Farmer Hans is returning from war angry at his king, who hasn’t paid him. On the way, a witch asks him to retrieve a blue light.
- Monday, Oct 1, 7:30 p.m., 227 Herter Hall, UMass Amherst, Bailing Out (Kaskade rückwärts, GDR, 1983, 96 min., color). Maja is 30-something and a widow. Her daughter is frustrated that Maja cannot seem to get over her husband’s death. Then she picks up and moves to the city. A story that balances romance and satire, with ironic sideswipes at daily life in East Germany.
- Lectures and colloquia with Gusner and Schröter include:
- Socialist Patriarchy? East German Policy on Women, a lecture by sociologist Ursula Schröter, who has written widely on women’s rights and policy in both Germanys. Wednesday, Sept 26, 4-6 p.m., 301 Herter Hall, UMass Amherst. The lecture is supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
- Women's Filmmaking in East Germany, a colloquium of the Film Studies Graduate Certificate Program. Gusner will talk about her studies at VGIK film academy in Moscow and career as one of East Germany’s few female directors. Schröter will also be present for discussions of women in East German film culture. Thursday, Sep. 27, 4-5:30 p.m., 301 Herter Hall, UMass Amherst.
- Film+Talk+Pizza with Gusner discussing her film The Blue Light. Friday, Sept 28, 4 p.m. Thatcher House, UMass Amherst. Hosted by the Thatcher German program, sponsored by the Max Kade Foundation.
All films are in German with English subtitles. Images are available upon request.
Events are made possible by the following partners: DEFA Film Library; German and Scandinavian Studies, LLC; Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies; Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, Max Kade Thatcher German Language Suite, UMass Arts Council, Amherst College department of German, Hampshire College Berlin program, Mount Holyoke College department of German studies, Smith College department of German studies, Five College Faculty Seminar in German Studies, Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, DEFA Foundation, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Icestorm Entertainment and Progress Film-Verleih, durchblickreisen.
With support from the DEFA Foundation and other partners in Berlin, Hiltrud Schulz of the DEFA Film Library has organized a tour for the two guests, with visits to the German Studies Association convention in Milwaukee, the Goethe Institute Chicago and other campuses in the Midwest.