Film Series

Since 1997, the DEFA Film Library has developed four types of film series featuring East German and related films: Thematic Series, Filmmaker’s Series, Retrospectives and GSA Film Series.

All our series are available to be booked for screenings at cultural or educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada; they also provide helpful suggestions for film groupings that may be adapted for course syllabi, film festivals and other educational and cultural events. To book part or all of one of our film series, please contact us at

Filmmakers’ Series: DEFA Film Library Filmmaker’s Series are developed on the occasion of inviting a given filmmaker to visit and often tour North America with his or her films. Such tours enable individual directors and scriptwriters to showcase their work through film screenings, speaking engagements and working with students as artists-in-residence. To see whether an upcoming Filmmaker’s Tour is currently being planned, please look under NEWS on our homepage or contact us at

Thematic Series: DEFA Film Library Thematic Film Series group together films that present diverse, yet complementary perspectives on a specific cultural or historical topic. Some have enjoyed premieres at prestigious venues, such as the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (WENDE Flicks) or the Gene Siskel Film Center (AWARDED!). Some have enjoyed multiple festival screenings (Shadows and Sojourners). And some—such as Berlin, Divided Heaven, REEL Women in East Germany and Made in West|East Germany—include catalogues that suggest ways to mix-and-match films to meet the needs of given teachers and programmers.

Retrospectives: DEFA Film Library Retrospective Film Series are designed to give an overview of East German cinema. The first of these—The Cinema of East Germany—focused on films that were the best known of the DEFA canon. The Rebels with a Cause retrospective—which premiered at The Museum of Modern Art and was co-curated by specialists at MoMA and the Goethe Institut New York—took a fresh look at the canon on beautiful, new 35mm prints.

GSA Film Series: Since fall 2004, the DEFA Film Library has hosted a German film festival at the annual conference of the German Studies Association. These often feature new releases or the work of visiting filmmakers.

Solidarity! The Chilean Experience in East German Cinema

Starting in September 2023, newly digitized films that deal with Chilean experience, are available to rent as HD 264 | mp4 files with English and Spanish subtitles. 

HER VIEW: East German Women on Screen

This program features three women filmmakers—Helke Misselwitz, Gitta Nickel and Petra Tschörtner—at the East German DEFA Studio for Documentary Films. The three selections are films made by women about women’s experiences in the GDR in the 1970s-80s, thereby offering candid views on issues that affected everyday life.

Amherst Cinema | Oct.11 - Nov.1, 2022

Wagenstein100 marks the 100th birthday of Bulgarian-Jewish screenwriter, novelist and lifelong revolutionary Angel Wagenstein, who wrote over fifty film scripts for Bulgarian, Czech and East German film studios and directed almost 30 historical documentaries for Bulgarian television.

Authority & Alterity in East German Movies
Virtual Festival | June 13-27, 2021

Free virtual Summer Film Festival: 20 full-length and short films | 3 live Zoom events with the directors | 7 video introductions.

Authority & Alterity in East Germany
GSA Conference, Sept 29 - Oct 17 2021

Stream 17 films and more: 6 feature films, 7 documentaries, 4 animation films... AND 3 Director's Talks and 6 video introductions!

EVERYDAY POETRY: The Early Films of Helke Misselwitz
Anthology Film Archives, Nov 2021

This first-ever US retrospective of the early films of Helke Misselwitz gathers nine films made by the acclaimed documentary filmmaker in (East) Germany from 1983 to 1992.

Premiering in the USA and Argentina in November 2021!

Black Lives in Germany
Virtual | Film + Talk | Oct. 2020 - April 2021

THANK YOU for attending our virtual film festival showcasing films by and discussions with Black German filmmakers, actors, scholars and activists! Recordings of all five events are now available in our FILMBOX Digital Teaching Archive.

Film Screening + Q&A
Discussion 6:00-8:00 pm, Nov 8, 2020

The 2020 ASEEES convention will screen the 1989 Kurt Tetzlaff documentary Paul Robeson: I'm a Negro, I'm an American on Nov. 8. Special guest Dr. Harold Weaver will join us for the ensuing Q&A and discussion.

Art and Power: Lutz Dammbeck
US Tour August 22-October 9, 2019

The DEFA Film Library is very pleased to premiere the complete cinematic oeuvre of German filmmaker and media artist Lutz Dammbeck in North America. ART & Power: Lutz Dammbeck, a retrospective that includes 21 short and full-length films made from 1975 to 2018, gives audiences the opportunity to discover one of Germany’s most innovative contemporary artists, whose work intertwines film and art in bold and unexpected ways.  


The Reformation through a Red Lens
Premiere 2017, UMass Amherst

In 1517, the Reformation began when Martin Luther published his 95 Theses; further radicalized by Thomas Müntzer, the serfs rose up against injustices in the German Peasants’ War. Seen as pre-communist antecedents of the GDR, these events inspired 14 DEFA films.


Once There Was the Wall
Premiere 2017, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome

This retrospective of DEFA masterworks screened in tandem with a Georg Baselitz exhibition, entitled The Heroes. It is exciting that these films were shown in the home of Italian Neorealism, which exerted such a huge influence on GDR feature film directors!

Chilean Memories & GDR Film
Premiere 2017, GSA Conference Atlanta

Two US Premieres! In collaboration with Claudia Sandberg (Univ. of Melbourne), the DEFA Film Library and German & Scandinavian Studies at UMass Amherst will present a program on Chilean Memories & GDR Film at the 2017 GSA conference in Atlanta, Georgia.


In the 1970s and ‘80s, the DEFA Studios made a wide range of films focusing on the social and political situation in Pinochet’s Chile, as Chilean artists and intellectuals fleeing the regime settled in the GDR.

Test the Limits:
Premiere 2017, Five College Area

(East) German filmmaker Peter Kahane will visit the Five College area Oct 16–20, 2017. Over 25 years, Kahane's films have told remarkable stories about the lives of young people who confront the limitations set by society, family and daily life.

2016 SCMS Screening
Premiere 2016, Goethe Zentrum Atlanta

Please join us at the Goethe Zentrum Atlanta on April 1 for a reception and screening of Egon Günther's social satire When You're Older Dear Adam. Banned in 1966/Restored in 1990: restorers worked traces of the excisions and damage of censorship into the finished print.

Life Lessons: The Films of Herrmann Zschoche
Premiere 2016, UMass Amherst

[East] German director Herrmann Zschoche’s films explore the lessons we learn in life. Often told through the experiences of young people or strong female protagonists, Zschoche made films in different genres to critically examine the heart of daily life.

13th GSA Film Series
Premiere 2016, GSA Conference San Diego

We celebrate the 70th anniversary of DEFA’s founding with two short programs as part of ARTS NIGHT at this year’s GSA conference in San Diego! They take place on Thursday evening, September 29, in Royal Palm Salon 3 at the Town & Country Convention Center.

12th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2015, GSA conference & Goethe-Institut Washington

This year features the North American premiere of the banned film Miss Butterfly, as well as four short films on German artists who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

Käthe Kollwitz: Filmic Images of a Life
Premiere 2015, Smith College

Three (East) German feature films offer cinematic snapshots of the life of Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), one of most important female artists of the 20th century, who worked as a painter, printmaker, sculptor, and was also involved in film.

Banned! DEFA's Forbidden Films of 1965-66
Premiere 2015

While edits and changes in the face of possible censorship were not uncommon in the almost 50 years of the GDR’s film and television industry, censorship was not always equally imminent. The notorious highpoint was the Kahlschlag of 1965-66.

Helke Misselwitz Presents!
Premiere 2014, University of Massachusetts Amherst

When the Berlin Wall fell, director Helke Misselwitz was screening her films at UMass Amherst. She returned in November, 2014, to commemorate this event 25 years later with three screenings and a gala reception!

Andreas Voigt's Leipzig Films
Premiere 2014, University of Massachusetts Amherst

In commemoration of 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the DEFA Film Library is pleased to present two films at the center of director Andreas Voigt's Leipzig series: Leipzig in the Fall and Last Year Titanic.

11th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2014, German Studies Association conference, Kansas City MO

This year we invited conference participants to explore streaming our films. Our educational streaming partner Kanopy had agreed to make five of our new releases available for conference participants to preview for 12 days.

WWI: A Cold War View
Premiere 2014, National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Kansas City MO

Reflecting both German and communist viewpoints, East German films treating the First World War emphasize different events and aspects of the period from what American viewers are familiar with.

Seeking Transformation: The Films of Siegfried Kühn
Premiere 2014, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“The heroes of my most important films are people who want to break out.” Siegfried Kühn’s statement runs like a thread through his oeuvre, and his main characters—often women—take huge risks in their desire to transform their lives.

10th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2013, German Studies Association conference, Denver CO

The tenth GSA Film Series, entitled From Ufa to DEFA, featured two classic films made in 1947, immediately after the end of WWII: Marriage in the Shadows and Wozzeck.

Awarded! East German Films from Behind the Wall
Premiere 2013, Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago IL

Eight major award-winning films from the GDR in one series, including all the East German titles ever submitted for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film!

9th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2012, German Studies Association conference, Milwaukee WI

The presentation of her film All My Girls by director Iris Gusner was the highlight of the ninth annual GSA Film Series.

REEL WOMEN in East Germany
Premiere 2012, German Studies Association conference, Milwaukee WI

REEL WOMEN in East Germany is a collection of over sixty feature and documentary films that touch on the lives and work of women in the GDR.

The Films of Iris Gusner
Premiere 2012, University of Massachsetts Amherst

One of very few women to succeed as a director at DEFA, Iris Gusner was among the first East German filmmakers to focus on the role and emancipation of women in the GDR.

8th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2011, German Studies Association conference, Louisville KY

Made in West/East Germany series premiered at the 2011 GSA conference, featuring a pair of films "women's films" made in the 1970s: The All-Round Reduced Personality (FRG, 1977, dir. Helke Sander) and The Dove on the Roof (GDR/Germany, 1973/2010, dir. Iris Gusner).

Film + Art + Jazz = Jürgen Böttcher / Strawalde
Premiere 2011, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Filmmaker and painter, Böttcher/Strawalde has turned eclectic events and materials into painterly films that are known for their striking visual style. This series features ten films on art, jazz, and Berlin.

The Films of Jörg Foth
Premiere 2010, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Director Jörg Foth, an insightful analyst of German society and film history, was the featured guest of a North American Filmmaker's Tour.

7th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2010, German Studies Association conference, Oakland CA

A guest appearance by filmmaker Jörg Foth—serendipitously joined by theater artist and author Steffen Mensching—was the highlight of this year's GSA Film Series.

Made in West|East Germany
Premiere 2010, German Studies Association conference, Oakland CA

The Made in West|East Germany film series draws on East German films from the DEFA Film Library and West German films from the Goethe-Institut Boston, to explore the interconnections and differences that existed between East and West Germany.

6th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2009, German Studies Association conference, Washington DC

A guest appearance by director Andreas Dresen and selections from the WENDE FLICKS series, which premiered in Los Angeles in spring 2009, were highlights of the sixth annual German Film Series.

Wende Flicks: Last Films from East Germany
Premiere 2009, Los Angeles CA

9 feature and 4 documentary films made by the last generation of GDR filmmakers in the years surrounding the fall of the Wall and German unification. Organized in collaboration with The Wende Museum, L.A.

The Films of Rainer Simon
Premiere 2008, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Director Rainer Simon visited 24 colleges, universities, and cultural institutions in the United States and Canada from September to November 2008.

5th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2008, German Studies Association conference, St. Paul MN

The fifth annual GSA German Film Series featured four new releases and was supplemented by a special screening of the Weimar Republic classic Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World.

Jurek Becker
Premiere 2007, Amherst Cinema & the Five Colleges

In 2007 the DEFA Film Library sponsored a film series commemorating the 70th birthday of the late Jurek Becker, one of the most important (East) German authors of the twentieth century. 

4th Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2007, German Studies Association conference, San Diego, CA

The fourth GSA Film Series highlighted the early films of director Andreas Dresen, including: Silent Country, Train in the Distance, Far from Klein Wanzleben, The Rats Sleep at Night, and Shortcut to Istanbul.

3rd Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2006, German Studies Association conference, Pittsburgh, PA

The third annual GSA Film Series presented selected titles from the Rebels with a Cause series, which had premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York the year before. It also paid respects to actor Erwin Geschonneck, who turned 100 years old in 2006.

The Films of Andreas Dresen
Premiere 2005, Five Colleges

Andreas Dresen, one of Germany’s most successful contemporary filmmakers, undertook a two-week tour of the northeastern United States in the fall of 2005. He screened his film Willenbrock in its US premiere at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

2nd Annual GSA Film Series
Premiere 2005, German Studies Association conference, Milwaukee WI

The second annual German Film Series at the German Studies Association conference in Milwaukee had something for everyone.

Premiere 2005, The Museum of Modern Art, New York


Presented by The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film and Media, and the Goethe-Institut New York,  in collaboration with the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst



Oct. 7-23, 2005
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Curators: Jytte Jensen (MoMA), Juliane Camfield (Goethe-Institut New York)

Organized by Hiltrud Schulz (DEFA Film Library)


The Films of Wolfgang Kohlhaase
Premiere 2004, University of Pennsylvania

In November 2004, screenwriter and director Wolfgang Kohlhaase visited four colleges and universities in the northeastern U.S. as part of a two-week tour.

1st GSA Film Series
Premiere 2004, German Studies Association conference, Washington DC

In 2004, we tried screening films at the annual conference of the German Studies Association for the first time. Since then, the GSA Film Series has become a key piece of the conference, which many conference participants attend on the first evening of the conference each year.

The Films of Frank Beyer
Premiere 2002, University of Massachusetts Amherst

In the fall of 2002, director Frank Beyer presented his work at 28 different North American universities, colleges and cultural institutions as part of a two-month-long tour.

Shadows and Sojourners: Images of Jews and Antifascism in East German Film
Premiere 2002, University of Massachusetts Amherst

The first retrospective representing the intertwined themes of German/Jewish relations, antifascism, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust in GDR cinema.

Berlin, Divided Heaven
Premiere 1999

The city of Berlin has had a history unlike any other that is told by 16 films produced in both parts of Germany.

The Cinema of East Germany: The View From North America
Premiere 1997, Smith College

In 1997 the DEFA Film Library hosted the first North American conference on the cinema of the GDR, held at Smith College in Northampton, MA, and attended by over 120 scholars from eight countries. 

REEL Women in East German Film

This series highlights women’s contributions to DEFA. See how their work iintersects with cultural and national identification, gender, race and socialism, and the politics of representation.

DEFA Doppelgänger

With our film series, DEFA Doppelgänger, we highlight DEFA’s position within world’s cinema. 

Shibboleth login