The Border Crossing

(Der Übergang)

GDR, 1978, 78 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Assistant Director
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Production Company


In 1973, shortly after the military Junta coup in Chile, three men—the worker Carlos, the student Juan and the government official Lorenzo—tried to escape to Argentina over the Andes. Along the way, they witness the murder of a farmer by Chilean policemen. Juan urgently needs medical attention for torture wounds from his time in prison, and they end up at the home of the farmer’s heavily pregnant wife. She takes them in, and the three men help her give birth. Once they finally cross the border, their application for asylum is denied. Carlos and Lorenzo are captured and brought back to Chile, but Juan escapes and tries to rescue his companions.


Chilean director Orlando Lübbert worked in East Germany from 1977 to 1979. The Border Crossing is the only film he directed for the DEFA Studios.


The film is also available with Spanish subtitles.


The film is also available for a Digital Site License for educational partners. Please find more information here.


2024 Retrospective Focus: Chile in the Heart, International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Netherlands
2023 Retrospective 50 Anos: Democracia es Memoria y Futuro, Santiago, Chile

Special Recognition as a DEFA Contribution to Anti-Imperialist Solidarity, Critics' Poll of the Theory and Criticism Section of the GDR Film and Television Professionals

Press comments

“A fable about human nature in extraordinary circumstances realized in a quietist, humble style. Lübbert knows how to focus on his characters' moral dilemmas and psychological breaking points without making any dramaturgical fuss. Not all will make it across the border, and some will be forced to act in ways they never considered themselves capable of. But the vast emptiness of the mountains couldn't care less.”   —Olaf Möller, 2024 International Film Festival Rotterdam


“[The film is] a mixture of intimate drama and Western and takes a reflective look at political awareness and action.”   —Filmuseum Potsdam, 2023


“A thematically important and convincing film by a young Chilean director in exile.” —


“The Border Crossing is a poetic parable about the behavior of people in extraordinary situations, about the political and moral problems that a defeat in the class struggle entails, about what has to happen afterwards, with a view to the future.”  —Horst Knietzsch, Neues Deutschland, 1978


“The uncertain expanse of a landscape with a chain of mountains sawing through the horizon, far and near at the same time, goal and unattainable in one, characterizes the overall mood. The modesty that characterizes the film's ambition, its stylistic purity and the psychological precision with which the director knows how to interpret human reactions in an acute and escalating situation are captivating. He gets by without all the bombast, without questionable oaths, without any pathos. This also determines the acting. This director doesn't delude himself or talk himself into anything. And he treats his audience in the same way.”   —Günter Sobe, Berliner Zeitung, 1978




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