GDR, 1973, 94 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Themes & Genres:


Based on original documents from the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), this film tells the story of the young warrior Ulzana, who is out to avenge the extermination of his tribe. 


In 1822, the Mimbreno Apache Indians enter into an agreement with a Mexican mining company, relinquishing all mining rights and guaranteeing the safety of the copper town of Santa Rita del Cobre, as well as its access roads. In return, the company guarantees the livelihood of the Native Americans, who hardly have any hunting grounds left. 


American companies are also interested in the precious metal deposits, however. Under their orders, mining engineer and geologist Johnson attempts to expel the Mimbrenos. When the annual food rations are handed out in Santa Rita, Johnson massacres the Native Americans with army cannon. For this savage slaughter, he receives a huge reward. Ulzana assumes the role of chief, leads the few surviving Mimbrenos to a neighboring Apache tribe and vows to avenge the atrocity perpetrated against his people. During the attack on the American settlement, a life-and-death struggle ensues between Johnson and Ulzana.


Apaches is one of the classic Indianerfilme, or Westerns, produced by DEFA between 1966 and 1985.


1996 Shown at the "Wild East Goes West" East German "Indian Movie" Festival, Seattle, Washington
1997 Special Recognition, American Indian Film and Video Competition, Read Earth Festival, Oklahoma City

Press comments

“As regards visual impression and the figure of the noble Indian hero, Ulzana and Winnetou are blood brothers. German 'Westerns', whether from the East or West, may be technically good, but they never seem to be quite real. Of course, it should not keep anybody from seeing this film made for young people. On the one hand, the story is told quite briskly in beautiful images. On the other hand, the film's perspective offers a starting-point for a more nuanced approach to history and its representation in the media.”
— Wolfgang J. Fuchs, Cologne filmdienst, 1973


“Cold War on the High Plains! ... These films capture the look and feel of classic Hollywood Westerns with a novel twist courtesy of the Iron Curtain: the stories are told from the Native American perspective. Cowboys & Indians Magazine Westerns with a twist..”
–- Hollywood Reporter


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DVD Bonus Features:
  • Turn Subtitles On/Off
  • Screenplay Author Gojko Mitic, Ralf Schenk interviews Gojko Mitic
  • Film notes from the DEFA Film Library
  • Photo Gallery
  • Biographies

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