Coming Out

(Coming Out)

GDR, 1989, 113 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Assistant Director
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


Tanya and Philipp work together and are both dedicated teachers. They become close and move in together. Tanya is very much in love and gets pregnant. Things get complicated for Philipp when he meets Matthias, however, as they fall passionately in love. Philipp struggles with his identity and what to do; it is hard to overcome years of repressing his sexuality. 


Coming Out premiered the night the Berlin Wall opened on November 9, 1989. It was filmed in part on location at gay hangouts in East Berlin, including the Friedrichshain Volkspark and the gay bars Schoppenstube und Zum Burgfrieden in Prenzlauer Berg. A little gem is a scene with the famous East German trans activist Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. 


This DVD was curated by Kyle Frackman (Univ. of British Columbia) in collaboration with the DEFA Film Library.


2020 Retrospective Beyond the Wall: East German Cinema, Entrevues Belfort International Film Festival, France
2018 Images of the Future: The Cinema of East Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2011 Outfest, The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, USA
2010  Side by Side, LGBT International Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia
2009 Torino Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Italy
2006 Teddy Twenty Tribute, Berlin International Film Festival
1998 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New York, USA
1990 International Festival of Lesbian and Gay Film, New York, USA
1990 Chicago's Lesbian and Gay Festival, USA
1990 Konrad Wolf Prize of the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts (director Heiner Carow; author Wolfram Witt)
1990 Best Director (Heiner Carow), GDR Feature Film Festival in Berlin
1990 Best Young Male Actor (Matthias Freihof), GDR Feature Film Festival in Berlin
1990 Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 
1990 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (US Premiere) 
1990 Teddy Award, Berlin International Film Festival
1990 Silver Bear for the expression of respect for human rights, humanity, and tolerance, Berlin International Film Festival
1989 Critic's Prize for Film, Association of German Critics, Berlin Academy of Arts

Press comments

“One of the landmark works of gay cinema.”
​— David Hall,


“An honest, generous film, which observes the conflicting love affairs with sympathy, and resists the temptation of a neat last-reel solution” —David Robinson, The Times


“Thirty years later, the film still offers a nuanced view of the personal and historical struggles surrounding the protagonist’s coming out story while commenting on the social history of homosexuality under Socialism.”   —Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York


"The descriptions of East Berlin's gay scene are revelations in themselves."


"This is a psychological film, but not one, however, to go astray, merely dabbling in psychological posturing. It is a film which seeks to attain - and relies on - the grandest emotion."
— Helmut Ullrich in the Berlin Neue Zeit on Nov. 10, 1989


"This is what life-drawings by Leonardo or Michelangelo look like. Praise be to Martin Schlesinger's camera-work which operates photographically with the finest aesthetic feeling for corporeality."
— Rosemarie Rehahn in the Berlin Wochenpost on Nov. 24, 1989


"...a gripping story of a man searching for his true sexual identity."
Image in the Dark, an Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Films


"One of the best gay films I've seen. I only wish there were more films like this!"
— Stephen Bourne, London Gay Times, March 2001


Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • New digitally restored HD transfer
  • Revised English subtitles
  • Biographies & Filmographies
  • "Coming Out in East Germany," by Kyle Frackman (Univ of British Columbia) 
  • "DEFA's Coming Out," by former DEFA dramaturg Dieter Wolf
  • "Silver Bear, Golden Cadillac: An Interview with Dirk Kummer," (2020) 
  • Teaching Guide for Coming Out, by Kyle Frackman and Skyler Arndt-Briggs
  • Timeline: The Gay and Lesbian Movement in East Germany 
  • The Other Love (GDR, 1988, dirs. Helmut Kissling & Aexl Otten, 35 min., color, doc, EN ST) 
  • Interview with Matthias Freihof (Germany, 2020, dir. Bernd Sahling, color, EN ST) 
  • Interview with Dagman Manzel (Germany, 2014, dirs. Ferdinand Teubner, Katrin Teubner, 20 min., color, EN ST)


Shibboleth login