The Sons of Great Bear

(Die Söhne der großen Bärin)

GDR, 1966, 93 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


Although the Native Americans have been assured of their lands, adjacent to the Black Hills, by contract, the whites want to expel them. Meanwhile, gold has been discovered and the unscrupulous settler, Red Fox, demands that Mattotaupa, chief of the Dakota Bears Clan, reveal the location of gold deposits. Mattotaupa refuses and is stabbed to death by Red Fox in the presence of his son Tokei-ihto. As in most East German Westerns, the Native Americans emerge victorious against the capitalist Americans.


Here East German celebrity Gojko Mitic stars his very first Indianerfilm, or East German Western, as the fearless chief Tokei-ihto, whose Dakota tribe is being driven from the land of their ancestors. Based on the carefully researched fiction of Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich, it became East Germany's answer to the West German fascination with author Karl May. This production, which was filmed in Montenegro and Germany's Elbe Sandstone Mountains, began the most successful series of box office hits in the history of East German cinema.


1996 Shown at the "Wild East Goes West" East German "Indian Movie" Festival, Seattle, Washington

Press comments

"The essence of the film heightens the viewer's delight at the enjoyable panning shots of the gloriously colorful attire of the chief, the picture studies of Indian customs and traditional way of life as well as the turbulent plot striving for authenticity. Guest director Josef Mach understandably had a hard time accommodating professional and amateur actors. The quality of their performance ranges very widely, with Jiri Vrstala's and Römer's right at the upper end of the scale. Prof. Finohr's grappling portrayal of the medicine man Hawandschita ranges somewhere in the middle."
— Helmut Hahnemann in the Leipzig Azet of Feb. 19, 1966


“These films represent a little-known but fascinating chapter in the history of Westerns.”
— Taos Film Festival


“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


Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • Turn Subtitles On/Off
  • How I Began Making Movies, Ralf Schenk interviews Gojko Mitic
  • Film Notes from the DEFA Film Library
  • Photo Gallery
  • Biographies

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