GDR/Bulgaria, 1959, 88 min, b&w
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


This gripping drama, based on personal experiences of screenwriter Angel Wagenstein, is set during a chapter of the Holocaust in the Balkans that sheds light on the experience of Sephardic Jews. It was awarded the Special Grand Jury Prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival.


Stationed in a secluded Bulgarian village in 1943, Walter—a German Wehrmacht sergeant and artist—lives in almost idyllic distance from the war. Then a transit camp is set up for Jews arriving from Greece. When Ruth, one of internees, asks Walter to help a pregnant woman, the two form an unlikely bond. 


Stars broke with East Bloc representational conventions during the Cold War in its depiction of both Wehrmacht soldiers and Jewish suffering and resistance. Now available in a newly restored digital transfer from the original 35mm negative.


2020 Konrad Wolf in the Age of Extremes retrospective, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, Italy
2018 Images of the Future: The Cinema of East Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2017 CLASSICS, Washington Jewish Film Festival
2017 New York Jewish Film Festival
1999 Vienna Jewish Film Week
1998 New York Jewish Film Festival
1997 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
1960 Sydney International Film Festival
1960 Melbourne International Film Festival
1959 Special Grand Jury Prize, Cannes International Film Festival
1959 Certificate of Recognition, Edinburgh International Film Festival
1959 Gold Medal, Film Festival of the World Festival of Youth and Students, Vienna

Press comments

"As a movie, Stars manages to be both lyrical and monumental. As a statement, it practices a dialectic of unity and isolation. [...] Stars is a fairy tale, albeit a hardboiled one that never forgets the degraded conditions of the deportees or their fate.[...] Stars is striking for its internationalism, particularly in a linguistic sense. [...]  Most remarkably, there is an extended scene in which, among themselves, the Jews speak Ladino—making Stars the only feature I know with dialogue in the language of the Sephardim."  — J. Hoberman,


“Philosophical and powerful!” — The New York Times


“Subtle and heartbreaking.” — Los Angeles Times


“An emotionally raw experience that beautifully frames a fragile human drama within the context of inconceivable tragedy. Stars is a milestone film in the history of Holocaust-related cinema. Highly recommended.” — VideoLibarian


“…haunting and graphically realistic images of despair in a film that is both moving and thought-provoking.” — Bloomsbury


A film of surprising detail, visual clarity, and emotional depth. — New York Jewish Film Festival

"Well made! Technical credits are excellent!” — Variety


Stars is surprising because of the powerful vision behind every shot, the unrelenting intelligence of an auteur long overlooked in the West.” — San Francisco Jewish Film Festival


“A visually fascinating and humanly touching drama. One of the most striking films of the GDR cinema.” — Vienna Jewish Film Week


“An outstanding performance by Sasha Krusharska.” — Lexikon des internationalen Films


“The film blends poetic dreams with grim reality.” — Dimitar Badarsky, filmreference


“The DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst is doing invaluable work for the preservation of 20th-century East European history in bringing this rare glimpse of Bulgaria's past to as wide an audience as possible.” — Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and EK Foundation of Bulgaria


"Stars sheds light on the Sephardic experience of WWII."  —Classics, 2017 Washington Jewish Film Festival


Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • Newly restored digital transfer from the original 35mm negative
  • New English subtitles
  • Turn subtitles on/off
  • Biographies & Filmographies
  • Critical essay by film scholar Thomas Elsaesser
  • Historical Background: The Holocaust in Bulgaria
  • Angel Wagenstein Remembers (2008), a filmed interview by Mariana Ivanova
  • Trailer: Angel Wagenstein: Art is a Weapon (doc., Dir. Andrea Simon, 2012 release)
  • Novels by Angel Wagenstein published in English

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