2024 Prize for Graduate Student Essay

on East German Cinema

This annual prize, created in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the DEFA Film Studios in 2021, is awarded for the best graduate student essay on East German cinema.


The prize is accompanied by a cash award of $500 from the Founder’s Fund for Student Researchers—established in honor of the DEFA Film Library’s Founding Director, UMass Professor Emeritus Barton Byg—to help support research on East German cinema. 


Eligibility: US or international graduate students, including recent graduates (since January 1, 2023).


Submissions & Format:

  • The winning scholarly essay will demonstrate original and critical analysis, clarity of argument and exposition, and engagement with varied source materials.
  • Students may submit their own paper themselves, or they may be nominated by an advisor or professor with the author’s consent. In either case, the submitter should provide an accompanying cover letter, as well as a short author’s CV.  
  • Papers may be submitted in either English or German and may not have been published by the time of submission. The manuscript should be 5,500-8,000 words in length (double spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt), including footnotes/endnotes but excluding bibliography.


This year's deadline for submissions is September 1, 2024. Papers should be submitted to the Committee Chair Dr. Mariana Ivanova (mzivanova@umass.edu, Academic Director, DEFA Film Library). Committee members also include Dr. Victoria Rizo Lenshyn (Associate Director, DEFA Film Library) and Skyler Arndt-Briggs (UMass Amherst, Emerita).


Award Celebration & Certificate:

The author of the winning essay will be contacted in September 2024. Should the author be attending the German Studies Association conference, the award will be celebrated at the conference of the same year. The essay and recipient will be highlighted in the DEFA Film Library newsletter and website; the committee will also provide feedback on the essay.


Past Awardees:

  • 2023: Danny Pinto ( University of Chicago), for the paper "'They Saw Their Guilt on Screen:' Death Camp Sachsenhausen (1947) and the Plasticity of Authenticity."
  • 2022: Mor Geller (Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem), for the paper "Research, Subjects: Reception Polling and 'Multiple Socialisms' in Honecker's East Germany"
  • 2021: Thomas Preston (Columbia University), for the paper "Loneliness and Pathos in Heiner Carow's Coming Out""

Associated Films:

Associated People:

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