The DEFA Film Library Turns 30!

This year marks our 30th anniversary! After signing a UMass Memorandum of Understanding on September 23, 1993, Prof. Barton Byg signed contracts with the German partners, PROGRESS Filmverleih and Treuhand, thus marking the official founding of the DEFA Film Library—the first and only archive and research center devoted to East German film culture outside Germany. In the three decades since, an enthusiastic team of faculty, staff and students has established the archive’s importance through groundbreaking film series, DVD and streaming releases, workshops, teaching guides and books. Our biennial Summer Film Institutes have inspired new research trends in exploring East German film as part of German and international film history.


Here are some highlights of our 30th-anniversary program:



Summer Film Institute HIDDEN FIGURES: Blackness and Black Experiences in East Germany in tandem with a public film festival.


Paul Robeson: “I’m a Negro. I’m an American.” World premiere of DEFA Film Library’s new English subtitles for the 4K restoration at Amherst Cinema, MA.



Instagram Close-Up series, East German Film and the Holocaust, with DEFA researcher Elizabeth Ward .


Instagram Gallery: Greetings, Father Chimborazo! Photos and Texts by film director Rainer Simon.


Aug. - November
DEFA Retrospective in Santiago, Chile: Solidarity! The Chilean Experience in East German Cinema.



Announcing the new DEFA Programming Award 2023 - 2025

Sept 18: Screening of Miss Butterfly at Deutsches Haus, New York. Introduction by Savannah Champion (DEFA Film Library).


September & November

Happy Birthday! DEFA Turns 30 - film screenings at the Goethe-Institut Boston.

Sept. 13: The Dove on the Roof (introduced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs, former Executive Dir. of the DEFA Film Library)

Oct. 18: Wozzeck (introduced by Jason Doerre (Trinity College, former Program Assistant DEFA Film Library)


Sept. 20-26: Screening of Paul Robeson: “I’m a Negro. I’m an American.” at Anthology Film Archives, New York


Sept. 29: Release of Teaching Guides for Trace of Stones (written by Juliane Wuensch, Skidmore College)



Meet us at the German Studies Association conference, Oct. 5-8, in Montreal, Canada:

Oct. 5: DEFA Film Program at GSA Arts Night: HER VIEW: East German Women on Screen (short films by Helke Misselwitz, Petra Tschörtner and Gitta Nickel) Introduced by Victoria Rizo Lenshyn (Associate Dir., DEFA Film Library)

Oct. 6: Roundtable “Teaching with DEFA Films Today: Borders, Gaps and Crisis”

Oct. 7: Announcing the Winner of the 2023 Graduate Student Essay Prize

Oct. 7: DEFA30 reception, announcing the DEFA Film Library Programming Award 2023-25


Meet former DEFA workers on social media.



Meet us at the conference of the Association for Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) in Philadelphia (PA), Nov. 30-Dec. 3: 

Dec. 2: Panel “Beyond Racialization: Interrogating Blackness and Black Experiences in East German Cinema and its Legacy”

Dec. 2: Film screening The Homes We Carry (Introduction and Q&A by Mariana Ivanova, Academic Dir., DEFA Film Library)



Release of Teaching Guides for Blond Tango (written by Clara Steinbrecher, University of St. Andrews, UK) and …and Fridays at the Green Hell (written by Oliver Knabe, University of Dayton)

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