Summer Film Institute



... Political Experiments,
Rebel Youth and Civil Unrest


June 13-20, 2021


The weeklong virtual Institute and 3-week virtual film series explored representations of political experiments, "whistleblowers," youth rebellion and state authority in East German cinema. Discussions among 40 participants worldwide looked at the complex interplay of these in a historical context marked by political changes in a state that attempted to both undermine and re-appropriate reform impulses. Films, readings and virtual discussions helped participants parse the differences between dissent and alterity as socio-political manifestations, and how the example of the GDR can function as a springboard for discussions of artistic and personal responses to other political systems, past and present.


Institute participants from different disciplines discussed selected readings and view East German films in various genres to address topics such as:

  • Utopia and social reform in film and media imaginings
  • Filmic representations of alterity, authority and dissent
  • Rebellion, civil unrest and youth subcultures
  • Law and order: institutional practices and diffuse forms of authority
  • Movies as both tools of the state and vehicles for change


The Institute will take place virtually and in English. The format will include:

  • roundtables, plenaries and small group discussions on Zoom for 2-3 hours per day
  • optional virtual coffee breaks and cocktail hours, for further opportunities to chat and network with participants and directors
  • online platforms for group discussions and projects, as well as for readings and extensive access to East German films not included in the program
  • access to core Institute films over a 3-week period beginning June 1, to make the weeklong Institute more manageable


In the tradition of prior Summer Film Institutes, the accompanying Alterity and Authority film festival was open to the general public as well as Institute participants. Unlike prior years, it was held virtually, and the films were available to stream for a full three weeks, June 13-27. The festival included a mix of films already available from the DEFA Film Library and hitherto un-subtitled or -released titles.


The Institute was co-directed by Mariana Ivanova and Seth Howes.

  • Mariana Ivanova is an associate professor of German film and media studies at UMass Amherst. Her monograph Cinema of Collaboration: DEFA Coproductions and International Exchange in Cold War Europe (Berghahn Books, 2019) foregrounds the East German film studio as a key site for cooperative practices at a time of profound ideological division. Her current project re-thinks "heritage cinema" in relation to the recent proliferation of historical films about private lives impacted by political rivalries and transborder movement during the Cold War.
  • Seth Howes is an assistant professor and director of graduate study in German at the University of Missouri. He is the author of Moving Images on the Margins: Experimental Film in Late Socialist East Germany (Camden House, 2019) and editor, with Cyrus Shahan and Mirko. M. Hall, of Beyond No Future: Cultures of German Punk (Bloomsbury, 2016). His current work involves Peter Weiss and the Cold War.



Shibboleth login