Summer Film Institute


Major funding for the DEFA Film Library 2009 Summer Film Institute was provided by the DEFA Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). With thanks as well to: Smith College, Departments of Film Studies and German Studies and the PRAXIS Internship Program; UMass Amherst, German and Scandinavian Studies and the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Five College Film Council; Goethe Institute Boston; Max Kade Foundation, Inc.

Rewriting (East) German Cinema:

Issues in Film Methodology and Historiography

The year 2009 marked the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Cold War.  As the ideological divisions and artistic legacies of the Cold War come into clearer view, previously neglected aspects of East German cinema become available to critical reassessment as well – and, with them, the concepts and methodologies that have guided much of the scholarship on postwar German film. This week-long seminar focused on the continued provocation of East German cinema to confront a number of historiographical and methodological issues in the study of postwar German cinema, including questions of periodization, institutional continuities, conceptions of cinema as a public sphere, and film’s contribution to the audio-visual legacy of the twentieth century.


Organized by co-directors Sabine Hake (UT Austin) and Larson Powell (UMKC), the seminar used a series of case studies to address the following issues:


* the historical continuities between UFA and DEFA (e.g., Überläuferfilme)

* notions of film authorship and ideology (e.g., Wolfgang Staudte)

* DEFA as a production model and cultural institution (e.g., KASGs)

* the function of multimediality and intermediality (e.g., television, radio)

* actors, stars, and issues of performativity (e.g., Manfred Krug)

* the relationship between film aesthetics and technology (e.g., ORWO film)


This week-long seminar brought together a group of 20-25 scholars from various disciplines (German studies, film studies, history, art history, social sciences, theater studies).  Meetings included a combination of discussions and screenings; the screenings were also open to the public (35mm prints in collaboration with the non-profit theaters of Amherst Cinema Arts Center / Pleasant Street Theater).


Comments from 2009 Participants:

"What a fantastic and encouraging experience!  It was a Starstunde for academia and DEFA scholarship. This is what it should be like: people of joint interest sitting around a table and discussing without hostility. I was very impressed and found the seminar extraordinarily stimulating." 

- Karen Ritzenhoff, Central Connecticut State University


"I must admit I haven’t learned so much in such a short time for quite a while. So: thank you for making this possible, I’m sure this was just the beginning of a long lasting team working effort." 

- Henning Wrage, University of Wisconsin


"Once again I thank you [Barton Byg] and Sky [Arndt-Briggs] for the fantastic seminar, for your hospitality and for the warm and friendly atmosphere.  I have the feeling that I made some new and good friends. And I really learned a lot!" 

- Detlef Gericke-Schoenhagen, Goethe-Institut Boston


“The Summer Film Institute is excellent: great films, inspiring discussions, and lots of ideas for projects I am going to take home.” 

- Sebastian Heiduschke, Oregon State University

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