Summer Film Institute


Support for the Institute was provided by ICESTORM International Inc.; the DEFA Foundation (Berlin); DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service); Progress Film-Verleih GmbH; and the Max Kade Foundation.

Interdisciplinary Approaches to the DEFA Film

The first East German Summer Film Institute built upon the success of the preceding past conferences held in October 1997 and November 1999. At this time, researchers in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany had been calling for a break with conventional methods of socio-historical scholarship on the GDR, and challenging long-accepted notions of what East Germany was and is. The Institute likewise addressed the need to relocate East German history and culture, a task which is part of these underlying shifts in intellectual and institutional structures. The intention was to encourage interdisciplinary, innovative thinking about East German film, while pushing for a continued reevaluation of notions of East German history and culture.

The week-long intensive workshop had three main goals:

  • to provide an introduction to organizing and teaching courses on East German film, as well as integrating these films into existing German, social science, and film studies curricula;
  • to explore GDR social history and innovative ways of thinking about East Germany before and after Unification;
  • to offer an overview of scholarship devoted to DEFA film and East Germany, sharing resources and research materials.


The opening session of the Institute offered an introduction to the socio-historical context for East German film. This was followed by a series of workshops exploring East German film under four subject areas: “Genre Films and Cultural Clichés”; “Gender in GDR Popular Culture”; “Representation of Jews and of the Holocaust in DEFA Films”; and “Documentary Film and Rebellious Youth.” Finally, the concluding session of the Institute addressed the discipline of Anglo-American Film Studies and its relatively limited awareness of East German Cinema.


Workshop Topics and Leaders:

  • Director: Barton Byg, DEFA Film Library
  • Facilitators: Sky Arndt-Briggs; Brenda Bethman; Beth Moore, DEFA Film Library
  • Filmmakers/Critics Attending: Dr. Günter Jordan, Author & Director; Erika Richter, Film Critic & Dramaturg; Ralf Schenk, Film Critic & Historian; Thomas Heise, Director
  • Opening Session: East Germany and DEFA in Interdisciplinary Discourses: Barton Byg, DEFA Film Library; Keynote Speaker: Konrad Jarausch, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill/Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung(Potsdam)
  • Workshop #1: Genre Film and Cultural Clichés: How the East was Won: Identity Formation Between Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Imperialism: Gerd Gemünden, Dartmouth College
  • Workshop #2: Genre Film and Cultural Clichés: Fairy Tales and the Socialization of Children: Susan Cocalis, University of Massachusetts
  • Workshop #3: Gender in GDR Popular Culture: Sara Lennox, University of Massachusetts; Beth Moore, DEFA Film Library
  • Workshop #4: : Representation of Jews and of the Holocaust in DEFA Films: Frank Stern, Georgetown University/Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Beer Sheva, Israel)
  • Workshop #5: Documentary Film and Rebellious Youth: Barton Byg, DEFA Film Library
  • Concluding Forum: East German Film and Anglo-American Film Studies: Patrice Petro, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Cathy Portuges, University of Massaschusetts

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