October 30, 2013

Fascinated by East German Cinema

DEFA film library celebrates 20 years of scholarship
The DEFA Film Library has released DVDs of many long-awaited titles from the canons of German and international cinema.

The DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall with a wide range of lectures and screenings both locally and across the country. Founded in 1993, the DEFA Film Library is the only archive and research center outside of Germany devoted to a broad spectrum of filmmaking from and related to the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).

DEFA stands for Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft, the state-run East German film studios, where films were made from 1946 to 1990.

German Minister of State for Culture and Media Bernd Neumann, in a recent letter to UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, praised the Film Library’s work as an “outstanding contribution to presenting Germany’s cultural heritage,” as well as “an inspiration in overcoming prejudice and developing new ways to approach the cinema and history of former East Germany.”

DEFA founder Barton Byg said that the library has worked for two decades to broaden popular and scholarly understanding of filmmaking in the GDR by critically exploring its aesthetic, political and ideological bases.

“Since the beginning, such ideas have formed all our outreach and research projects,” he said. DEFA executive director Skyler Arndt-Briggs added, “We’re thrilled at the enthusiasm and interest in [East] German cinema that the library has helped generate so far and we look forward to an exciting third decade.”