The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Section Menu

AUTHORITY & ALTERITY IN EAST GERMAN MOVIES: Political Experiments, Rebel Youth and Civil Unrest

Event Information



Date & Time

Jun 13, 2021 (All day) to Jun 20, 2021 (All day)

Contact Name

Franchesca Viaud


Event Website

DEFA Film Library

AUTHORITY & ALTERITY IN EAST GERMAN MOVIES: Political Experiments, Rebel Youth and Civil Unrest

The weeklong virtual Institute and 3-week virtual film series will explore representations of political experiments, "whistleblowers," youth rebellion and state authority in East German cinema. It will look 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 will help 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 will discuss 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 will be open to the general public as well as Institute participants. Unlike prior years, it will be held virtually, and the films will be available to stream for a full three weeks, June 13-27. While the final selection is not yet confirmed, the festival will include a mix of films already available from the DEFA Film Library and hitherto un-subtitled or -released titles.

The Institute will be 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.

Main Event | Day 1 | Day 2Day 3