Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
DEFA after East Germany

DEFA after East Germany

Edited by Brigitta B. Wagner
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    DEFA after East Germany
    Book Description:

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, East Germany's DEFA filmmakers had a brief window in which to critique GDR society on either side of the Wende, the sweeping political turn that surrounded the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the border. Building on the DEFA Film Library's retrospective The Wende Flicks and Indiana University's DEFA Project, this study examines the newly rediscovered filmic artifacts of this transitional cinema, introducing eighteen key films from 1988-94 in essays by German scholars, film professionals, and cultural figures. Accompanying interviews and contemporary reviews present a complex portrait of East German film art and representation indebted to DEFA film history and influences of the communist bloc. The resulting anthology combines historical, autobiographical, cultural-political, and journalistic discourses to explore the tension between the hopes and frustrations these films express, the historical exigencies that overshadowed their production and reception, and the politics of their revival. Contributors: Skyler J. Arndt-Briggs, Peter Blank, Claudia Breger, Barton Byg, Knut Elstermann, Peter Kahane, Jennifer M. Kapczynski, Wolfgang Kohlhaase, Thomas Krüger, Helmut Morsbach, Benjamin Robinson, Katrin Schlösser and Frank Löprich, Nicholas Sveholm, Johannes von Moltke, Brigitta B. Wagner. Brigitta B. Wagner is an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in Film Studies at the Freie Universität and in Time-Based Media at the Universität der Künste in Berlin.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-402-4
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. List of Abbreviations and Terms
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction: Making History ReVisible
    (pp. 1-8)
    Brigitta B. Wagner

    In December 2008 former employees of the German Democratic Republic’s state-run DEFA (Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft) Studios as well as cinemagoers from the former East were up in arms. Volker Schlöndorff, a prominent cineaste of the West’s New German Cinema of the 1970s and 1980s and, after theWende, the managing director of Studio Babelsberg from 1992 to 1997 (located on the grounds of the old DEFA Studio for Feature Films), had made an unfortunate remark in an interview with theMärkische Allgemeine Zeitung. “Babelsberg!” he proclaimed, “I’m often called a liquidator, but in fact I laid the foundations for today’s successes....

  6. Part I. Sketching DEFA’s Past and Present

    • 1: Thoughts for Indiana
      (pp. 11-12)
      Wolfgang Kohlhaase

      DEFA was founded with a Soviet license and was a budget-financed film studio. It was given a certain amount of money to produce a certain number of films. The films did not need to earn back their production costs, which would hardly have been possible in a country as small as the German Democratic Republic. Just think of how an opera house is financed: money is spent on culture with little expectation of financial gain.

      From the start, DEFA defined itself politically and artistically as a kind of anti-Ufa.¹ After the war and the end of the Nazi period—and...

    • 2: Not a Bad Heritage: An Interview with Andreas Dresen
      (pp. 13-23)
      Brigitta B. Wagner and Andreas Dresen

      In 2010, in celebration of the Berlin International Film Festival’s sixtieth anniversary, its organizers staged an act of cultural-political reconciliation. The festival’s origins in 1950s’ Cold War competition could be remembered from a now integrated filmography as they bestowed Honorary Golden Bears for Lifetime Achievement on two figures who embodied German cinema’s divided history: the actress Hanna Schygulla, an icon of the West’s New German Cinema, and the screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase, whose successful DEFA career had lasted four decades. Who better to give Kohlhaase’s laudation at the space-age Kino International on Karl-Marx-Allee than one of unified Germany’s most prolific contemporary...

    • 3: Spectral Images in the Afterlife of GDR Cinema
      (pp. 24-48)
      Barton Byg

      The now vanished German Democratic Republic is both there and not there. The GDR cinema, too, haunts films of the present, but there are many ways in which the GDR was already a spectral apparition even while it existed. Of course, a country that no longer exists leaves behind a spectral presence—in histories that seek to uncover its “true” existence; in culture, where portions of its past reality persist, often invisibly, in the present; and in film, which is fictional even when it tries to “document.”

      In a variety of ways both the films made during the GDR’s existence...

  7. Part II. Film in the Face of the Wende

    • 4: The Wende in Film
      (pp. 51-57)
      Knut Elstermann

      TheWende, the peaceful revolution in the GDR, profoundly changed the lives of everyone who grew up in that small, cramped country. Fortunately for me, my professional sphere also changed dramatically. I had previously worked at the news desk ofNeues Deutschland, the organ of the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) while publishing short pieces in the popular magazineDer Filmspiegelon the side. After theWendeI was finally able to pursue my dream job. I became a cultural journalist specializing in film on the popular youth radio program DT 64 and soon got my own show on Saturday...

    • 5: Between Times: My Experience as a Director during the Wende
      (pp. 58-68)
      Peter Kahane

      I have always been interested in the concrete course of events marking the major turning points in history: how people experienced the morning after the storming of the Bastille, how a loyal German soldier responded to the Kaiser’s abdication, what Germans felt when they emerged from air raid shelters in May 1945. I suppose my imaginings in this regard have always been rather clichéd. This was certainly how I felt after experiencing a major turning point myself in 1989.

      What I find extraordinary about theWendeis not just the experience itself but the fact that my memory of it...

    • 6: “Look, People, Look!”: An Interview with Eduard Schreiber
      (pp. 69-74)
      Peter Blank and Eduard Schreiber

      It was a hot August day as members of the Indiana University DEFA Project sat in the garden of the café Via Nova II in the Universitätstrasse of Berlin-Mitte in 2010, waiting to meet filmmaker Eduard Schreiber (born in 1939). His short experimental documentaryÖstliche Landschaft(Eastern Landscape, FRG), an essayistic exploration of a North-Berlin landfill, overflowing with GDR refuse and relics, had premiered in 1991 at the Leipzig Film Festival. Until the DEFA Film Library at University of Massachusetts in Amherst rediscovered the film and included it in theirWende Flicksretrospective, the late-DEFA short had been all but...

    • 7: The Theatricality of “Shard Films”: An Interview with Jörg Foth
      (pp. 75-79)
      Nicholas Sveholm and Jörg Foth

      Jörg Foth was born in Berlin in 1949. He completed his studies at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen in Potsdam-Babelsberg in 1977 and premiered his first feature film,Das Eismeer ruft(The Arctic Sea Calls!, GDR), in 1984, followed byBiologie!(Biology!, GDR 1990) andLetztes aus der DaDaeR(Latest from the Da-Da-R, GDR/FRG 1990). The long gap between Foth’s first and second features was characteristic of DEFA’s treatment of its so-called “fourth generation” of directors, and Foth spoke out in favor of more opportunities for these young filmmakers.Letztes aus der DaDaeRwas based on the stage work...

    • 8: Competing Archives: Intertextuality and Wende Narrative in the “Last Films from East Germany”
      (pp. 80-99)
      Claudia Breger

      When watching the Eastern cinema of theWende, one quickly notices the prominence, in several films, of actors who are primarily known for their roles in the West German oeuvre of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. These casting choices, which could hardly be neutral at that moment in history, form a productive starting point from which to explore questions of archive and intertextuality in the films of the DEFA Film Library’s retrospective,Wende Flicks: Last Films from East Germany. In approaching the films as complexly intertextual, I intend neither to reinscribe the idea of a national cinema at the expense of film...

    • 9: The State of Being Done: Film at the End of the Second World
      (pp. 100-120)
      Benjamin Robinson

      In the last films produced and coproduced by East Germany’s DEFA Studio for Feature Films between 1989 and 1992, one notices the curious phenomenon that there isno place leftfor no place. I don’t mean to imply that everything that had been out of whack in the GDR settled into its proper order right after the state’s sudden collapse; nor that these films in any way hail belonging in a triumphant new Federal German order. Rather, what is so odd is that the anarchy that bursts out on the screen is so unsure of its place. Its targets aren’t...

  8. Part III. Migrating DEFA to the FRG

    • 10: Cinema after the GDR’s Downfall: The Story of Ö-Film
      (pp. 123-130)
      Katrin Schlösser and Frank Löprich

      The GDR is a country that has ceased to exist, a country that history has passed by. It indulged not only in an oversized secret police and surveillance apparatus, but also, with DEFA, in a disproportionately large film industry for such a small country, working from a state-financed and lavishly equipped production studio. As Lenin once said, “Of all the arts, for us the cinema is the most important.”¹ Everything in the GDR was directed, controlled, planned, and monitored by the state. In all areas of life, ideology took precedence over economics.

      DEFA films differed from foreign films. They were...

    • 11: When Berlin-Brandenburg Met Kommerz-Keil: An Interview with Klaus Keil
      (pp. 131-137)
      Brigitta B. Wagner and Klaus Keil

      From 1994 to 2004 Kaus Keil directed the Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH (FBBB), the film-funding body that sought, in those years, to improve the capital region’s film development, production, and post-production infrastructure as well as the market value of features made there. Formerly a production manager and professor of production and media economics at the University of Film and Television in Munich, Keil was known for his emphasis on German cinema’s commercial success. His perspective on the post-unification German film industry offers a helpful counterpoint to the Eastern film industry’s experience of theWende. In particular, his account introduces the exigencies...

    • 12: Performing the GDR: The Last DEFA Generation and the Tradition of Theatricality
      (pp. 138-153)
      Johannes von Moltke

      DEFA may have been dismantled officially in 1992, but there are numerous ways to trace its afterlives. We might look to the physical plant of the DEFA Studios, which remains in operation a century after its founding in Babelsberg. We might consider institutional legacies such as the DEFA Foundation, or marketing and distribution strategies spearheaded by companies such as Icestorm. We could trace the legacy of DEFA in terms of film pedagogy at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen “Konrad Wolf” (HFF). Or we could certainly trace the careers of DEFA personnel through the dissolution of the GDR and into...

    • 13: Surveillance States: Structures of Conspiracy in Wende Cinema
      (pp. 154-173)
      Jennifer M. Kapczynski

      When Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’sDas Leben der Anderen(The Lives of Others, FRG 2006) first appeared in commercial and festival theaters, audiences and critics both in Germany and internationally embraced its dramatic treatment of life under the oppressive regime of the former German Democratic Republic. Set in 1984, the film is a thriller about the intertwined fates of an East German author, his lover, and the State Security (or “Stasi”) agent hired to track their movements. Ultimately, it becomes a tale of redemption for the two central male characters: author Georg Dreymann (played by Sebastian Koch) successfully smuggles out...

    • 14: Cleansing the System: East German Cinema Repurposed
      (pp. 174-190)
      Brigitta B. Wagner

      Re-tro-spek-tive.” A teenager awkwardly sounds out the word on a film poster in Peter Kahane’sVorspiel(Prelude/Foreplay, released in English asReady for Life, GDR 1987) before asking his group of loafing friends what it means. The utterance and question would hardly appear so skeptical were it not for the run-down communal cinema’s ironic name— “Aktivist”—and its narrative function as the place where youngsters routinely relieve their small-town doldrums. The activity of cinematic retrospection would be far more innocuous if one of the boys in the group did not resemble Ernst-Georg Schwill’s pudgy, film-obsessed, and border-crossing “Kohle” from Gerhard...

  9. Part IV. Archive and Audience

    • 15: Historical Archaeology: Curating the Wende Flicks Series
      (pp. 193-202)
      Skyler J. Arndt-Briggs

      In 1990 and 1991, while the members of the hard-wonNachwuchs“DaDaeR” production group were making the films at the core of theWende Flicksseries, the highest profile project having to do with GDR cinema was archeological. In the months after the fall of the Wall, East German filmmakers such as Roland Gräf and film scholars such as Rolf Richter set about unearthing and restoring the feature films buried in the signature act of East German film censorship, theKahlschlagof 1965 and 1966 that put a dozen completed films—the full year’s production of adult feature films—on...

    • 16: The DEFA Foundation, 2010: Rediscover the Past—Support the Future
      (pp. 203-209)
      Helmut Morsbach

      The DEFA Foundation is a Berlin-based nonprofit organization constituted under German civil law. It was established on December 15, 1998 by the Federal Republic of Germany. At this time, the rights to the DEFA film catalog were transferred to the foundation as capital for its operations. The foundation’s mission is to preserve DEFA films, make them available to the public, and promote German cinematic art and culture. This mission has given rise to the foundation’s slogan “Rediscover the Past—Support the Future” and has led to a diverse and complex field of activity, which includes, above all, the archiving and...

    • 17: Activating an Archive of Inner Perspectives: Political Education with DEFA Films
      (pp. 210-216)
      Thomas Krüger

      In 2008 filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff, best known for his affiliation with the West’s New German Cinema and his efforts to revive Studio Babelsberg after theWende, triggered a heated debate about the artistic value of DEFA films. In an interview for a German regional newspaper he stated, “I did away with the name ‘DEFA.’ The DEFA films were terrible. They played in Paris when I studied there, but only in the cinemas of the Communist Party. We’d go in there and have a laugh.”¹ These comments, of course, caused an uproar among various former DEFA directors, screenwriters, editors, and actors...

  10. Part V. Reception Materials

    • 18: Vorspiel (Ready for Life, dir. Peter Kahane, GDR 1987)
      (pp. 219-222)

      Following in the footsteps of his popular earlier filmEte und Ali(Ete and Ali, GDR 1985), Peter Kahane once again presents a coming-of-age story inVorspiel, this time in the form of idealistic youths eager to discover where life beyond their small town will take them.Vorspielwas well received in both the East and the West; this is demonstrated in the translations below of Heinz Kersten’s review fromDer Tagesspiegel(read at the time particularly by West Berliners) and Hans Braunseis’s review fromDer Morgen(which served as a voice for the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany). Despite...

    • 19: flüstern & SCHREIEN (whisper & SHOUT, dir. Dieter Schumann, GDR 1988)
      (pp. 223-228)

      One of the greatest difficulties in understanding DEFA films lies in the temporal and cultural differences between their modern reception and audience responses at the time of the films’ production and release. In an article from the East German newspaper theBerliner Zeitung(November 3, 1988), Thomas Melzer discusses issues that are not raised in the rock documentaryflüstern & SCHREIEN(whisper & SHOUT, GDR 1988), such as the lack of sufficient background and perspective given for some bands, including Chicoreé. This article betrays a dichotomy between ideologically inflected criticism directed at filmmaker Dieter Schumann and his team, on one hand, and...

    • 20: Coming Out (dir. Heiner Carow, GDR 1989)
      (pp. 229-234)

      Coming Out, DEFA’s first feature film explicitly addressing homosexuality in the East, opened on November 9, the evening the German- German border was opened. Helmut Ullrich’s review was printed the following day in the GDR’s Christian Democratic-alignedNeue Zeit, but though championing the film’s breaking of taboos, the article refers only obliquely to political events and to the larger rupture to the status quo in East German society. Monika Zimmermann, then theFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s GDR correspondent, could, a few weeks later and from a Western perspective, be far more explicit about the significance of the film in a country...

    • 21: Leipzig im Herbst (Leipzig in the Fall, dir. Andreas Voigt and Gerd Kroske, GDR 1989) and Östliche Landschaft (Eastern Landscape, dir. Eduard Schreiber, FRG 1991)
      (pp. 235-239)

      The documentary Leipzig im Herbst by Andreas Voigt, Gerd Kroske, and cinematographer Sebastian Richter depicts Leipzig’s turbulent protest culture leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Individuals from several layers of society shed light on the situation in East Germany at that time. The article “Ende des Schweigens,” published in February 1990 in the West’sSüddeutsche Zeitung, announces the first screening of the film in a West German city. TheWende Flicksretrospective and DVD box set from the DEFA Film Library pairLeipzig im HerbstwithÖstliche Landschaft, a short essayistic film by Eduard Schreiber and shot...

    • 22: Die Architekten (The Architects, dir. Peter Kahane, GDR 1990)
      (pp. 240-245)

      The following reviews exhibit contrasting attitudes toward Peter Kahane’s filmDie Architektenand toward the changing culture and politics of East Germany. Originally published in theFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung(FAZ) in June 1990, Monika Zimmermann’s review “Mauern für die Phantasie” displays harsh criticisms of the film and of DEFA cinema in general. Roland Herold’s review “Die verratene Generation,” published in the same month in the EasternSächsisches Tageblatt, praises the film for its portrayal of the complexities of GDR society and the relationship between art and politics within it.

      Zimmermann’s negative critique focuses on the specificity of Kahane’s film with...

    • 23: Die Mauer (The Wall, dir. Jürgen Böttcher, GDR 1990)
      (pp. 246-251)

      Jürgen Böttcher’s Die Mauer was one of several documentaries that gave voice and vision to the GDR’s demise and the rapid political, social, and architectural transitions that followed the opening of the German-German border, particularly in Berlin. Taking the Wall in this state of transformation, touristic reverence, and reflection as his subject, Böttcher grants the structure some of the historical complexity that would no longer be perceptible in its dismantling. Sibylle Wirsing, then a cultural correspondent of the West’sFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, examines the film alongside several feature documentaries from the immediateWendeperiod. While critiquing what she sees as...

    • 24: Letztes aus der DaDaeR (Latest from the Da-Da-R, dir. Jörg Foth, GDR/FRG 1990)
      (pp. 252-258)

      Jörg Foth’s filmLetztes aus der DaDaeRconsists of a collection of cabaret pieces satirizing the final days of the GDR and the period shortly after the fall of the Wall. Foth’s film follows two clowns, played by the poet and songwriting duo Steffen Mensching and Hans-Eckardt Wenzel, as they travel the East German countryside giving performances and subsequently witness widespread rebellion. The following interviews reveal two very different views of the film and its place in the East German cinematic tradition. Axel Geiß’sFilmspiegelinterview of September 1990 with Thomas Wilkening, “Erneute Ausgrenzung,” discusses the film in terms of...

    • 25: Der Tangospieler (The Tango Player, dir. Roland Gräf, FRG/GDR/SUI 1991)
      (pp. 259-264)

      The impact of the Wende is reflected more clearly in the production and reception history ofDer Tangospielerthan in the film itself. Horst Knietzsch’s 1990 on-set interview with Roland Gräf inNeues Deutschland, the former press organ of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), provides some context for the film’s writing and production. Gräf also speculates explicitly about the future of bothDer Tangospielerand DEFA in a united Germany. Knietzsch himself was one of the most venerable—and dependably line-toeing—film critics of the old GDR. Oksana Bulgakowa’s biting condemnation in the (West) Berlin-basedtageszeitungwas published on the...

    • 26: Verriegelte Zeit (Locked-Up Time, dir. Sibylle Schönemann, FRG/GDR 1991)
      (pp. 265-271)

      The West German reception of Sibylle Schönemann’sVerriegelte Zeit, a documentary that seeks explanations from the various authorities responsible for Schönemann’s 1984 arrest in the GDR, places the filmmaker’s ordeal in dialogue with Germany’s National Socialist past. Both Bodo Fründt and Thomas Thieringer of theSüddeutsche Zeitungseek comparisons between the unwillingness of Schönemann’s subjects to display guilt for their roles in the East German state and postwar (West) Germans’ reluctance to face individual, collective, and state crimes committed during the Third Reich. It is Schönemann who, in her interview with Thieringer, rejects this facile equation of German dictatorial regimes...

    • 27: Das Land hinter dem Regenbogen (The Land Beyond the Rainbow, dir. Herwig Kipping, FRG 1992)
      (pp. 272-277)

      The German Democratic Republic ceased to exist, and with its demise the dreams and demons, hopes and horrors, of those who lived in it began to fade. The best way for film director Herwig Kipping to capture this past was to create an allegorical fairy tale, a “Land beyond the Rainbow.” Then film critic, today head of the DEFA Foundation, Ralf Schenk, writing a review for the (Eastern)Wochenpostin 1991, highlights the success of the director in portraying a particularly aesthetic and nuanced perspective of what had been the GDR. The equally prolific film critic and historian Michael Hanisch...

    • 28: Verfehlung (The Mistake, dir. Heiner Carow, FRG 1992)
      (pp. 278-282)

      Heiner Carow’s Verfehlung shows that even the most intimate experiences of everyday East German citizens were well within the control of state policies. The action of the film takes place during the last year of the GDR: peace protesters have begun to congregate in churches; the fall of the Berlin Wall is imminent. Yet this post-Wendefilm foretells not a hopeful, but rather a bleak future and opens with imagery of a lifeless countryside, which is being consumed by the mining machinery of a relentlessly expanding coal pit.

      In their respective reviews in the left-leaning Berlin newspaperdie tageszeitungand...

    • 29: Stilles Land (Silent Country, dir. Andreas Dresen, FRG 1992)
      (pp. 283-288)

      Recognized with the Hessian Film Award as well as the German Critics’ Award,Stilles Land, the first feature of Andreas Dresen, opened in Berlin and eastern Germany on October 8, 1992. Both Reinhard Wosniak of the Rostock regional paperOstsee-Zeitungand filmmaker Hannes Schönemann, writing for the highbrow (East) German film journalFilm und Fernsehenwere quick to emphasize the film’s setting in the provinces, where the distant rumblings of East Berlin’sWendeconfronted a more authentic, perhaps more coherent experience of life in the East. While Wosniak celebrates the film’s adherence to DEFA’s realist aesthetic (which would continue to...

    • 30: Jana und Jan (Jana and Jan, dir. Helmut Dziuba, FRG 1992)
      (pp. 289-295)

      According to its contemporary reception in magazines and newspapers of the newly reunited Germany of 1992, Helmut Dziuba’s final DEFA directorial endeavor,Jana und Jan, met with mixed reviews. Some of the more insightful and poignant articles from the period can be found in two established GDR newspapers based in Berlin.Junge WeltandNeue Zeitoffer two disparate perspectives of thisWendeyouth film.

      René Römer interviews the director forJunge Weltin “Nahe der Katastrophe liegt immer die Chance,” published on May 27, 1992. The piece reveals the intriguing context of the film’s production, including the hardship and...

    • 31: Herzsprung (Herzsprung, dir. Helke Misselwitz, FRG 1992)
      (pp. 296-302)

      In her feature-film debutHerzsprung, a DEFA coproduction with (West) German television, director Helke Misselwitz narrates the story of Johanna, a young woman struggling to make ends meet in the small eastern German town of Herzsprung shortly after unification. Deceived by unified Germany’s seeming promise of a better life, Johanna must face unemployment and the gruesome suicide of her grief-stricken husband. While she sees a glimmer of hope for starting a new life in her romance with a handsome, mysterious foreigner, the violence that lurks underneath the surface of her desolate hometown finally erupts in a brutal hate crime that...

    • 32: Sammelsurium—Ein ostelbischer Kulturfilm (Hotch Potch—An East Elbian Cultural Film, dir. Volker Koepp, FRG 1992)
      (pp. 303-310)

      Produced by Ö-Film, a company run by DEFA-trained producers Katrin Schlösser and Frank Löprich,Sammelsuriumrepresents a reflective journey across the portion of unified Germany that was so recently the GDR. Unlike some of the other GDR-themed documentaries of theWendeera,Sammelsurium, which premiered at a festival in the western city of Duisburg, received very little attention from journalists at the time. Hans-Jörg Rother’s 1993 review for the easternNeue Zeitis an exception. Dietmar Hochmuth was himself a DEFA feature-filmmaker of the last generation, and his interview with Koepp later in the same year emphasizes the shifts in...

    • 33: Miraculi (dir. Ulrich Weiß, FRG 1992)
      (pp. 311-314)

      Ulrich Weiß’s phantasmagorical filmMiraculicannot be fully appreciated without some understanding of its production history. In her article “Der See, der über Nacht verschwindet” (November 19, 1992), Ursula Heyne contextualizes the film within its conceptual history and offers a poetic account of its prominent motifs. Though one would expect a review published inNeues Deutschland, the official paper of the SED, to be innately political, Dieter Strunz’s article (November 19, 1992), published in the (West) GermanBerliner Morgenpost, is considerably more ideological than Heyne’s. In his almost caustic critique, Strunz dismisses the film as little more than the product...

    • 34: Burning Life (dir. Peter Welz, FRG 1994)
      (pp. 315-319)

      What does it mean to be German? In the years following the political unification of East and West Germany, Germans socialized in one or the other state had to reinterpret and redefine that adjective. DEFA-trained filmmakers, too, had to navigate a unified German film industry, one whose federal, regional, and broadcast funding structures were increasingly oriented to the market economy and to the Federal Republic’s Americanized entertainment culture. Peter Welz, a DEFA child actor who later studied at the GDR’s Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen “Konrad Wolf,” combined, inBurning Life, a Hollywood fugitive road movie with distinctly German content:...

    • 35: The Schlöndorff Controversy (2008)
      (pp. 320-332)

      When New German cineaste Volker Schlöndorff, who had overseen the post-Wendetransformation of the DEFA Studios into the lucrative Studio Babelsberg, remarked off-handedly in a 2008 interview with Potsdam’sMärkische Allgemeine Zeitungthat “DEFA films were terrible,” his comments resurrected old animosities and resentments in Germany’s once divided film industry. In the age of online newspapers, the reactions from readers and bloggers were almost immediate. While the original interview emphasizes, perhaps inordinately, Schlöndorff’s material possessions in his luxurious villa in the formerly East German Potsdam, the responses from Schlöndorff himself, Progress Film-Verleih and the DEFA Foundation, and Eastern journalist Kerstin...

  11. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 333-336)
  12. Notes on the Contributors and Curators
    (pp. 337-338)
  13. Index
    (pp. 339-349)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 350-350)