What Should I Watch?

A guide to what to watch while your stuck at home during the pandemic. Here are a few you East German films with English subtitles that are well worth seeing. I’m often asked for recommendations on East German movies that people should watch. There’s no one answer to this. I once showed my personal favorite… Continue reading What Should I Watch?

The Condemned Village

If you look up The Condemned Village (Das verurteilte Dorf) on Wikipedia (either the English or the German version) you’ll find it described as a “propaganda film.” You could argue that point, but if you look up The Steel Fist, My Son John, Red Snow, or Walk East on Beacon—all made the same year as… Continue reading The Condemned Village

Held for Questioning

The backstory of Held for Questioning (Der Aufenthalt) is the story of a film that was made against all odds, by a director that DEFA had, essentially, written off the books. Frank Beyer was one of the best filmmakers in East Germany. He proved this time and again, with movies such as Five Cartridges, Naked… Continue reading Held for Questioning

Chronicle of a Murder

Chronicle of a Murder (Chronik eines Mordes) begins during an event in Würzburg, where an attractive young woman meets with the newly-elected mayor and promptly shoots him. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that the woman is named Ruth Bodenheim and that she is Jewish. The man she shoots, named Zwischenzahl, was responsible for… Continue reading Chronicle of a Murder

Marriage in the Shadows

Like Stars and Jakob the Liar, Marriage in the Shadows (Ehe im Schatten) deals with the subject of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. Unlike those films, however, this one came out in 1947 when the Nuremberg Trials were still going on and new revelations about atrocities at the concentration camps were arriving every day. The people… Continue reading Marriage in the Shadows

Jakob the Liar

There are a few East German films that, in spite of the political differences, are acknowledged as classics on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Stars, The Murderers Are Among Us, and The Rabbit is Me have all entered that exclusive group, but—with the exception of Stars—these films did not receive much attention until after… Continue reading Jakob the Liar

Somewhere in Berlin

The East German film studio, DEFA, was founded in May, 1946. During the first few years in post-war Germany, it was, literally, the only game in town. While the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) in the west dragged its feet on film production (mostly at the behest of Hollywood), the east got the… Continue reading Somewhere in Berlin

Stars

For its first 25 years, two things kept the rest of the world from learning that East Germany was producing some of the best films in Europe. First was the country’s unfortunate tendency to ban its directors’ best efforts. Films such as The Axe of Wandsbek, Sun Seekers, Born in ‘45, and The Rabbit is… Continue reading Stars

Sun Seekers

In 1947, the Soviets began mining operations in the Schlema Valley in the southeastern region of Saxony. They called their mining company “Wismut,” the German word for bismuth, because they didn’t want the U.S. to know what they were really mining: uranium. After what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Russians wanted to make sure… Continue reading Sun Seekers

Your Unknown Brother

Your Unknown Brother takes place in 1935; many years before the GDR was established. Although it is ostensibly about the Nazi regime, the parallels to East Germany in the 1980s are obvious. Uwe Kockisch plays Arnold Clasen, a member of the banned Communist party who was arrested for painting communist slogans on a wall. After… Continue reading Your Unknown Brother