In my last article, I looked at the women who made feature films for DEFA. Even more overlooked—but no less worthy of attention—are the women who directed films for Deutscher Fernsehfunk (DFF), the GDR’s state-run television station broadcaster.1 For DEFA directors, especially after the 11th Plenum, television was sometimes used as a form of punishment … Continue reading The Female Director of East Germany, Pt. 2: The DFF Directors
When documentary filmmaker Rüdiger Stein decides to make a film about an ordinary couple, he finds that he's bitten off more than her can chew.
A fifteen-year-old girl decides that the adults in her community aren’t taking environmental issues seriously enough, so she starts a campaign to keep them from destroying the environment. Sound familiar? This film was made fourteen years before Greta Thunberg was born. In 1989, the government in the GDR had begun to relax its restrictions on … Continue reading Biology!
Shown once and then thrown in the Giftschrank (poison cabinet), this TV movie about a marriage in crisis had to wait until after the Wende for most people to see it. In Frank Beyer's Private Party (Geschlossene Gesellschaft),1 Robert (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and Ellen (Jutta Hoffmann) are a seemingly happy married couple. Robert is a talented … Continue reading Private Party
In this wild, surreal film, the German poet Novalis reflects on moments in his life as he lays dying. Novalis: The Blue Flower (Novalis – Die blaue Blume) is recognized as the last film to be released by DEFA before the East Germany film production company closed its doors. The film is told episodically as … Continue reading Novalis: The Blue Flower
A modern fairytale about two kids in an elevator that descends into a wasteland where they encounter a blind horse, a knight in dirty underwear, a green-haired witch, and giant spider with an eyeball in its backside. Alongside the fairytale films that DEFA made throughout its existence, they also made a few films that would … Continue reading Ol’ Witch
New to East German films? Here are a few from DEFA with English subtitles that are well worth seeing. All of these films are currently available on the Kanopy streaming service. 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 … Continue reading What Should I Watch?
My next article on the East Germany Cinema Blog is going to take at least another week of work, so, in the meantime, here’s a listicle to keep things moving. These are five (plus one bonus film) of the best post-Wende films on the subject of life in East Germany that I have seen. I’ve … Continue reading 5+1 Films That Look Back at the GDR
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
Just off the Schiffbauerdamm, a street that runs along the River Spree on the north side of the river, sits the Berliner Ensemble Theater. It was founded in 1954, after Bertolt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel left the Deutsches Theater to start their own theater. It was an ambitious project featuring a revolving stage … Continue reading Dusk: 1950s East Berlin Bohemia