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Flashbacks: East German Films on Cold War Screens

Flashbacks: East German Films on Cold War Screens

Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 6:00 pm

Listen to audio from the program

In Conversation with Barton Byg and Ralf Schenk

Two experts on East German cinema discussed the international dimensions of German Democratic Republic filmmaking during the Cold War. Far from being trapped behind the Wall, East German films were screened around the world, including in the U.S., and won recognition at important international festivals. International exchanges took place through the film trade, co-productions, festivals, and international organizations such as the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), which made possible events such as the 1975 retrospective of East German cinema at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They also examined the different perspectives of the two Germanys on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

Barton Byg teaches German and film studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he founded the DEFA Film Library in 1993 and was a founding faculty member of the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies. He is the author of Landscapes of Resistance: The German Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and his other published work on East German film have helped bring this cinema to the awareness of English-language scholars. In 2011, he was honored with the Reinhold Schünzel Award for his efforts in the preservation and restoration of German film.

Ralf Schenk is an internationally acknowledged authority on East German film and the Chairman of the DEFA Foundation. A film historian and journalist, he has authored and edited many key books and periodicals on East German cinema, and has participated in documentaries on post-WWII Eastern European and East German film history. He has served on the jury of the Berlin International Film Festival and worked on the reconstruction and restoration of "lost" East German films.

This program was part of both the Shadows and Sojourners and Awarded! Films from Behind the War film series curated by the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst. The Shadows & Sojourners series offered the first North American retrospective of East German films on the intertwined themes of German/Jewish relations, antifascism, and the Holocaust. The films in the series are classics of the East German antifascist tradition that depict unique views of the Jewish experience and critiques of Nazi Germany seldom seen by U.S. audiences.  They have been shown at Spertus, the Goethe-Institut, and the Gene Siskel Film Center. The Awarded! series consists of eight honors-winning films produced by DEFA, the state-controlled company that oversaw film production in the GDR aka East Germany. These films were shown at the Gene Siskel Film Center.


This program has been made possible by the generous support of the DEFA Foundation and the DEFA Film Library.


Spertus was pleased to be partnering on this film series with the Goethe-Institut and the Gene Siskel Film Center.