East German Cinema

This site will not discuss the history and lasting significance of GDR cinema, a task well beyond my capacities. Serious research and study on the topic would necessitate investigation into German-language sources, especially the DEFA archives, and the viewing of many hundreds of films which are almost impossible to locate outside Germany. A great many films of the period have disappeared almost without trace. When you take into account the question of external influences (eg cinema from other socialist traditions, the impact of Hollywood and West German cinema, the preceding cinema of the Weimar Republic and before) there would be many books and PhD theses required to accommodate the subject. Plus, a heavy dose of psychoanalytic and cultural theory.

That doesn’t mean there is nothing to be said about them. In my teaching years, and many times since,  students and cinephiles alike have said they know almost nothing about this subject and want to know more. I already had many examples of GDR films on DVD which I had collected to use in teaching a course Socialist Cinema at UNSW (with Greg Dolgopolov), and a working knowledge of German, although I was then and still am over-reliant on subtitles. I began thinking about writing a short account of East German cinema and its influence on German-language cinema today, especially as the emergent awareness of the influence of World War 2 and the GDR era has begun to percolate into contemporary German cinema, ever so slowly. And there are many new long-form television series now circulating globally, for example the excellent series Babylon Berlin, now into its second season.

I remain unsure whether there really is need for another book. There are several publications which give an overview, in particular S. Heiduschke’s book East German Cinema: DEFA and Film History, published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2013. It is still readily available.  A slim volume written by an academic frustrated by the lack of convenient references for teaching students about GDR cinema, it skates over many issues and covers some in more depth than the general reader might want.

I am developing this site as a preliminary assessment of the viability of such a project. There are many other blog sites where enthusiasts reflect their own special interests. I will refer to these where relevant. In the posts on this site I intend to discuss and review new films, articles and books about East German cinema, along with news and views about the other topics I am working through. Use the Category or Search box to find these posts. They will all be categories under East German Cinema.  Any comments or discussions are welcome using the Contact or Comment boxes.