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Public Film and Lecture Series


Institute Schedule


Sunday, June 17

19:15 – 22:00:  Film Screening                       – DVD-RELEASE & US PREMIERE! –

Dusk: 1950s East Berlin Bohemia
(Dämmerung: Die Ostberliner Bohème der 50er Jahre. Germany, 1993, dir. Peter Voigt, color, 98 min., doc.)
During the 1950s, a group of artists frequented the Ganymed restaurant, considered to be the hub of East Berlin’s avant-garde arts scene. In this film, they gather before the camera decades later, at the request of director Voigt, also a member of the scene.

Special screening also supported by the Goethe-Institut Boston
and the DEFA-Stiftung, Berlin.

Monday, June 18

14:00 – 16:30:    Lecture, April Eisman, Iowa State University

Five Myths about East German Visual Art
East German art has long been ignored by Anglo-American scholars, who tend to believe that the GDR did not have art—just kitsch or political propaganda. With its suggestion of provincialism, the myth of artistic isolation behind the Berlin Wall further reinforces this assumption. In actuality, however, East German artists engaged with modern art—and with German and international artistic traditions—throughout the Cold War period and, by the 1980s, were creating large, Neoexpressionist paintings not unlike their highly praised West German neighbors. In addition, GDR art was not limited to painting. Just before the Wall fell, installations and performance art appeared in a number of official exhibitions—and not just by “dissident” artists. This talk will engage with these and other myths that haunt the reception of GDR art to the present day.

Tuesday, June 19

14:00 – 16:30:  Film Screenings, introduced by Barton Byg, UMass Amherst
Two short films on the roots and history of artists and intellectuals in East Germany:

Revolution of a Culture
(Revolution einer Kultur, GDR, 1968, dir. Heinz Müller, b/w, 39 min., doc.)
A documentary about postwar cultural developments and the 1948 articulation of the need to create art that would inspire the masses.

Intellect and Power
(Geist und MachtThat Was the GDR, Part V)
Germany, 1993, dir. Christian Klemke & Lothar Kompatzki, color, 45 min. doc., ST
A post-Wall overview of the history of intellectuals and artists in the GDR.

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs, UMass Amherst

Marriage in the Shadows
(Ehe im Schatten. Germany, 1947, dir. Kurt Maetzig, b/w, 104 min., ST)
The first German film to address the Holocaust, only two years after WWII. Set in Nazi Germany and based on real events, the film tells the story of celebrated actor Hans Wieland and his wife, the Jewish actress Elisabeth Maurer; as anti-Semitic policies increasingly infringe on their lives, they struggle to survive, until Hans is given an ultimatum. Despite the critical content of the film, it is striking to what degree its dramatic, visual, and musical elements draw on the conventions of melodrama developed at the Ufa Film Studio during the Nazi period.

Wednesday, June 20

19:00 – 21:00:  Film Screening, introduced by Johanna Yunker, UMass Amherst

The Marriage of Figaro
(Figaros Hochzeit. GDR, 1949, dir. Georg Wildhagen, b/w, 109 min.)
This film helps to set the stage for an investigation of both the “canon” of German and European high culture and the question of whether the post-WWII period in East Germany would be marked by cultural continuity or a radical break with the past. Mozart’s well-known work serves as the basis for this first East German opera film, although the screenplay diverges from the original libretto.

Thursday, June 21

14:00 – 16:30:  Film Screening, introduced by April Eisman, Iowa State University
Selected short film portraits of important East German artists:

Fritz Cremer, Creator of the Buchenwald Memorial
(Fritz Cremer – Schöpfer des Buchenwalddenkmals, GDR, 1957, dir. Hugo Hoffmann, b/w, 16 min., doc.)
The memorial erected at the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1957 became a rallying cry for antifascism worldwide.

Political Art: Kollwitz, Dix, Nagel
(Kämpfende Kunst, GDR, 1959, Götz Oehlschlägel, b/w, 8 min., doc.)
This short documentary on three artists features a score by Hans-Dieter Hosalla.

Otto Nagel 1994-1967
(GDR, 1970, dir. Karlheinz Mund, color & b/w, 23 min., doc.)
A poetic portrait of the autodidactic painter Otto Nagel directed by Karlheinz Mund, who specialized in artist portraits.

Theo Balden – Zeitzeugen Interview
(Germany, 1994, color, 48 min., doc.)
A post-Wall interview with Theo Balden, in which he discusses: his decision to return to Germany and his move to the east; his relationship as an artist to the East German state and stories about other artists returning from exile; the Formalism debate; and the GDR’s understanding of art.

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Seán Allan, University of St. Andrews

Story of a Young Couple
(Roman einer jungen Ehe, GDR, 1952, dir. Kurt Maetzig, b/w, 99 min., ST)
This film, about two young actors making their way through the cultural maze of the period after the division of Germany but before the erection of the Wall, provides a good visual reference point for discussing socialist realism. It also deals with many of the big issues of the time: the legacies of German humanism (G.E. Lessing) and Nazi culture (Veit Harlan); the fate of antifascist literature (Anna Seghers) and its appropriation by the West; the rise of the bourgeois concept of the “Good German”—in Boleslaw Barlog’s theater production of “The Devil’s General,” (by Carl Zuckmayer) in the West, and the critique of humanist ethics and aesthetics in productions of Simonov’s “The Russian Question” in the East.

Friday, June 22

14:00 – 16:30:   Film Screening, introduced by April Eisman, Iowa State University

Five Days, Five Nights
(Fünf Tage, fünf Nächte. GDR/USSR, 1960, dir. Lev Arnshtam, color, 108 min., ST)
This film posits the survival of art as central to civilized values in the context of a Soviet-style war-movie-cum-melodrama. At the end of WWII Dresden is in ruins; 2200 paintings are missing from its Old Masters Picture Gallery. The Red Army has been ordered to recover the lost paintings. For the next five days, Dresden’s residents join the search for the collection. This first GDR/USSR co-production, scored by Dmitri Shostakovich, based on his String Quartet No. 8, refers to actual events, but with a veneer of pro-Soviet propaganda that is especially interesting considering continued debates about the repatriation of the looted art. Rediscovered by and subtitled for the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 2012, this film complements Robert M. Edsel’s The Monuments Men.

Monday, June 25

14:00 – 16:45:  Film Screenings, introduced by Johanna Yunker, UMass Amherst
Two films on political song:

I’m a Negro, I’m an American: Paul Robeson
(GDR, 1989, dir. Kurt Tetzlaff, b/w, 83 min., doc.)
In honor of his 90th birthday, this film showcased the American performer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898-1976), who lived for a while in the GDR. At the height of his fame and skill, Robeson was forced to end his career amidst Cold War and anti-Communist hysteria. Biographical notes on the son of a former slave, who became a world-renowned actor and singer, explain his uncompromising position in the face of racism and political restrictions.

I’m Ernst Busch
(Ich bin Ernst Busch. Germany, 2000, dir. Peter Voigt, color, 60 min., doc.)
A portrait of communist singer Ernst Busch, who first rose to prominence as an interpreter of political songs, particularly those of Kurt Tucholsky, in the Berlin cabaret scene of the 1920s. He starred in the original 1928 production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, as well as in the subsequent 1931 film by G. W. Pabst, and appeared in Kuhle Wampe, the 1932 German movie directed by Slatan Dudow. Busch fled from the Nazis to the USSR, then fought in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. A beloved figure in the GDR, he is best remembered for his performance in the title role of Brecht’s Life of Galileo and his recordings of workers songs, including many written by Hanns Eisler.

19:00-21:00:    Film Screening, introduced by Seán Allan, University of St. Andrews

Lin Jadalti Sings
(Lin Jadalti singt, GDR, 1962, dir. Gerhard Jentsch, b/w, 15 min., doc.)
Dedicated to the “Comrades of out National People’s Army,” this short film features songs Lin Jadalti singing songs in German and Yiddish. Through these songs and images, the film establishes a direct link from the Holocaust and militarism, to the need for an East German force to protect the peace. Lin Jaldati (12/13/1912 – 8/31/1988) was a Dutch-born  Holocaust survivor; a self-professed socialist, she settled and performed in Yiddish and German in the GDR, and in Yiddish in Russia, China, North Korea and Vietnam in the 1950s-70s

On the Banks of the Saale
(An der Saale hellen Strande–ein Kulturhaus erzählt. Germany, 2010, dir. Helga Storck & Peter Goedel, b/w & color, 90 min., doc., ST)
A documentary about the Friendship House, one of the most successful culture houses (Kulturhäuser) of the GDR, located at the huge Buna synthetic rubber factory in Schkopau, near Halle. It explores the impact of the Bielefeld Way, the GDR’s national experiment in bringing culture to workers and encouraging workers to make art themselves. The film features historic footage and interviews with those who participated, as well as national leaders in cultural policy.

Tuesday, June 26

14:00 – 16:30:   Film Screenings, introduced by Elaine Kelly, University of Edinburgh

 Johann Sebastian Bach
(GDR, 1950, dir. Ernst Dahle, b/w, 35 min., doc.)
This documentary about J.S. Bach was produced for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of his death. It was the first cinematic attempt by the GDR to lay claim to the shared German cultural canon.

Ludwig van Beethoven
(GDR, 1954, dir. Max Jaap, b/w, 95 min., doc., ST)
Four years later, a full-length film was made to commemorate the perceived importance of Beethoven to GDR identity. Because of his engagement with the principles of the French Revolution, this composer was particularly prized as a forerunner of revolutionary socialism, and was taken up as the subject of an East German feature film in 1976 as well.

Wednesday, June 27

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs, UMass Amherst

Love’s Confusion
(
Verwirrung der Liebe, GDR, 1959, dir. Slatan Dudow, b/w, 76 min.)
In this colorful and entertaining romantic comedy, with a score ranging from classical references to the most up-to-date musical styles of the early 1960s, art student Sonya and medical student Dieter enjoy their modern lives. When they attend a Carnival party at the art school, however, Dieter’s eye is caught by another woman. The best-known and last completed film of director Slatan Dudow—who collaborated with Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler on the classic Weimar Republic film Kuhle Wampe—this film ran into trouble with officials due to its stylized vision, as well as frank depictions of nudity and consumerism.

Thursday, June 28

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Johanna Yunker, UMass Amherst

Midnight Revue
(Revue um Mitternacht. GDR, 1962, dir. Gottfried Kolditz, color, 104 min.)
This musical comedy revolves around the attempt of an inexperienced producer to create a musical revue film. With clever references to Hollywood revue films, it exemplifies a push to compete with the West’s biggest studio and make box-office hits that would bring in revenue and appeal to GDR audiences.

Friday, June 27

14:00 – 16:30:   Talk & Film Screenings, introduced by Johanna Yunker, UMass Amherst

GDR Music and Race
Issues of race underpinned not only the critical discourse on “authentic” jazz forms, but also works by GDR composers that addressed the global south: Paul Dessau wrote a requiem for the assassinated Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961; Dessau and Reiner Bredemeyer composed music in the later 1960s for documentaries about Vietnam and Africa made by Heynowski and Scheumann; and Ernst Hermann Meyer premiered an opera about an interracial relationship in South Africa in 1973. Interestingly, the conspicuous lack of musical “exoticism” (e.g., using timbres or melodies from Africa) suggests that these composers positioned the Congo and Vietnam as part of the Eastern Bloc in the global Cold War, as opposed to as an exotic “Other.”

Monolog for a Taxi Driver
(Monolog für einen Taxifahrer, GDR, 1962, dir. Günter Stahnke, b/w, 37 min.)
An East Berlin taxi driver’s shift on Christmas Eve turns into a reflection on life, society, and his strained relationship with his wife. This short film features a surprisingly modern jazz score by Karl-Ernst Sasse.

400cm3
(GDR, 1966, dir. Walter Heynowski, b/w, 6 min., doc.)
Walter Heynowski links East German blood donors to the Vietnamese people who receive this precious gift in a series of intercut images set to original choral music by Paul Dessau.

Paul Dessau
(GDR, 1968, dir. Richard Cohn-Vossen, b/w, 32 min. doc.)
A portrait of prominent GDR composer Paul Dessau during rehearsals of his orchestral work entitled Bach Variations. Dessau speaks up against the oversimplification of music.

Against Idiocy in Music – Hanns Eisler
(Komm ins Offene Freund! Oder gegen die Dummheit in der Musik, GDR, 1989, dir. Andrea Ritterbusch, b/w, 23 min., doc.)
In this portrait of one of East Germany’s most renowned composers, Hanns Eisler speaks about his difficulties with socialist cultural policies, including the ban of his opera Johannes Faust.

Monday, July 2

14:00 – 16:30:  Talk & Film Screening, introduced by Joy H. Calico, Vanderbilt University

Opera on Film, DEFA Style
This lecture considers what happens to “opera” in the translation from live performance to fixed media in the context of East German DEFA films. Two opera films represent different approaches to putting opera on screen: Joachim Herz’s film adaptation of Richard Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman translates a famous and much-beloved canonical opera from stage to cinema, while Fetzers Escape, with libretto by Günter Kunert and music by Kurt Schwaen, was a newly composed work designed specifically for television. East German contributions to film opera are important because opera staging in the GDR was an art form unto itself, representing the beginnings of Regieoper—a style of directing that was perhaps one of the GDR’s most important and impactful musical legacies in the field of film opera.

Fetzer’s Escape
(Fetzers Flucht. GDR, 1962, dir. Günter Kunert, b/w, 58 min., TV)
Among the most rigorous taboos in East German culture was the depiction of Republikflucht—leaving the GDR for the West. In the period of relative liberalization during the early 1960s, a series of special programs were planned for the tenth anniversary of GDR television, including this made-for-television opera based on the 1955 radio opera written by Günter Kunert and Günter Stahnke, with music by Kurt Schwaen. The plot revolves around Fetzer, who flees to the West but then, in response to negative experiences there, returns to “his state.” Despite toeing this ideological party line, however, the production was banned—for being inappropriate for television, for straying too far from Socialist Realism, and because of its “alienated” style.

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Joy H. Calico, Vanderbilt University

The Flying Dutchman
(Der fliegende Holländer. GDR, 1964, dir. Joachim Herz, b/w, 101 min., ST)
Joachim Herz’s successful staging of The Flying Dutchman—at the Berlin Komische Oper in 1962, at the invitation of Walter Felsenstein, and subsequent productions at the Opernhaus Leipzig and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater—prompted an invitation to make a cinematic adaptation. The script clearly separated the real from the imaginary, introducing a leftist approach to Wagner reception by emphasizing the perspective of the young heroine, Senta; in the original 35mm format, this was reflected visually by changing the image size, from Academy ratio for reality, to wide-screen for fantasy. This was the first complete Wagner opera ever made on film and the only GDR film to include elements of the horror and vampire genres.

Tuesday, July 3

14:00 – 14:45:   Talk & Film Screening, introduced by Seán Allan, University of St. Andrews

Artists on Film: Art for Art’s Sake?
This talk will offer an overview of East German Künstlerfilme—films about artists both real and imaginary—and explore unique insights they offer into the changing socio-political agendas of cultural policy, in the GDR and the East Bloc generally. In the 1960s, for example, these films were exploited as a discursive space, in which questions of modernist aesthetics and the role of the creative artist—broadly understood to include literary figures, visual artists, and composers—in contemporary socialist society could be debated. In contrast, in the 1970s and early ‘80s they played a key role in internationalizing East German cinema, by positioning it in dialogue with a series of films that had begun to emerge from art-house cinemas in both Eastern and Western Europe in the late 1960s.

The Lost Angel
(Der verlorene Engel. GDR, 1966/70, dir. Ralf Kirsten, b/w, 58 min., ST)
August 24, 1937: expressionist sculptor and author Ernst Barlach learns that the Nazis have dragged his famous 1927 sculpture, The Hovering Angel, out of the Güstrow Cathedral. Barlach reflects on his life of “inner emigration” and on his work, which has been either confiscated or denounced as “degenerate art.” The film was banned by East German officials in 1966, and only released in a shortened version in 1970. According to The New York Times, the film is “a masterful re-creation of the hostile environment that the artist had to endure in the last years of his life.”

19:00 – 22:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Seán Allan, University of St. Andrews

The Naked Man on the Athletic Field
(Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz. GDR, 1973, dir. Konrad Wolf, color, 99 min.)
As the sculptor Kemmel approaches forty, others seem not to appreciate his work; when he is commissioned to sculpt a soccer player for their playing field, he sculpts a naked runner, provoking protests from the embarrassed townspeople. Konrad Wolf and scriptwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase used the story of GDR sculptor Werner Stötzer to explore the role of art and the artist in socialist society through this delicately nuanced narrative, interweaving personal memories, historical dilemmas, and political defeats. The most under-researched film of the GDR’s important director Konrad Wolf, this film incorporates themes tied to USSR culture, the Holocaust, photography, sculpture, and memory.

Wednesday, July 4

9:30 – 12:00:   Film Screenings, introduced by Joy H. Calico

Träumerei
(GDR, 1979, dir. Heinz Nagel, _____, anim.)
The animator uses expressionistic drawings for a filmic adaptation of Robert Schumann’s delightful piece Träumerei (Dreaming) from Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood). Part of the Musikalische Arabesken (Musical Arabesques) series.

Beethoven – Days of a Life
(Beethoven – Tage aus einem Leben. GDR, 1976, dir. Horst Seemann, color, 104 min.)
Vienna, 1813-1819: Beethoven—played by the great Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis—is at the peak of his fame. Orchestras all over the world play his music, but he lives modestly and is dependent upon private patrons. Nagged by his patronizing brothers, spied upon by officials for his republican beliefs and faced by his progressive hearing loss, the composer becomes more and more isolated, Seeman’s poetic film explores the joys, heartbreak and artistic spirit of the great composer as he works on his Ninth Symphony. Here again, the controversial suggestion that such a cultural icon was connected to both the French Revolution and to mechanical reproduction (musical devices) gives the film, which ends in contemporary Berlin, a contemporary edge regarding art and the state in the GDR.

Thursday, July 5

14:00 – 16:30:   Talk & Film Screenings, introduced by April Eisman, Iowa State University

Painting Women: Women Artists in the GDR
In the 1980s, the Guerilla Girls famously pointed out that it was easier for a woman to get into the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum as a nude than as a painter: 76% of the nudes in the Modern Art section were female, whereas only 4% of the artists were women. In East Germany during this period, by comparison, women were 25-33% of practicing artists—a result of the government’s long-term emphasis on gender equality. This talk will look at a handful of East Germany’s most successful women painters, examining how they engaged with a medium traditionally defined by male interests and the female nude, as well as at the challenges they faced working in a country that claimed a gender equality it had not achieved.

Painter Heidrun Hegewald
(Malerin Heidrun Hegewald, Germany, 1998, dir. Martin Röntger, color, 123 min., doc.)
A retrospective interview with painter Heidrun Hegewald.

Nuría Quevedo: A Berliner from Barcelona
(Nuria Quevedo – eine Berlinerin aus Barcelona, Germany, 2003, dir. Karlheinz Mund, _____, doc.)
A portrait of the Spanish painter Nuría Quevedo, whose family moved to East Germany in 1952. In her paintings she depicts the themes of exile and rootlessness.

Uschi Brüning
(GDR, 1972, dir. _____, color, 3 min., doc.)
The famous GDR Jazz singer Brüning works on her new records.

Nude Photography – e.g., Gundula Schulze
(Aktfotografie – z.B. Gundula Schulze, GDR, 1983, dir. Helke Misselwitz, b/w, 11 min., doc.)
A portrait of photographer Gundula Schulze, who rebelled against traditional ideals of beauty, made by one of East Germany’s best known women directors.

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs, UMass Amherst

Käthe Kollwitz: Images of a Life
(Käthe Kollwitz – Bilder eines Lebens. GDR, 1986, dir. Ralf Kirsten, color, 95 min.)
Käthe Kollwitz was 47 years old and a successful artist in Germany and abroad when Peter, her youngest son, volunteered to join the German army in WWI and was killed two weeks later. Always politically active, she now became a radical pacifist and reflected on her son and the meaning of war in her art. After signing a petition against the Nazis, she was excluded from the Prussian Academy of Arts and her art was labeled “degenerate.” Ralf Kirsten—director of The Lost Angel—fitted together episodes from Kollwitz’s unpublished letters and diaries in a mosaic-like portrait. Given the pacifist themes of the film, it is interesting to note that peace was very much on GDR minds in the period after the Pershing II missiles had become an issue.

Friday, July 6

14:00 – 16:30:   Film Screenings, introduced by April Eisman, Iowa State University
A selection of short films on mainstream visual artists in the GDR:

Painters in the GDR
(Maler in der DDR, GDR, 1980, dir. ____, color, 30 min., doc.)
Features the work of mainstream modern artists in the GDR, including Willi Sitte, Werner Tübke, and Uwe Pfeiffer.

Hermann Glöckner: A Short Visit
(Kurzer Besuch bei Hermann Glöckner, GDR, 1984, dir. Jürgen Böttcher, color & b/w, 32 min. doc.)
This short film documents the meeting of two painters. The older artist in front of the camera demonstrates his work to the younger artist, Jürgen Böttcher, behind the camera. Glöckner speaks of his experiences under the Nazis and his difficulties with Socialist Realism in the 1950s and ‘60s. The only filmic portrait of this artist.

No War, No Peace (Part 1)
(Norway, 1985, dirs. Stig Anderson & Bjorn Engvik, color, 53 min., doc.)
This Norwegian production introduces five major GDR painters: Angela Hampel, Hubertus Giebe, Johannes Heisig, Bernhard Heisig, and Wolfgang Mattheuer.

Monday, July 9

14:00 – 16:30:   Film Screening, introduced by April Eisman, Iowa State University

Claiming Space: Private Galleries in the GDR
(Behauptung des Raums: Wege unabhängiger Ausstellungskultur in der DDR. Germany, 2009, dir. Claus Loeser, 100 min., doc.)
By 1976 at the latest, an alternative arts scene was developing in the GDR, which consciously sought to create its own structures and avoid the official apparatus of artistic production. The new artistic subculture grew in the domains of painting and photography, literature, music, and film and established galleries—including Leipzig’s EIGEN+ART—that could house the artistic emancipation movement, which ultimately contributed to and flowed into the GDR’s peaceful revolution of 1989.

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by April Eisman, Iowa State University

Selected Artists’ Super-8 Short Films:

Draped in White
(Unter weißen Tüchern. Cornelia Schleime, 1987, color, 9 min.)
Action Situation
(Helge Leiberg, 1983, color & b/w, 9 min.)
Report–A Comment on a Comment
(Via Lewandowsky, 1987, b/w, 7 min.)

Metamorphoses I
(Metamorphosen I., GDR, 1978-79, dir. Lutz Dammbeck, color, 7 min., anim.)

Hommage à la Sarraz
(GDR, 1981, dir. Lutz Dammbeck, b/w, 12 min., doc./anim.)

The Subversive Camera
(Die subversive Kamera. Germany, 1997, dir. Cornelia Klauß, color, 42 min., doc.)

The history of the GDR Super-8 scene—an underground art movement that produced films outside official channels in the 1980s—produced by Cornelia Klauss, herself a Super-8 artist. The Stasi monitored this scene closely. Women artists Ramona Köppel-Welsch, Cornelia Schleime and Christine Schlegel, among others, talk about their art and films, their experiences as artists in the GDR, and how their work changed after the Wall came down.

Tuesday, July 10

14:00 – 16:30:   Film Screenings, introduced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs, UMass Amherst

Quick Animation
(GDR, 1989, ___________, anim.)
Big city scenes evolved into ironically alienated settings using graffiti painting and rap music.

whisper & SHOUT
(flüstern & SCHREIEN. GDR, 1988, dir. Dieter Schumann, color, 115 min., doc., ST)
This film documents important parts of the East German rock music scene of the late 1980s, from well-established bands like Silly, to underground rock bands like Feeling B. It includes clips from concerts and interviews with fans and members of André + Die Firma, Chicorée, Die Zöllner, Feeling B, Sandow, Silly, and This Pop Generation. The film played to over one million viewers in sold-out theaters in the GDR; audiences were not only drawn to see their favorite bands on the screen, they were also surprised that this film made it past the censors.

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Johanna Yunker, UMass Amherst

The Puhdys—Disco Film
(Discofilm 16. GDR, 1976, dir. Jürgen Steinheisser, color, 9 min.)
This short “Disco Film” presents four songs by the hit GDR rock band The Puhdys.

Nina Hagen = Punk + Glory
(Germany, 1999, Dir. Peter Sempel, color, 100 min.)
Nina Hagen—daughter of actress Eva-Marie Hagen, and whose stepfather was Wolf Biermann—was born in East Berlin in 1955, migrated to West Germany in the mid-1970s. She became a New Wave Punk rock star, singing in a screechy growl that shaded into an operatic coloratura. Although she was a huge star in Europe in the 1980s, the movie explores why she never found a commercial foothold in the United States. The connections between opera and rock that seem natural to European audiences had no resonance in the United States.

Wednesday, July 11

14:00 – 16:30:   Film Screening, introduced by Seán Allan, University of St. Andrews

Latest from the Da-Da-R
(Letztes aus der DaDaeR. GDR, 1990, dir. Jörg Foth, color, 86 min., ST)
In a loose set of cabaret pieces based on their stage show, Steffen Mensching and Hans-Eckardt Wenzel—highly acclaimed East German poets, songwriters and clowns—satirize East German life in its final days and the arrival of new times after the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Da-Da-R” is a word play on the irreverent Dada art movement of the 1920s and the German acronym for East Germany—the DDR. This was the first film made by the DaDaeR artistic production group, which had fought for independence within the state-owned DEFA Film Studio for years.                     

19:00 – 21:00:   Film Screening, introduced by Barton Byg, UMass Amherst

A Place in Berlin
(Konzert im Freien. Germany, 2001, dir. Jürgen Böttcher, color, 86 min., doc., ST)
In 1973, a team of artists was commissioned by GDR leaders to create the Marx-Engels Forum—a sculpture park commemorating the international workers’ movement. Böttcher documented the project from 1981 until its unveiling in 1986, but the film he’d planned was cancelled. Ten years after the fall of the Wall, Böttcher revisited his own film material. With Günter “Baby” Sommer (perc) and Dietmar Diesner (sax) interpreting the space and images with improvisational jazz, Böttcher creates a filmic collage from 1980s footage and new video material of the anachronistic monument, looking at how the meanings of monuments change. The form of the film—in some ways both a musical/rhythmic and multi-media tour de force—brings together many of the themes of the Institute: the dilemma of artists working with State commissions, while practicing resistance of various forms.

Thursday, July 12

19:00 – 21:00:   Public Panel discussion

Post-Unification Debates on GDR Art
In the wake of German unification, many of East Germany’s most successful visual artists came under attack in the press in what have become known as the Bilderstreit, or image battles, which stretched across the long and contentious 1990s; in essence, these debates were about what role East German artists would be allowed to play in the new Germany. This panel discussion will feature recollections of and thoughts about trends and the evolution of attitudes towards GDR art in the years after German unification in fall 1990. Participants will include Barton Byg, April Eisman, Hiltrud Schulz and Sean Allan.

Institute Resources