More Genre Cinema, the “Red Western,” and Stardom in East Germany: Apachen (Apaches, Gottfried Kolditz, 1973)

  • Sebastian Heiduschke


An incredulous look—generally the initial reaction when someone encounters one of the East German Western films for the first time—often yields to an admission that the film was unexpectedly enjoyable and entertaining. The fashion in which DEFA took up the Western, a film genre that “had grown [ … ] to a sophisticated formula in which American history and ideology—and the Western genre itself—could be reflected upon and examined in detail,” also reveals once again how East German feature films were deeply entrenched in the communist party’s political agenda.1 Genre cinema was eyed suspiciously in DEFA for some time for its proximity to filmmaking à la Hollywood and for its lack of either socialist realism or political didacticism.2 A number of events during the height of the Cold War resulted in a change of mind: between 1966 and 1979, DEFA produced a dozen Westerns that turned into blockbusters. Along with the films, Gojko Mitic emerged as star actor who ranked among the most admired faces of East German cinema by the time he made his eighth DEFA Western, Apachen, in 1973. Perhaps even more important, the stories and the film star Mitic brought audiences back to movie theaters to watch the highly anticipated Indianerfilme (films about the Native Americans), as DEFA’s “red westerns” came to be known, and seven of them broke the record of more than three million tickets sold each.3


Star Actor Movie Theater White Settler Native American Culture Beef Steak 
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© Sebastian Heiduschke 2013

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  • Sebastian Heiduschke

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