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East German Cinema as State Institution

  • Sebastian Heiduschke

Abstract

The history of East German cinema is convoluted and complicated, full of paradoxes and contradictions, fascinating and sobering at the same time. It begins in 1946, before East Germany even existed, and ends in 1992, two years after East Germany’s demise. To be more precise, these dates mark the beginning and end of the film company Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft (DEFA). This DEFA, however, has become the countenance of East German “national cinema”—and rightly so, as the political entity East Germany was inextricably linked with the company. Politics influenced East Germany’s film production throughout its entire existence, so that the key dates of East German film history closely relate to dates in East Germany’s political history. This should not be surprising, as East German cinema was born as a reaction to address the legacy of national socialism by way of making films conveying messages of peace, democracy, and antifascist ideals. The onset of the Cold War and the influence of the Soviet Union then shaped DEFA into a socialist film company and East Germany’s film monopoly, a role it would play until July 1, 1990, when the restructuring of East Germany’s economy became necessary to prepare it for unification on October 3 of the same year.

Keywords

Fairy Tale Film Production Movie Theater DEFA Director Film Company 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Seán Allan, “DEFA: An Historical Overview,” in DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946–1992, ed. Seán Allan and John Sandford (New York: Berghahn, 1999), 2.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Christiane Mückenberger, “Zeit der Hoffnungen 1946 bis 1949,” in Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg: DEFA 1946–1992, ed. Ralf Schenk (Berlin: Henschel, 1994), 8–49.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Günter Jordan, Film in der DDR: Daten Fakten Strukturen (Potsdam: Filmmuseum Potsdam 2009), 33–34.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Ralf Schenk, “Mitten im Kalten Krieg 1950 bis 1960,” in Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg: DEFA 1946–1992, ed. Ralf Schenk (Berlin: Henschel, 1994), 50–157, quote on p. 70.Google Scholar
  5. 19.
    Dagmar Schittly, Zwischen Regie und Regime: Die Filmpolitik der SED im Spiegel der DEFA-Produktionen (Berlin: Links, 2002), 93–94.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    See also chapter 6, Berlin-Ecke Schönhauser for more on the film “tourism” between the sectors, and see chapter 2 for general information on the competition of DEFA cinema with West German films. For demographic information on East German audiences, see Elizabeth Prommer, Kinobesuch im Lebenslauf (Konstanz: UVK, 1999).Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Dirk Jungnickel, “Produktionsbedingungen bei der Herstellung von Kinospielfilmen und Fernsehfilmen,” in Filmland DDR: Ein Reader zu Geschichte, Funktion, und Wirkung der DEFA, ed. Harry Blunk and Dirk Jungnickel (Cologne: Wissenschaft und Politik, 1990), 47–58. See also chapter 2 in this book for more on KAGs.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    For DEFA cinema during this decade, see particularly Hans Joachim Meurer, Cinema and National Identity in a Divided Germany, 1979–1989 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    Sabine Hake, German National Cinema, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2008).Google Scholar
  10. 30.
    Bärbel Dalichow, “Das letzte Kapitel 1989 bis 1993,” in Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg: DEFA 1946–1992, ed. Ralf Schenk (Berlin: Henschel, 1994), 329.Google Scholar

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© Sebastian Heiduschke 2013

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  • Sebastian Heiduschke

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