East German Cinema as State Institution

  • Sebastian Heiduschke


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.


Fairy Tale Film Production Movie Theater DEFA Director Film Company 
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© Sebastian Heiduschke 2013

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  • Sebastian Heiduschke

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