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Re-Imagining DEFA: East German Cinema in its National and Transnational Contexts

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Re-Imagining DEFA

East German Cinema in its National and Transnational Contexts

Edited by Seán Allan and Sebastian Heiduschke

378 pages, 40 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-107-7 $130.00/£92.00 Hb Published (September 2016)

ISBN  978-1-78533-105-3 $27.95/£19.00 Pb Published (September 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78533-106-0 eBook

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“Taken together, the essays [by a diverse group of international scholars] create a coherent whole representing the richness of film production before, during, and after DEFA (Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft), the state-owned East German film production company at the loose center of this [useful and compelling] collection.” · Choice

“Berghahn is known for its publication of excellent books on German Cinema within its catalog. This recent work proves no exception to the rule. Including fifteen essays by well known scholars in the field aware of the changing complexities of subject matter and well versed in necessary archive research,  [it] presents a fine collection exploring a cinema that is very little known to most Western viewers…a sterling example of what a scholarly academic anthology should be, an excellent model in its own right that should stimulate others to investigate this former national cinema and not consign it to oblivion.” · Film International

“This is an excellent book that includes among its contributors many of the most respected scholars on DEFA and East German cinema. There is an impressive array of critical and historical approaches on offer here, reflecting the breadth of scholarship on the subject and relating GDR film to a whole array of other areas and disciplines from Third Cinema to science fiction.” · Hunter Bivens, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Looking back from what is now 25 years after reunification, this fine and original collection of essays represents a new phase in scholarship on East German films and filmmakers, one that builds on the achievements of past research while asking valuable new questions.” · Brad Prager, University of Missouri


By the time the Berlin Wall collapsed, the cinema of the German Democratic Republic—to the extent it was considered at all—was widely regarded as a footnote to European film history, with little of enduring value. Since then, interest in East German cinema has exploded, inspiring innumerable festivals, books, and exhibits on the GDR’s rich and varied filmic output. In Re-Imagining DEFA, leading international experts take stock of this vibrant landscape and plot an ambitious course for future research, one that considers other cinematic traditions, brings genre and popular works into the fold, and encompasses DEFA’s complex post-unification “afterlife.”

Séan Allan is Professor of German at the University of St Andrews. He is co-editor (with John Sandford) of DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992 (1999), and has published widely on the films of Konrad Wolf, Kurt Maetzig and Jürgen Böttcher, and on East German identity in post-unification cinema.

Sebastian Heiduschke is Associate Professor in the School of Language, Culture, and Society, and Affiliate Faculty in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon State University. He has published the monograph DEFA: East German Cinema and Film History (2013) and essays on the marketing, distribution, and fan cultures of DEFA film.

Subject: Film Studies Postwar History
Area: Germany


List of Illustrations

Introduction: Re-Imagining East German Cinema
Seán Allan and Sebastian Heiduschke


Chapter 1. The State-Owned Cinema Industry and Its Audience
Rosemary Stott

Chapter 2. History and Subjectivity. The Evolution of DEFA Film Music
Larson Powell

Chapter 3. ‘Fatal Attractions’. Modernist Set Design and the East-West Divide in DEFA Films of the 1950s and early 1960s
Annette Dorgerloh


Chapter 4. DEFA and the Legacy of Film Europe. Prestige, Institutional Exchange, and Film Co-Productions
Mariana Ivanova

Chapter 5. Betting on Entertainment. The Cold War Scandal of Spielbank-Affäre [Casino Affair, 1957]
Stefan Soldovieri

Chapter 6. ‘Operación Silencio’. Studio H&S’s Chile Cycle as Latin American Third Cinema
Dennis Hanlon

Chapter 7. Deconstructing Orientalism. DEFA’s Fictions of East Asia
Qinna Shen

Chapter 8. Transnational Stardom. DEFA’s Management of Dean Reed
Seán Allan


Chapter 9. Walter Felsenstein and the DEFA Opera Film
Sabine Hake

Chapter 10. Dreams of ‘Cosmic Culture’ in Der schweigende Stern [The Silent Star, 1960]
Sonja Fritzsche

Chapter 11. The DEFA Indianerfilm. Narrating the Postcolonial through Gojko Mitic
Evan Torner

Chapter 12. Defining Socialist Children’s Films, Defining Socialist Childhoods
Benita Blessing


Chapter 13. DEFA’s Last Gasp. Ruins, Melancholy and the End of East German Filmmaking
Nick Hodgin

Chapter 14. KLK an PTX. Die Rote Kapelle. DEFA’s Antifascist Myth Revisited
Sebastian Heiduschke

Chapter 15. DEFA’s Afterimages. Looking Back at the East from the West in Das Leben der Anderen [The Lives of Others, 2006] and Barbara (2012)
Daniela Berghahn


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