Starting February 2nd, Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center will be running a series of 8 award-winning films produced by the former East German Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA). DEFA was responsible for creating over 750 films during its 46 year history. These films were made around the same time that European cinema was making an impact around the world, but due to the secluded nature of East Germany and the subject matters portrayed in the films, few outside of the wall knew of the work that was being done.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that East German cinema began to catch on internationally, and films were submitted for Academy Award consideration. The Gene Siskel Film Center has chosen this period of the 1970s and ’80s to highlight some of DEFA’s best work in their Awarded! Films from Beyond the Wall series. Each film chosen played a significant role in East German cinema and covers some controversial topics that were only made possible by loosened governmental restrictions during that time period.
This series, presented in partnership with the Goethe-Institut Chicago and the Spertus Institute, runs from February 2nd through the 28th, and there are more than a few gems being shown. We’ve included the brief summary of the films being presented by the Gene Siskel Film Center below. More detailed film information and ticket information can be found on their website.
Awarded! Films from Behind the Wall
The series opens on February 2 with Konrad Wolf’s portrait of a nonconformist rock chanteuse, Solo Sunny. Other films in the series include Jakob the Liar (February 9 & 11), the only East German film nominated for an Academy Award, and Coming Out (February 16 & 18), the only East German film to focus on homosexuality. Other films in the series include Mama, I’m Alive! (February 2 & 4), a powerful tale of four young German POWs who decide to join the Red Army but find themselves torn by their divided allegiances; The Turning Point (February 9 & 14), about a young German soldier accused by a Polish woman of murdering her daughter; Her Third (February 16 & 20), one of a large number of East German films that uses a female protagonist to explore the gap between ideal and reality in the socialist state; Fallada – The Last Chapter (February 23 & 27), a dramatization of the last ten years in the life of writer Hans Fallada, best known for his 1932 novel Little Man, What Now?; and The Fiancée (February 23 & 28), which centers on a female resistance fighter who endures ten years in a Nazi prison, drawing strength primarily from her love for the man she was to marry before her arrest.
Source: Gene Siskel Film Center