Friday, September 18, 2009


As we live out our daily lives in what may be the last gasps of the American empire, I am increasingly interested in East Germany, not just because I used to live there (briefly). This semester I am doing an independent study on East German documentaries: What does it mean to make a film about truth in a state where the state regulates truth (and how does that compare to our lives, where capitalism and the market regulate truth?) ? What does it mean to film and have a national film and television identity and suddenly have your identity canceled out by a few swift marks of the pen and a televised tearing down of a wall? I am peripherally familiar with the cultural and linguistic peculiarities of East Germany and Ostalgie and a country that no longer exists, but what of its visual rhetoric?

You may not realize it or even care but East Germany is so marginalized, both within Germany itself and within history. The way Americans understand it is the wall came down, happily ever after. The way most Germans understood it when I was there depended on what side of the scar of the wall you were on.

German film is marginalized to begin with. Even within Germany few people (that I met, anyway) had heard of Herzog, Fassbinder, etc. DEFA - that's East German state studio - film is even more marginalized. Stautde, Wolf, Carow, the names only serious Germanists or Eurocentric film scholars know.

So I was delighted that this book, edited by Sean Allen (whose name has an accent I'm too lazy to reproduced, apologies!) and John Sandford, like, totally exists. I got it because my friend's neighbor in Brooklyn threw it out. Seriously.

Defa: East German Cinema, 1946-1992

The book is not without flaws, but if you want to act like you know anything about DEFA film at cocktail parties, it is definitely Recommended. Therefore, it is today's recommendation.


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