By S. Heiduschke

East Germany's movie monopoly, Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft, produced a motion pictures ranging past basic propaganda to westerns, musicals, and kid's movies, between others. This e-book equips students with the historic history to appreciate East German cinema and publications the readers during the DEFA archive through examinations of twelve motion pictures.

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Transnational collaboration between Eastern European studios and DEFA was ubiquitous, taking place on multiple levels of the production process. For example, Konrad Wolf used Bulgarian scriptwriter Angel Vagenshtain for his film Sterne (Stars, 1959) and later again for Goya; Serbian actor Gojko Mitic became a star in DEFA cinema for his role as a native American in the DEFA series of red westerns from the 1960s and 1970s; and the music compositions of Polish composer Andrzej Markowski would have caused the German-Polish coproduced sci-fi film Der schweigende Stern (Silent Star, Kurt Maetzig, 1960) to have lost much of its appeal.

14 This first wave was a tremendous success. The banned films were particularly attractive, since they had been taken off the blacklist and had premiered in movie theaters only shortly before unification in 1990. Now that those films were available on videocassette, audiences appreciated the experience of critical DEFA films they had been deprived of for over 30 years. Some customers contacted Icestorm directly to thank them and to make requests for further releases. This audience feedback and possibly the revenue generated by the sales of these first films warranted the video production of both a number of antifascist films—another classic genre of East German cinema—and the well-known literary adaptions of classic German literature by Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller.

Initially, television did not pose a threat to DEFA cinema. When East Germany launched its own initiative to develop television in reaction to West German television test broadcasts in 1950 and constructed a television center in the Berlin locality Adlershof, there was not yet any official programming taking place. 13 The East German station soon added feature films from the Soviet Union. 15 An early cooperation agreement between East German television and DEFA allowed Sender Berlin and later DFF to select an occasional DEFA feature film for television broadcast.

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