Film Festival Spotlights Women Protagonists Behind the Iron Curtain

Oct 25, 2012

An East German Film Festival at The University of Scranton will give local audiences a rare glimpse into life in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This year’s festival features three films from a series titled “Filming Women: Iris Gusner’s Portrayal of Work and Love.”

In its sixth year, The University of Scranton’s 2012 East German Film Festival , which is free of charge and open to the public, will be held in the Pearn Auditorium of Brennan Hall on Nov. 6, 7 and 8, beginning at 7 p.m. All films will be shown with English subtitles.

Gusner, one of the few women to succeed as a feature film director in East Germany, made her mark by focusing on the role and emancipation of women in the GDR.

The festival is held in collaboration with the DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft) Film Library at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. DEFA (1946-92), a state-owned studio, produced more than 750 films (many of them at the famous Studio Babelsberg), and in recent international critics’ surveys, more than a dozen have been voted among the 100 best German films ever. Still, these and other original documentaries or fictional works from the GDR are largely unknown to audiences both in and outside of Germany.

All three titles selected for the University’s 2012 East German Film Festival were directed by Gusner between 1973 and 1981. One of her most successful films, “All My Girls,” an authentic portrayal of female workers, will be shown on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Gusner’s much-heralded debut, “The Dove on the Roof,” which was banned for showing workers in distress, will be presented on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Her semi-autobiographical “Were the Earth Not Round” will be screened on Thursday, Nov. 8. A more detailed summary of each film follows.

The 2012 East German Film Festival is sponsored by the Department of World Languages and Cultures at The University of Scranton. For information, call 941-7430.

Film Summaries:

All My GirlsAll My Girls (c) DEFA Film Library

Nov. 6, 7 p.m.: All My Girls (Alle meine Mädchen) – 1980, 86 minutes.
Based on the nonfictional lives of women workers at the NARVA light bulb factory in Berlin, the film is a reality-based, semi-documentary social study that was shot in authentic settings. “All My Girls “stands out among DEFA films about women workers in that it depicts the conflicts of a factory brigade in a dramatic, but ultimately upbeat fashion. The film shares with other Gegenwartsfilme (contemporary films) of the 1970s and 1980s a concern with issues such as the role of work for an individual’s self-fulfillment. Gusner, however, manages to offer a woman’s perspective on these issues in her strong emphasis on maternal responsibility and female bonding.

Dove on the RoofThe Dove on the Roof (c) DEFA Film Library

Nov. 7, 7 p.m.: The Dove on the Roof (Die Taube auf dem Dach) – 1973, 82 minutes.
Linda, an engineer, falls in love with not one, but two of the men on her construction team, in a film that raises questions about the importance of work, love and happiness in socialist East Germany of the 1970s. The story of the film also becomes a lesson in GDR cultural politics. It was made at the end of a period of creative freedom in East Germany. However, shortly before the release, it was deemed as unsuitable for audiences by the communist regime. All copies of “The Dove on the Roof “ were supposed to be destroyed, but a single copy survived. Finally, it was screened in 1990, after the opening of the Wall.

Were the Earth Not RoundWere the Earth Not Round (c) DEFA Film Library

Nov. 8, 7 p.m.: Were the Earth Not Round (Wäre die Erde nicht rund) – 1981, 87 minutes.
Christiane, from East Germany, and Hatem, from Syria, meet and fall in love while studying in Moscow. As they contemplate a future together, they realize that while Hatem is committed to helping his country, Christiane cannot work as a scientist there. “I have always had the need to bring ‘world’ into my films, because I lacked that in the GDR. We did not get out, and the world did not get in,” Gusner said. This film can be read as homage to the international atmosphere at the International Moscow Film Academy where Gusner studied.

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