Film Archive

Sections (Film Archive)

Agra 68

Documentary Film
GDR
1968
11 minutes
The “revolutionary explosions in science and technology” in an agitatorial popular science feature about the “agra” agricultural exhibition which took place annually in Leipzig-Markkleeberg. The enthusiastic sermons about the use of as many chemicals as possible, fully automated plant and animal production and the increase in work productivity by 250 percent (!) until 1980 in combination with pictures of cows ruminating to the same beat and harvester convoys piloted like Bond cars by delicate young ladies seem like pure science fiction.
– Grit Lemke

Aufenthalt auf Erden

Documentary Film
GDR
1979
18 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

DEFA Studio für Dokumentarfilme
Orlando Lübbert, Christiane Barckhausen
Orlando Lübbert, Christiane Barckhausen
While people are commuting on the (East) Berlin underground, wounded Nicaraguan Sandinistas are being treated in a hospital nearby and prepared for a life with, in some cases, severe handicaps. Their childlike faces form a stark contrast to their sober, matter-of-fact narratives of fighting and terrible experiences and losses.
An oppressive documentary from today’s perspective, maybe partly because of the lack of distance towards children fighting in wars. Above all, it illustrates how high a price the nations of Latin America were willing to pay for their freedom – also expressed in the title’s reference to Pablo Neruda.
– Grit Lemke

Leipzig 1979 “Prize of the Minister of Culture of the GDR”
In Memoriam Petra Tschörtner 2012
Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg - Begegnungen zwischen dem 1. Mai und 1. Juli 1990 Petra Tschörtner

Shot between 1 May and 1 July 1990, in the country called GDR which still bore its name but had ceased to exist. Departures and ruptures, anarchy and helplessness.

Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg - Begegnungen zwischen dem 1. Mai und 1. Juli 1990

Documentary Film
GDR
1990
75 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Fritz Hartthaler, DEFA-Studio für Dokumentarfilme GmbH
Petra Tschörtner
Michael Lösche
Angelika Arnold
Petra Tschörtner, Jochen Wisotzki, Dramaturg: Gerd Kroske
Ulrich Fengler, Uve Haußig
Three elderly women are strolling down the street. One of them is singing, the second a little embarrassed, the third is walking a long way ahead. A little while later they sit in a pub and raise their glasses. They are cheerful. Still later there’s dancing and in the breaks they talk about their lives. Quite casually. The war, the husband lost in the war, hard times and all that. The Wall is gone, something new is about to start. But it won’t get better for them, they know that. The little people always get the short end of the stick. Then they dance and laugh again.
“Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg”, shot between 1 May and 1 June 1990, black and white, 35 mm. One of the last films produced by the Berlin DEFA documentary studio, directed by Petra Tschörtner. It’s a chronicle of those three months in the GDR, a country that still had its name but had ceased to exist. An interstice. A time of dreams of departure and the awareness of ruptures, anarchy and helplessness.
“We need revolution,” the band “Herbst in Peking” sings. Too late, the images suggest. There’s a wasteland where the Wall once stood; images that evoke Berlin after the end of the war in 1945. The images recalling the post-war era recur again and again. Prenzlauer Berg was her neighbourhood; this is where she and many of their friends lived. She knew every stone, every shop, the pubs and Konnopke’s currywurst stand.
“What’s most fascinating about this neighbourhood?”, she asks photographer Harald Hauswald. “The intimacy, which is probably gone now, which used to be part of it. It was so close here, tight, in a positive sense. The people are changing. The openness that used to exist is bound to suffer.” “Right”,says a voice from behind the camera. Petra’s voice.
Petra Tschörtner studied film at the HFF University of Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg from 1978 to 1983. Her films are very close, warm-hearted tales of ordinary people she meets, tender ones of her fellow students who live scattered across the whole world, of her friends. “Waiting on a Friend” by the Stones is the title song of her film “Marble, Stone and Iron.” She had a special talent for friendship.
“Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg” and “Marble, Stone and Iron” are farewell films, never nostalgic, but fundamentally sad. She worked as an assistant director for feature film productions, taught at the HFF, kept writing new projects.
In July 2012, Petra Tschörnter died far too young.

– Tamara Trampe

Canto General

Documentary Film
GDR
1982
40 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

DEFA Studio für Dokumentarfilm
Joachim Tschirner
Mikis Theodorakis, Maria Faranduri, Petros Pandis, Heiner Vogt - Rundfunkchor Berlin (DDR)
Rainer Schulz, Günter Breßler, Karl Faber, Walfried Labuszewski, Jochen Härtel
Joachim Tschirner
Even today, “Canto General” by the Chilean national poet Pablo Neruda is regarded in Latin America as the most important literary work right after the bible. The Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis became Neruda’s artistic companion and set parts of his work to music. A few days before the Chilean premiere, scheduled for September 1973, the military coup happened. Neruda died two weeks later. It was not before 1981 that the work was premired in the GDR.
The film interweaves the sometimes painful biographies of these two once-in-a-century artists who were both closely linked to the dictatorships and liberation struggles of their time, their creative work and the “General Song”. A moving document of the power of art beyond death.
– Grit Lemke

Compañera Inge

Documentary Film
GDR
1982
30 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Sabine Lenkeit
Karlheinz Mund
Christian Lehmann
Angela Wendt
Rolf Liebmann
150 Cubans are training as skilled workers in an Upper Lusatian textile company. “Compañera Inge” is in charge of the foreign workers and must prove herself as a “practical life coach”. The Cubans’ South American temperament, their openness and enjoyment of life, despite the “brotherliness” prescribed by the authorities, are far from being unanimously approved of by their German colleagues. A clash of cultures in the service of the revolution ... and a gentle jolt to the taboos of a closed society in its exposure of prejudice and problems, made for GDR Television, amazingly enough, and the only film on this subject until 1989.
DEFA for GDR Television
– Grit Lemke

Der Letzte Trabbi

Documentary Film
GDR
1990
29 minutes
In late June 1990 the last Trabant car rolled of the production line at the Zwickau Sachsenring Factory. It was the symbol of the GDR, as average, imperfect and yet indestructible as its state. An ironic look at a long history which though melancholic never becomes nostalgic. “(...) a farewell to a self-image – to access to a big company and the recently gained freedom to criticise without restraint. Hardly anyone among the workers who are badmouthing what they produce here will be ready to talk openly about their company in the future, provided they have jobs in the first place.” (Heidemarie Hecht)
– Grit Lemke

Die Kumpel von Döhlen

Documentary Film
GDR
1960
16 minutes
A planned economy battle at the “8 May 1945” steel mill in Döhlen near Freital. The party conference resolution to double production until 1965 seems impossible to execute in view of the unspeakably hard work at the blast furnace. Enter the inventive steelworkers, the party leaders intervene, and step by step production becomes more efficient and work processes are automated ... A popular subject of the arts of that period, depicted with appropriate pathos.
– Grit Lemke

Ein Bild malen ist wie Mais anbauen - Bauernmalerei aus Nicaragua

Documentary Film
GDR
1984
21 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

DEFA Studio für Dokumentarfilme
Karlheinz Mund
Wolfgang Dietzel
Wolfgang Geier, Karlheinz Mund
In the 1960s, the poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal, the future Cultural Minister of Nicaragua, founded the Solentiname community that was based on early Christian principles. More than 40 peasant artists found their own style, closely related to naïve painting, there. Their narratives and colour-drenched paintings form an intensely sensual picture of the lives, struggles and daily routines of simple peasants. After they made their own brushes out of hair at first, they soon began to regard painting as a means to cope with life in the face of oppression, persecution and loss: “I paint what I have never seen. I paint the unknown.”
– Grit Lemke

Erinnere dich mit Liebe und Hass

Documentary Film
GDR
1974
40 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

DEFA Studio für Dokumentarfilme
Jürgen Böttcher, Rolf Liebmann
Werner Kohlert, Bernd Mertens, Horst Simon
Three years after the hopeful meeting with representatives of Chile’s New Song movement, the protagonists are lost or killed, like Victor Jara, others managed to save themselves by going into exile. Some live in the GDR, like the Inti Illimani group. Their stories and powerful songs are combined with expressive photos (by Thomas Billhardt and others) and scenes from Patricio Guzmán’s film “The First Year”. At the end of this black-and-white film, the screens turns red in a reference to Eisenstein ...
There is scarcely another film that evokes so painfully what Chile meant to a whole generation not just of GDR artists and what incurable wounds are left by the failure of a utopia.
– Grit Lemke

Ganz Berlin ist in deinen Augen - Erinnerungen an Otto René Castillo

Documentary Film
GDR
1979
27 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Karlheinz Mund
Atahualpa Youpauqui
Karlheinz Mund
Werner Kohlert, Karlheinz Mund
Otto René Castillo, who is still revered as the most important poet in his home country of Guatemala, studied literature in exile in Leipzig from 1959-1962 before he signed up with DEFA to work in the medium of film. He returned in 1963, joined the guerrilla and was cruelly killed by the Guatemalan army in 1967.
Years later his former colleague Karlheinz Mund embarks on a search for his traces in Guatemala and the GDR. Fragmentary, composed of his fellow travellers’, wives’ and colleagues’ memories, of poems and letters, the image of a man emerges who couldn’t bear “to only talk when others are dying”. An image that is doomed to remain incomplete. Mund and the writer Fritz Rudolf Fries, who wrote the voice-over, are questioners and behind their reflections on an uncompromising artist and friend lies the unspoken realisation of their own failure in a country that had accommodated itself to mediocrity.
The name Castillo is fatefully linked to this festival: Otto René Castillo was a member of the jury of the Leipzig “Documentary and Short Film Week” in 1961 (which the Cuban director Octavio Cortázar remembers in a film), which was probably instrumental in making him switch to DEFA. In 1983 his son Patrice Castillo – who still lives in Leipzig – was among the young people and members of the GDR peace movement who organised the legendary “candle rally”, were brutally arrested and sentenced to long prison terms.
– Grit Lemke

Lautaro

Animated Film
GDR
1977
19 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

DEFA Studio für Trickfilme
Juan Forch
Bernd Wefelmeyer
Hans Schöne
Juan Forch
Chile films from the period of the coup frequently refer to the Lautaro epic: a Mapuche boy who is laid in chains by the Spanisch conquerors and, growing up among them, learns from them. He returns home as a warrior, teaches the Indians how to use arms and leads them in the resistance against the conquerors.
This metaphor of the political fate of the left in Chile was designed by Hermando León in powerful, earthy pictures. A renowned painter, he had to leave Chile after the coup and ultimately settled in Dresden, where he taught at the Academy of the Arts for years and is still working as an artist today.
– Grit Lemke

Leipziger Messe 1946

Documentary Film
GDR
1946
8 minutes
In a Leipzig still visibly marked by the war disrupted trading connections are being re-formed in the trade fair palaces of the city centre. This Eyewitness/Newsreel-style report by feature film director Kurt Maetzig is inspired by the hope that the reviving consumer world will one day be accessible to ordinary citizens, too. Until that day the motto is: ration cards and longing glances at the trade fair’s HO fashion show.
– Grit Lemke

Mitbürger

Documentary Film
GDR
1974
8 minutes
subtitles: 
German

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Peter Hellmich
Walter Heynowski, Gerhard Scheumann
Santiago de Chile, La Moneda government palace, 11 September 1973. Pictures of the bombing. We hear Salvador Allende’s voice; his last words, addressed to his people in the hour of his fall, accompanied by a fast-paced montage of photos and archive footage of the short period of construction and hope. And Allende’s legendary sentence: “I believe in Chile and its future.” Then, again: flames.
– Grit Lemke
Main Prize and Fipresci Award Oberhausen (1974)

Tango Traum

Documentary Film
GDR
1985
20 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

DEFA-Studio für Dokumentarfilme
Helke Misselwitz
Gunther Becher, Lutz Körner
Brigitte Unterdörfer
A flat in Prenzlauer Berg in the 1980s, a woman and some tango music. A personal essay in which the director explores the origins of the tango, questions archives, texts, old photos and film material, finally even an Argentine, interpreting the tango as a cultural practice closely related to politics and society. But there is its other side, too: the sensual, erotic side visualised in staged scenes. Both levels, past and present, here and there, become blurred.
In the end the woman is forced to realise that she can never get the tango feeling. What is distant remains foreign, Montevideo an impossible dream in the GDR of the leaden 1980s. A grief that, translated into dance, could be a tango.
– Grit Lemke

Versuch über Schober

Documentary Film
GDR
1971
23 minutes
Unlike most documentary DEFA productions of that period this film doesn’t make any claims, presenting an “essay” rather than incontrovertible truths, a very subjective approach to a “model citizen” of the GDR media. Simple observations of this foreman at the Leuna Research Centre as he talks on the phone, sits at his desk, makes his rounds of the factory, talks to workers or plays championship skat make him accessible and take him off his pedestal. The film closes with the simple recognition “that socialism is built by people like Hans Schober, like you and me”. Which was not in line with doctrine.
– Grit Lemke

Zum Achtenmal

Documentary Film
GDR
1972
10 minutes
Workers at the Espenhain soft coal opencast mine hear a Vivaldi recital in their company’s house of culture after the end of their shift. Sounds of individual instruments are interspersed with images of their arrival at the washhouse, the work on the excavator or the railway tracks, until a violin appears on the conveyor belt and the concert begins. Art as work, work as art, and how they merge, far removed from the well-intentioned “Bitterfelder Weg”, a programme to develop socialist culture in the GDR.
– Grit Lemke