Last Features

Last Features

East German Cinema's Lost Generation

Reinhild Steingröver

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Drawing on archival research and interviews with directors, writers, and editors, Last Features is the story of forgotten films made during the time of German unification.
Last Features is the story of forgotten films made during the time of German unification. With leftover GDR funds and under chaotic conditions, a group of young East German filmmakers produced around thirty stylistically diverse films. Most of these films were lost in the political upheaval of the Wende, disappearing until the 2009 Wendeflicks festival in Los Angeles brought them back for an international audience. Now available on DVD, these films provide unique insights into the generational struggle in the DEFA studio, East German youth culture in the 1970s, women directors at DEFA, the relationship between the artist and the state, and the protests of 1989.
Last Features focuses in particular on the production group "DaDaeR," the creation of which in 1989 fulfilled a longstanding request by the last generation of DEFA directors for freer production conditions. Drawing on archival research and interviews with the directors, writers, and editors of the films in question, each chapter examines specific films from the last year of DEFA, contextualizing the analysis of these "last features" with a comprehensive discussion of the directors' overall oeuvres, the historical changes in the studio and the country, and the lasting importance of these films today.

Reinhild Steingröver is Associate Professor of German and Film Studies in the Department of Humanities at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester.

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Table of Contents

On Fools and Clowns or Refusal as Engagement in Two Final DEFA Films: Egon Günther's Stein and Jörg Foth's Letztes aus der DaDaeR
"Film Must Fidget": DEFA's Untimely Poets
Absurd Endgames: Peter Welz's Banale Tage
Flight into Reality: The Cinema of Helke Misselwitz
The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Andreas Voigt's Leipzig Pentalogy, 1986-96
Asynchronicity in DEFA's Last Feature: Architects, Goats, and Godot


Selected as a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of 2014

[M]eticulously researched . . . . [N]uanced analyses . . . . Steingröver's important intervention is to . . . . connect these features and their production circumstances to larger formal, generic, political, and artistic tendencies in German and European film history, before, during, and after the existence of the GDR. Including a full filmography, extensive bibliography, and ample illustrations, this readable book lends itself to course adoption, especially since the DEFA Film Library has released a complementary 11-DVD set by the same title, which includes almost all the films Steingröver discusses. Highly recommended. CHOICE

[R]aises important questions not just about the East German film landscape, but also about the landscape of contemporary German cinema. . . . Steingröver's labor of love represents an important contribution to German film studies. MONATSHEFTE [Stephen Brockmann]

[A] welcome addition to a rapidly expanding body of work on the films produced by the German Democratic Republic's state film studio, DEFA (Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft), and a thought-provoking study of "the destructive power of waiting in vain for change." GERMAN QUARTERLY

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