searched for a national identity, those of the 1980s began to emphasize the multi-cultural experience within Germany's own borders. In the tradition of Fassbinder's pioneering films about guest workers -- Katzelmacher ( 1969) and Angst essen Seele auf ( Fear Eats the Soul, 1973) -- a host of films have recently tried to call into question facile oppositions between insider and outsider, domestic and foreign, dominant and marginal. Feature films like Jeanine Meerapfel's Die Kümmeltürkin geht ( 1984), Hark Bohm's Yasemin ( 1987), and Doris Dörrie's Happy Birthday, Türke! ( 1991) confront Germans with different, invariably uncomfortable perspectives on their own country. In particular, films by foreign-born film-makers -- Sohrab Shahid Saless ( In der Fremde, 1975) and Tevfik Baser ( Abschied vom faischen Paradies, 1988) -- present Germany as a multi-cultural society in which ethnic minorities have their own internal conflicts, such as the patriarchal treatment of women in a Turkish family living in Berlin, which Baser critically examines in 40 Quadratmeter Deutschland ( 1986).
Contemporary German cinema of the 1990s is not moribund. What it lacks is a centre that has the magnetic pull and impact of a Fassbinder; it also lacks the sense of solidarity, common purpose, and identity that was evident in Deutschland im Herbst. What current German cinema boasts, instead, is an astounding variety of political agendas, styles, and aesthetic sensibilities, ranging from revisionist Heimat and war pictures, to 30-year-old Christoph Schlingensief's violently aggressive anti- German satires about reunification, Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker ( 1990) and Terror 2000: Intensivstation Deutschland ( 1992); from highly intellectual, political essay films ( Harun Farocki's Videogramme einer Revolution, 1993) to low-brow comedies ( Wir können auch anders, 1993); from the vibrant underground film culture of Berlin to a new ethnographic cinema fascinated with otherness ( Schroeter, Ottinger, Herzog). As the memory of the Nazi period fades -- a memory that defined much of the German cinema from the 1960s to the 1980s -- a new cinema emerges: one that valorizes difference over identity.
Corrigan, Timothy ( 1983), New German Film: The Displaced Image.
Elsaesser, Thomas ( 1989), New German Cinema: A History.
Kaes, Anton ( 1989), From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film.
Knight, Julia ( 1992), Women and the New German Cinema.
Rentschler, Eric (ed.) ( 1988), West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices.
The post-war division of Germany began with the establishment of the four occupied zones in 1945 -- American, British, and French to the west, and Soviet to the east -- and was formalized by the consolidation of the three western zones into the Federal Republic of Germany and the conversion of the Soviet zone into the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1949.
DEFA (Deutsche Film AG), which sounds like the name of a capitalist production company and is a direct echo of Ufa, the biggest and most powerful film organization Germany ever saw, was in fact set up on the orders of the Soviet Military Government in Germany and for nearly forty-five years was the only film-producing entity in East Germany. Its original core was formed by a group of film- makers who had spent the Nazi years either in exile or working as technicians in the film industry and who came together in 1945 to plan the rebuilding of the German cinema. DEFA itself was officially founded (as a Soviet company) the following year and passed into German control in 1949. On 1 October 1950 the DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme' was formed for the production of feature films. Simultaneously studios were set up for newsreels and documentary films and for animation films. In 1953 they were officially designated as VEB (Volkseigener Betrieb), companies owned by 'the people'.
DEFA used the traditional studio structure modelled on Ufa or the Hollywood of the 1930s, but with one crucial difference: in Hollywood, and even in Nazi Germany, there were other, competing production companies to turn to; in the GDR there was only the one, controlled by state (and Party) authorities.
In January 1954 a department known as the Hauptverwaltung (or HV) Film was set up in the Ministry for Culture. Headed by a deputy minister for cultural affairs, HV Film controlled all aspects of the film industry: production, import and export of films, distribution, cinemas, even the film archive. Through the HV all income from the cinemas and from film export was collected as part of the state budget. At the same time all funds for production officially came from the state through HV Film, creating the illusion that the state cared and paid for film as an art and propaganda medium.