The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

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.

East Germany: The DEFA Story


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.


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The Oxford History of World Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Contents xi
  • Special Features xv
  • List of Colour Illustrations xvii
  • General Introduction xix
  • 1 - Silent Cinema 1895-1930 1
  • Origins and Survival 6
  • Early Cinema 13
  • Transitional Cinema 23
  • The Hollywood Studio System 43
  • The World-Wide Spread of Cinema 53
  • The First World War and the Crisis in Europe 62
  • Tricks and Animation 71
  • Comedy 78
  • Documentary 86
  • Cinema and the Avant-Garde 95
  • Serials 105
  • French Silent Cinema 112
  • Italy- Spectacle and Melodrama 123
  • British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock 130
  • Germany- The Weimar Years 136
  • The Scandinavian Style 151
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russia 159
  • The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés 162
  • Yiddish Cinema in Europe 174
  • Japan- Before the Great Kanto Earthquake 177
  • Music and the Silent Film 183
  • The Heyday of the Silents 192
  • 2 - Sound Cinema 1930-1960 205
  • The Introduction of Sound 211
  • Hollywood- The Triumph of the Studio System 220
  • Censorship and Self-Regulation 235
  • The Sound of Music 248
  • Technology and Innovation 259
  • Animation 267
  • Cinema and Genre 276
  • The Western 286
  • The Musical 294
  • Crime Movies 304
  • The Fantastic 312
  • Documentary 322
  • Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy 333
  • The Popular Art of French Cinema 344
  • Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism 353
  • Britain at the End of Empire 361
  • Germany- Nazism and after 374
  • East Central Europe before the Second World War 383
  • Soviet Film under Stalin 389
  • Indian Cinema- Origins to Independence 398
  • China before 1949 409
  • The Classical Cinema in Japan 413
  • The Emergence of Australian Film 422
  • Cinema in Latin America 427
  • After the War 436
  • Transformation of the Hollywood System 443
  • Independents and Mavericks 451
  • 3 - The Modern Cinema 1960-1995 461
  • Television and the Film Industry 466
  • The New Hollywood 475
  • New Technologies 483
  • Sex and Sensation 490
  • The Black Presence in American Cinema 497
  • Exploitation and the Mainstream 509
  • Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster 516
  • Cinéma-Vérité and the New Documentary 527
  • Avant-Garde Film- The Second Wave 537
  • Animation in the Post-Industrial Era 551
  • Modern Film Music 558
  • Art Cinema 567
  • New Directions in French Cinema 576
  • Italy- Auteurs and after 586
  • Spain after Franco 596
  • British Cinema- The Search for Identity 604
  • The New German Cinema 614
  • East Germany- The Defa Story 627
  • Changing States in East Central Europe 632
  • Russia after the Thaw 640
  • Cinema in the Soviet Republics 651
  • Turkish Cinema 656
  • The Arab World 661
  • The Cinemas of Sub-Saharan Africa 667
  • Iranian Cinema 672
  • India- Filming the Nation 678
  • Indonesian Cinema 690
  • China after the Revolution 693
  • Popular Cinema in Hong Kong 704
  • Taiwanese New Cinema 711
  • The Modernization of Japanese Film 714
  • New Australian Cinema 722
  • New Zealand Cinema 731
  • Canadian Cinema/Cinéma Canadien 731
  • New Cinemas in Latin America 740
  • New Concepts of Cinema 750
  • The Resurgence of Cinema 759
  • Index 785
  • List of Picture Sources 823


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