Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010
IU symposium, film series to highlight overlooked portion of German history
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 5, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington will present a symposium and film series in honor of the East German Cinema of the DEFA Studios, bringing to light a group of overlooked films made between 1988-1994 that reflect life surrounding the toppling of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
"WENDE FLICKS -- Last Films from East Germany," curated by the University of Massachusetts DEFA Film Library, will play at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater from Jan. 17-March 28 and on the IU Bloomington campus in the Fine Arts Auditorium through April 18. Recently furnished with English subtitles, the "WENDE FLICKS" will be free and open to the public.
IU DEFA Project Director Brigitta Wagner said the films never had the attention they deserved at the time of their release.
"They would have meant something specific in East Germany, but Eastern audiences were interested in Western culture at the time," said Wagner, an IU assistant professor of Germanic Studies and Communication and Culture. "Here we are, 20 years later, with a treasure chest of audiovisual memories, a time capsule . . . What will we discover together? How will we make cultural and political sense of what we find? This is an exciting process."
Wagner said the series will start in the downtown Buskirk-Chumley Theater to "get students out of the classroom and into the streets of Bloomington, which is a much larger classroom."
"Academia is changing. Humanistic scholarship can no longer be a withdrawal from the world," she said. "My students represent a generation of communicators, and they want to communicate their research. This project gives IU faculty and students alike an opportunity to open the research process to a broader public."
The film series was inspired by the 1989 toppling of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of division in Germany that also represented a divided continent and a global war of ideologies. In Germany and beyond, the political and cultural landscape had to shift perceptions, goals and pathways to accommodate the new realities of unification.
Wagner said she heard about the "WENDE FLICKS" series soon after she was hired at IU in 2008 and immediately thought the films should be brought to campus.
While the world has changed immensely in the past 20 years -- with the fall of communism, the rise of the Internet and the tragic events of 9/11 -- 1989 still feels to her like it was yesterday, she said.
"I was in Berlin in the summer of 2009, and nearly everywhere there were reminders of a past that our fast-paced world has already forgotten," she said. "When I saw all the photographs, public art installations and museum exhibits all over the city, I was reminded of what a big deal it was when the Wall fell in 1989. It seemed like the impossible."
IU's DEFA project takes film as a point of departure for making more sense of the transitional period when these films were made, said Wagner. She sees the project as providing a new model of education in the humanities -- or at least in traditional language and culture departments, with outreach as a form of public, grassroots research.
During the four-month run of "WENDE FLICKS" in Bloomington, faculty and students from the Department of Germanic Studies will introduce the films each Sunday evening, with faculty from various IU departments participating in brief roundtables and discussions with the audience after each screening. IU students will write film notes, help build audiences and mentor high school students during a spring symposium titled "Making Culture ReVisible: East German Cinema after Unification."
At the April 22-25, 2010, symposium, filmmakers and cultural agents from the former German Democratic Republic will come together with leading North American film scholars, the IU Department of Germanic Studies and related faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students to discuss:
- the continuities and ruptures of cultural (specifically film) production and film history in Germany after the fall of communism;
- the relationship between historical events and artistic opportunity; the role of cinema in shaping cultural memory; and
- the challenges of finding new audiences and contexts for this body of work.
Troy Byler, IU's Germanic Studies Outreach Coordinator, will run the outreach project for area high school German programs to introduce high school teachers and students to important themes of 1989-90, the films of the "WENDE FLICKS" and higher education at IU. Each week, between 100-200 high school students will attend the film screenings. On April 23-24, high school students from across the state will participate in a student symposium at IU Bloomington.
Wagner said the IU DEFA project invites public participation for a more extended, in-depth dialogue than the typical weekend or weeklong film series. "This is a unique opportunity for the campus and for IU Bloomington."