This screening will be introduced by German film scholar Evelyn Preuss from Yale University.
Director: Andreas Dresen, colour, 127 Min., 2017-18
Gerhard Gundermann (1955-1998) was a heavy equipment operator at a lignite strip mine and a Stasi informer, but above all he was a gifted singer-songwriter with a fanbase in both the former GDR as well as the subsequent, reunified Germany. In his feature film GUNDERMANN, director Andreas Dresen takes a sensitive look at this contradictory personality. The result is a perceptive biographical narrative that unreels like a modern musical Heimatfilm ["homeland" film] for East (and all of) Germany.
During the day, Gerhard Gundermann was an excavator operator at a lignite strip mine in Lausatia; at night, he would get up on the stage and move people with his music. In the 1980s, above all his personal songs reflective of everyday life brought him a growing fanbase in East Germany, one that continued to grow after German reunification. And even when it came out that Gundermann, who in the GDR had always had conflicts with the state powers, had worked for the Ministry for State Security, his success didn't stop. And, likewise, success didn't stop him from continuing to work as an excavator operator in a lignite strip mine. He died in 1998 at the age of only 43.
Andreas Dresen's films are subtle chronicles of the German Democratic Republic and life in East Germany. This sensitive biographical narrative in GUNDERMANN continues along the same line. Dresen tells of a man who is summarily kicked out of the party, works as an excavator operator and marries his childhood sweetheart, leaving her to feed the family – all in the name of making music. It is a film about life, with all its contradictions and shortcomings, about death and dying, and above all about good music!
Evelyn Preuss is currently finishing her doctoral thesis on East German Cinema at Yale University. A Cultural and Media Studies scholar, she is particularly interested in the intersection of power, performance, politics and paradigm chance in German, European as well as global contexts. She holds an MA in German Studies from Yale University and from the University of Iowa. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and journals, including Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal and the recent Celluloid Revolt: German Screen Cultures and the Long 1968 (Gerhardt and Abel, eds, 2019).
Event Series: Fokus - Films from Germany 2019/20