• Der Dritte © DEFA Film Library
  • Our Short Life © DEFA-Stiftung, Klaus Goldmann
  • Solo Sunny © DEFA-Stiftung, Dieter Lück
  • The Bicycle © DEFA-Stiftung, Dietram Kleist
  • Coming Out © DEFA-Stiftung, Wolfgang Fritsche
  • Herzsprung © DEFA-Stiftung, Helga Paris
Sara Stevenson, Photo: © Jacobia Dahm .


Sara Stevenson, program curator at the Goethe-Institut New York, selected six important films for the DEFA summer film festival. Presented in cooperation with the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst.

DEFA Films

Der Dritte © DEFA-Stiftung, Ingo Raatzke, Heinz Wenzel

Her Third (Der Dritte)

Dir. Egon Günther
GDR, 1972, 107 min, color
Margit Fließer is a mathematician in her mid-30s who works in a medium-sized company.  She has two children and has been married twice. She is an emancipated woman, esteemed by her colleagues but unhappy with her life. She married her college professor, Bachmann, who in addition to having been her first great love, was also her first great disappointment. Her second relationship—to a blind man—does not work out either. Taking things into her own hands, Margit decides to pick "her third" husband herself, no longer leaving things up to fate.
Jutta Hoffmann, who received the Best Actress award at the 1972 Venice Film Festival, stars alongside Academy Award-nominated actor Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Solo Sunny © DEFA-Stiftung, Dieter Lück

Solo Sunny

Dir. Konrad Wolf/Wolfgang Kohlhaase
GDR, 1979, 102 min, color

Sunny, a young aspiring pop singer touring with her band through the East German countryside, longs for recognition and happiness. When she gets kicked out of the band, she first lands in the hospital but soon starts over in Berlin, where the underground scene of Prenzlauer Berg awaits her.

Solo Sunny artfully captures the East German style of the 1970s in its gritty-glitzy visuals and catchy soundtrack. The film was a smash hit when it first came out and is ranked by film critics among the 100 most significant German films of all time. For her performance, Renate Krößner was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 1980 Berlin International Film Festival.

Unser Kurzes Leben © DEFA-Stiftung, Klaus Goldmann

Our Short Life (Unser kurzes Leben)

Dir. Lothar Warneke
GDR, 1980, 109 min, color

The 26-year-old architect Franziska Linkerhand works for a famous professor. But she feels constrained by her dependence on him and longs to take risks. When her marriage falls apart, she decides to move to a small town for a fresh start. Franziska approaches her new life with enthusiasm and idealism. Though many of her colleagues have given in to the dictates of economic restrictions and prefabricated apartment blocks, Franziska hangs onto her ideals and, as in her private life, is not willing to compromise…

Brigitte Reimann’s bestselling semi-autobiographical novel, Franziska Linkerhand, on which this film is based, fascinated both East and West German readers with its emancipated, radical, yet sensitive protagonist.

Das Fahrrad Bild: © DEFA-Stiftung, Dietram Kleist

The Bicycle (Das Fahrrad)

Dir. Evelyn Schmidt
GDR, 1982, 89 min, color

Susanne is a young single mother with a somewhat alternative, unstructured lifestyle. After quitting her job, she finds herself in financial trouble and attempts a minor insurance fraud to make ends meet.

A rare view of everyday socialism from a woman's perspective, this film was banned from international screenings by East German officials. In West Germany, Evelyn Schmidt’s film received much praise for its critical feminist approach.

Coming Out © DEFA-Stiftung, Wolfgang Fritsche

Coming Out

Dir. Heiner Carow
GDR, 1989, 108 min, color

As a boy, Philipp was strongly attracted to his best friend, but he put that experience behind him in order to live within the “norm.” He meets a shy girl who falls for him, and soon the couple is sharing an apartment. But Philipp cannot deny his passionate desire for a young man. After years of repressing his sexuality, he finally accepts himself for who he truly is.

Hailed as the first and only feature film about gay life ever produced in East Germany, Coming Out premiered on the very night the Berlin Wall fell—November 9, 1989.

Herzsprung © DEFA-Stiftung, Helga Paris


Dir. Helke Misselwitz
Germany, 1992, 87 min, color
In the little town of Herzsprung almost nothing has changed since German reunification—except for a rise in unemployment. Johanna, a young mother and widow, loses her job and lives on welfare. To make matters worse, her husband commits suicide. When she falls in love with a dark-skinned, roving adventurer, the whole village starts talking about it.
Herzsprung was produced by DEFA after the fall of the Berlin wall. Under changed political circumstances it picks up on the themes of the other films in this series where they left them.