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GDR’s Childhood Years

Berlinale Generation Kplus special screening of children’s movies from the GDR

February 09th, 2015
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In the children’s section of the Berlinale, short GDR movies are being screened at the CinemaxX in Berlin. Since 1978, the Berlinale has had two categories for children’s movies: Kplus and 14plus. They even have their own ‘glass bears’, for the best children’s and teenager’s movie. But not only are the possible winners of the bears screened in this category. In addition, the ‘Sondervorführung’ shows a variety of short films made in the GDR by the DEFA-studio, which resided in East-German Dresden until the reunification of Germany.

With the purpose of building an antifascist culture in the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany after 1945, an institute for film was created – the DEFA. Lenin, in the 1920s, already spoke of film as the most important of all arts. In this spirit, the state film institute had to educate the right political views and visualize scientific and technical questions. On top of that, the new communist moral ethics had to be illustrated through film.

The DEFA-Studio for cartoons produced over 750 films during the existence of the GDR. Silhouettes, drawings and puppets starred in the children’s stories in the Communist model state. The Berlinale 2015 made a selection of 8 short films, ranging from the winter being beaten by the sun, to a frog who is chased by a stork. All of them present the GDR-rhetoric.

In the first years of the GDR, the movies had an emphasis on risk-taking to find great luxury. For example, a story focused on an adventure to find the bird Turlipan was created. The protagonist leaves his safe home to find the bird and finds great riches on the way.

Another example is the visualisation of the temptation of capitalism. This was represented by a frog who left a puddle, only to be chased down by the stork. In the end, the frog is still able to beat the stork, but returns to the puddle afterwards. To the critical eye, the message in all the cartoons is clear: the GDR is best for the happiness and welfare of the people. Because of this intriguing approach, these children’s movies are still interesting for adults.