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Art work by Yehudit Mizrahi Dar
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WINTER ADE 1989
Directed by Helke Misselwitz
In German with English subtitles
After World War II, documentary filmmaking was extremely strong in the former East block – in countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and the GDR. In some ways, documentaries offered more grounding – they were dealing with real life and what was really happening on the streets, in contrast to Hollywood feature films that were always fantasies. That is certainly true of this particularly rich and complex film. Made just one year before the Berlin Wall was brought crashing down, it gives us a piercing image of the situation in East Germany in the late ’80s.
Here we sink into the heart of that culture, as a female filmmaker gets on a train and travels the length and breath of her country. She stops off at different cities and villages and explores the stories of how women are living in the GDR. We see how their living conditions were unsurprisingly more limited than in the West, since the GDR was in no way a colonialist nation raking in profits from other lands. And although the role of women was by far better off in the GDR in contrast to their counterparts in West Germany, still by the late 80s a kind of stagnation had settled in.
Director Helke Misselwitz travels to the Baltic coast, to the Czechoslovakian border, and to East Berlin. She finds a lot of disillusionment in the women she interviews who cross her path, but she also finds optimism. We meet women from all walks of life, and all different ages – from an 83-year old, to a couple of runaway punks in Berlin. Insightful and playful (we even visit a doll hospital along the way), this is a terrific time capsule, a vivid and lively snap-shot of a time and place that is now totally lost to us.