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Retrospektive: 1966 German Cinema, a Comparison of East and West
by Rose Finlay

Fifty years ago,  German cinema was at a turning point. Filmmakers in both the East and West were  making more critical stances on policies and social mores of the time, and film  was reflecting these changes. As a result, in the West New German Cinema was  developed and soon had international critical acclaim. The East was also making  films that reflected the realities of the people, but after the 11th  plenum of the central committee of East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party, there  was a wave of censorship. The result was that half of all films set to be  released in 1966 were banned. These films would be released some years later,  some to great acclaim, but the plenum had the result of ending or stunting the  careers of many filmmakers and stifled creative change in the Eastern film  industry.

  The 2016  Retrospective focus on 1966 was an interesting opportunity to showcase both  East and West German films at a time when both were at the fore of innovation,  shortly before Eastern censorship. Twenty theatrical and television features  from both sides of Germany that were produced, premiered, or censored in 1966  were shown. In addition, thirty short and mid-length films were also showcased in  the section, grouped together into programmes or as opening films.

  Some of the more  interesting opportunities were the screenings of both censored and uncensored  versions of a few of the GDR films. This allowed for a comparison, to see what  specifically set the censors off (usually it was a too realistic portrayal of  life in the East or light criticisms of the party line). A benefit of  highlighting German films was that several of the directors and crew members of  the films were able to attend the festival, allowing for an interesting  dialogue and information on the background of the films to be available to the  public.

  It is always  fascinating to have the opportunity to see films not so commonly available, and  the Retrospective section is always a highpoint at the festival for this very  reason. While New German Cinema is something generally respected and studied,  being able to compare it to the contemporaneous developments in the East is  something relatively unique and fascinating. As always, here’s looking forward  to what interesting part of film history will be featured next year!