Black Lives in Germany: Resilience, Art and Hope | Film + Talk from October 2020 to April 2021

February 22, 2021 Following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in spring 2020, the DEFA Film Library team—made up of faculty, professional staff and graduate students—began a series of discussions about how best to stand in solidarity with the growing Black Lives Matter Movement in ways that would both leverage our resources and acknowledge past shortcomings. In the 1990s, thanks to Professor Sara Lennox, the Program in German and Scandinavian Studies at UMass Amherst became the first well-known program for Black German Studies in the U.S. Over the years, the DEFA Film Library—which is based in the same program and primarily focuses on East German cinema—worked closely with Lennox on Black German Studies projects, as well as on exploring the experience of BPoC in East Germany and developing a transnational and post-colonial approach to GDR studies through our scholarly Summer Film Institutes.

The first program the team planned was the virtual presentation and discussion of a GDR documentary film about the African American singer, actor and political activist Paul Robeson at the German Studies Association conference in October and the Association for Slavic, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies in November 2020. A further intervention we are planning for next year is a re-examination of race in GDR cinema, starting with the East German “Westerns.”

The centerpiece for the current academic year, however, has been an ambitious virtual film-festival-cum-discussion-series: Black Lives in Germany: Resilience, Art and Hope. Curator and host Kevina King was able to line up some of Germany’s most accomplished artists for this festival. Since the 1980s, the arts—especially poetry, spoken-word and theater, but also music and filmmaking—have been intertwined with activism and at the heart of the growing community and strengthening identity of BPoC in Germany. For a worthy image for the series’ promotional designs, we turned to painter Daniel Kojo Schrade, who was teaching at Hampshire College and kindly allowed us to use an image from one of his paintings. 

You are invited to the two exciting final Film+Talk events of the series in March and April:

Black Stories and Diaspora (March 11 at noon (ET)) REGISTER NOW!
A virtual discussion with director Branwen Okpako (UC Davis) about The Education of Auma Obama and her other films, representing 20 years of stories about Black German lives and experiences. Moderated by historian Tiffany N. Florvil (Univ. of NM) and co-sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Boston.

We are grateful to Branwen Okpako for making ALL her films available to our viewers: The Education of Auma Obama. Curse of Medea. Valley of the Innocent. Dirt for Dinner. LoveLoveLiebe. Landing.

Performance and History (April 8 at 1:00 pm (ET)) REGISTER NOW!
A discussion with groundbreaking actor and director Lara-Sophie Milagro (Label Noir) and dancer and poet Lauren Cox (UMass Amherst). Moderated by Jamele Watkins (UMN). Films: On Noah’s Blood-Stained Rainbow, We Dance. A Spark of Passion that Shaped a Lifetime.

Although the first three virtual Film+Talk events have already taken place, many of the films are available on Vimeo on a pay-per-view basis and the virtual discussions, hosted by curator Kevina King, are available on the DEFA Film Library website.

Audre Lorde, May Ayim and the Black German Movement (10/22/20)
A discussion with director Dagmar Schulz and author Ika Hügel-Marshall, moderated by Sara Lennox (UMass Amherst). Films: Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years, 1984-1992. Hope in My Heart: The May Ayim Story.

Reframing Diversity in German Cinema (11/5/20)
A discussion with actor and director Sheri Hagen about diversity in German cinema, moderated by Rosemarie Peña (BGHRA). Film: At Second Glance.

Black Spaces / Black Voices (2/11/21)
A discussion with the well-known actor and founder of Panthertainment, Tyron Ricketts, and filmmaker Denise Ekale Kum, moderated by Jeff Kwasi Klein. Short films: Afrodeutsch. Winter Solstice. Natsu’s Treasure. Respringendo. Somewhere in Between Us.

Skyler Arndt-Briggs, Executive Director of the DEFA Film Library