20 years later, remembering East German film and football

Supporters of 1. FC Union Berlin sang anti-socialist songs and absorbed state antagonism within Stadion an der alten Försterei (Stadium near the old forester’s house), chronicled in the 1989 GDR documentary Und Freitags in die “Grüne Hölle” (And Fridays in the “Green Hell”).

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Twenty years from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the sixth edition of the 11mm Fußballfilmfestival gives a football-related spin to Ostalgie—that nostalgic attraction to the former East Germany experienced most acutely among those who never lived there.

Fourteen of the 35 festival selections take the German Democratic Republic as theme. For those whose cinematic vision of the GDR encompasses no more than Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) or Good Bye Lenin!, they likely will be surprised by the content: titillation in the musical comedy Nicht schummeln, Liebling (Don’t Cheat, My Love) and meditation on artistic integrity in Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz (The Naked Man on the Sporting Field). In addition, the festival, running Apr 3–6 at the Babylon cinema in Berlin, shows that East Germany boasted quality teams in its Oberliga.

George SpringborgThe festival kicks off the first night, according to one of the organizers, George Springborg (see Mar 26 podcast below), with a mosaic of East German football. (The festival is organized by the nonprofit club for sport and culture Brot und Spiele, or Bread and Games, and is run by volunteers.) “The football history of the former East Germany has become a little bit forgotten,” Springborg says.

Therefore, in a journey between 1949 and 1989 viewers will revel in the often overlooked East German triumph at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal—a 3–1 win over Poland to take the gold medal that followed the GDR’s only appearance, in 1974, in the World Cup finals. That tournament, hosted in and won by West Germany, resulted in the only official international match between the two sides. Jürgen Sparwasser‘s solo effort on Jun 22 in Hamburg, with a partial dummy to fool goalkeeper Sepp Maier, lifted the East to a 1–0 victory in the group stages. Culling from archives of East German television—especially clips from Der Augenzeuge (The Eyewitness), a news magazine show that ran between 1946 and 1980—organizers have compiled footage from little-known “ghost games” preceding the 1960 Olympics. These pitted East and West German sides 15 years before the famed World Cup encounter. (See all GDR international results at rsssf.com).

Interview with Springborg on Mar 26. (31:57) Download »

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