DEFA Foundation - DEFA-Stiftung

DEFA Foundation
Legal form: Foundation under civil law
Purpose: Preservation and utilization of DEFA's film heritage , promotion of German film art and culture
Chair: Stefanie Eckert (Board of Directors)
Katrin Schlösser (Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees)
Consist: since December 15, 1998
Seat: Berlin

no founder specified

The DEFA Foundation is a legally responsible, non-profit foundation under civil law. Since December 2017, the foundation has had its headquarters in the Neues Deutschland publishing building on Franz-Mehring-Platz in Berlin.

The foundation was established on December 15, 1998 by the German government . The film portfolio of Deutsche Film AG (DEFA), the GDR's state- owned film company , was transferred to her as an endowment . The purpose of the foundation is to preserve DEFA's film heritage and to make the productions usable for the public as part of the national cultural heritage . The foundation is continuously digitizing the DEFA film inventory so that the films can continue to be shown on television and in the cinema , as well as being published on DVD . The foundation also supports the GermanFilm art and film culture through the awarding of prizes . The Foundation's award ceremony has been held once a year since 2001 in Berlin, honoring people and institutions for their cinematic achievements. As part of the Berlin International Film Festival , the Foundation has been awarding the Heiner Carow Prize since 2013 .

Media scientist Stefanie Eckert has been on the board since July 2020 . [1] She took over the office from Ralf Schenk . Filmmaker Katrin Schlösser has chaired the Board of Trustees since 2019 . Previously, director Andreas Dresen was chairman of the foundation board. [2]


The statutory organs are the Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors . The Board of Trustees consists of nine members. The appointment is for a period of three years. The members come from the department of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media , the Federal Archives , the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation and the federal states of Berlin / Brandenburg and Saxony. The states of Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony also name a personality from the field of art and culture. Filmmaker Katrin Schlösser has been Chair of the Board of Trustees since 2019 . [3]

The board of directors is responsible for managing the foundation in accordance with the statutes. Stefanie Eckert has held the office since 2020 . Previously, Wolfgang Klaue (1998–2003), Helmut Morsbach (2003–2012) and Ralf Schenk (2012–2020) were on the board.

Foundation assets

The foundation's assets consist of the inalienable ancillary copyrights and rights of use to the DEFA film portfolio and the proceeds from the sale of a Berlin property . The foundation currently has endowment capital of around eight million euros. Only the income from the foundation's assets and the income from the evaluation of the rights portfolio are used to fulfill the purpose of the foundation. In order to maintain the foundation's capital, the foundation creates reserves in accordance with the statutes. In order to secure and fulfill the purpose of the foundation, the reserves should be preserved in the long term.


The film inventory includes the entire cinema production of the GDR film studios from almost five decades. This includes around 950 feature films and short films, 820 animated films , 5,800 documentaries and newsreels , 4,000 German-language synchronizationsof foreign films, unpublished and residual material from DEFA production, photos, posters, scripts and their literary preliminary stages, advertising materials, scores and approval documents. With around 12,000 films, the DEFA Foundation sees itself as an institution that wants to impart cultural knowledge. Your films make a contribution to dealing with socially relevant issues and to an orientation towards life and values. All films are listed with the relevant filmographic information in a database on the Foundation's website. [4]

Since May 2004 the foundation has owned the private contemporary witness archive of Thomas Grimm . Under the motto “Memories as Responsibility”, Thomas Grimm recorded 2,500 hours of conversations with contemporary witnesses of the 20th century. Around 1,400 people give historical insights into modern German history on 3,500 broadcast cassettes. Personalities from politics, science and culture have their say, but also contemporary witnesses of everyday culture.


In order to guarantee the long-term preservation of the DEFA film heritage, the foundation is concerned with the high-resolution digitization of its film inventory. The digital restorations are necessary because the original film material is subject to a natural aging process and the film copies can hardly be played back. [5]

Since 2012, the DEFA Foundation has digitally restored more than 500 DEFA productions. In addition to feature films by Konrad Wolf , Frank Beyer , Heiner Carow and Herrmann Zschoche as well as documentaries by Volker Koepp , Helke Misselwitz , Petra Tschörtner and Jürgen Böttcher, this also includes many animated films from the DEFA studio for animated films. All films are now available as a digital cinema package . [6] On October 16, 2014, the foundation announced in a press release that it had been awarded the Deutsche Kinemathekwas able to hand over the first 100 digitized, high-resolution film copies. The foundation sees itself as "the first repertoire film provider worldwide that can offer cinemas DCPs of its films to this extent". [7] 2019, the foundation announced that with the movie desire of Jürgen Brauer the 500th digitization project was completed. [8th]

The foundation is supported in its digitization projects by funding from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, the Film Funding Agency , the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the Ministry of Economics and European Affairs Brandenburg, the Thuringian State Chancellery , the Capital Culture Fund Berlin, the Foundation for Flight, Displacement, Reconciliation and through private donations. [9]


Until 2013, the foundation granted grants to private individuals, corporations under public law and non-profit institutions . The scholarly and journalistic development and evaluation of the DEFA film stock, exhibitions , symposia as well as cinematic and museum projects were funded. Furthermore, scholarships were awarded that served the development of German film culture and the preparation of film artistic work. The Rolf Richter Scholarship was launched in 2013 to research the various areas of German film history. The name was given in honor of the film scholar and artist Rolf Richter(1932-1992). A committee made up of members of the Board of Trustees was formed to decide on applications for funding. On November 13, 2013, the Board of Trustees decided to suspend grants and grants for an indefinite period. The reason for this decision is the small and irregular payments by the collecting societies , which result from a change in the law in copyright law from 2008. [10] Since then, the foundation's funding opportunities have been limited to awarding prizes.

Since its inception, the DEFA Foundation has made available around nine million euros for the promotion of film art and film culture. [11]


Award ceremony of the foundation

In order to promote German film art and culture, the foundation has been awarding several prizes every year since 2001. Awards are currently being given in the following categories: Prize for life's work in film (10,000 euros), Prize for outstanding achievements in German film (10,000 euros), Promotion Prize for Young Cinema (5,000 euros) and three program prizes (5,000 euros each). A jury made up of members of the Board of Trustees is formed to decide on the award of the prizes. [12]

Heiner Carow Prize

Since 2013, the foundation has awarded the Heiner Carow Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival to a German feature, documentary or essay film. Until 2019, the prize was awarded in the Panorama section , at the 70th Berlinale 2020 the award changed to the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section . The prize, endowed with 5,000 euros, is dedicated to DEFA director Heiner Carow . Previous winners are Angela Christlieb (2013), Johann Feindt and Tamara Trampe (2014), Jörg A. Hoppe , Klaus Maeck and Heiko Lange (2015), Doris Dörrie (2016),Annekatrin Hendel (2017 and 2019), Wolfgang Fischer (2018) and Natalija Yefimkina (2020).

Sponsorship awards

At film festivals , the foundation awards sponsorship prizes between 3,000 and 4,000 euros. At the moment there are regular awards at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Film Festival in Schwerin , the Schlingel International Film Festival in Chemnitz , the Leipzig International Festival for Documentary and Animated Film and the Dresden Film Festival . In the period from 2005 to 2015, the foundation awarded a prize at the Max Ophüls Prize film festival in Saarbrücken . From 2004 to 2011 a prize was awarded at the Cottbus Film Festival . [13]


Journalistic and scientific work to further research the DEFA film heritage is published in the DEFA Foundation's series of publications, which is published by Bertz + Fischer Verlag . The series currently comprises around 40 volumes (as of 2020), including:

  • Staged reality. DEFA feature films as a source of contemporary historical interpretation . Edited by Klaus-Dieter Felsmann, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2020, ISBN 978-3-86505-417-3 .
  • Under high skies. The Universe Volker Koepp . Edited by Grit Lemke , Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-86505-416-6 .
  • You. DEFA directors and their films . Edited by Cornelia Klauß & Ralf Schenk, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-86505-415-9 .
  • Start in Moscow. Students of directing at the Moscow Film School remember . Edited by Iris Gusner , Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86505-414-2 .
  • More art than advertising. The GDR film poster 1945–1990 . Ed. Detlef Helmbold, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86505-410-4 .
  • A working life for DEFA. The last general director of the feature film studio in conversation . Edited by Dorett Molitor & Gert Golde, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86505-413-5 .
  • Unknown Ivens. Triumph, damnation, resurrection of Joris Ivens at DEFA and in the GDR 1948–1989 . Edited by Günter Jordan, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86505-407-4 .
  • Friendship - Przyjaźń? Camera views of the neighbor. Film-cultural relations between the GDR and VR Poland 1945–1990 . Edited by Thomas Heimann, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-86505-412-8 .
  • My LAST PICTURE SHOW (photo book). Edited by Roland Gräf , Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86505-411-1 .
  • The time, the world and the self. On the cinematic work of Rainer Simon . Edited by Michael Grisko , Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86505-408-1 .
  • Tangents. Holocaust and Jewish life as reflected in the audiovisual media of the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR 1946 to 1990 - a documentation. Ed. Elke Schieber, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86505-403-6 .
  • The Bolshevik. Michael Tschesno-Hell and his DEFA films. Edited by Ralph Hammerthaler , Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86505-409-8 .
  • Forbidden utopia. The SED, the DEFA and the 11th plenary session . Edited by Andreas Kötzing & Ralf Schenk, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86505-406-7 .
  • Pictures of the Century. State Film Archive of the GDR 1955–1990. Memories. Edited by Eva Hahm, Hans Karnstädt, Wolfgang Klaue, Günter Schulz, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86505-405-0 .
  • Late performance. The DEFA generation without a chance . Edited by Reinhild Steingröver, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86505-404-3
  • Sound of the times: music in the DEFA feature film. An approximation. Ed .: Klaus-Dieter Felsmann, Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-86505-402-9 .
  • Movie time - lifetime. Development and reception history of the DEFA film »Das Fahrrad«. Ed .: Evelyn Schmidt , Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-86505-401-2 .

The printed publications are supplemented by internet offers. Questions about current events, history, funding, film stocks, digitization and publications are answered. In addition to a database in which all films belonging to the DEFA Foundation's rights portfolio are recorded, further databases, for example a chronicle and bibliography on DEFA, are made available on the homepage .

With the yearbook apropos: Film , the Foundation established a series between 2000 and 2005 that provided information on the processing, presentation and reception of East German cinematography and presented current film events and the work of the DEFA Foundation.

In cooperation with Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag , an expanded edition of The Great Lexicon of DEFA Feature Films was published at the end of 2017 .

Partner organizations

The foundation is a member of the Federal Association of German Foundations and cooperates with various institutions. The Deutsche Kinemathek issues licenses for cinema screenings of DEFA films. Icestorm Entertainment is the exclusive exploiter of DEFA films on DVD , Blu-ray and other media, as well as for television and video-on-demand offerings. Sometimes DVD editions are also published by Absolut Medien as well as in the Editions Filmjuwelen and Filmmuseum. Progress evaluates the DEFA film heritage in the area of ​​clip part utilization. TheThe film archive of the Federal Archives stores the original film material from DEFA productions. The Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation is also a partner foundation . [14]


Individual evidence

  1. Stefanie Eckert becomes the new board member of the DEFA Foundation. (PDF) DEFA Foundation, December 16, 2020, accessed on July 1, 2020 .
  2. Katrin Schlösser elected chairwoman of the DEFA Foundation. (PDF) DEFA Foundation, May 9, 2019, accessed on May 9, 2019 .
  3. Board of Trustees. DEFA Foundation, accessed on May 9, 2019 .
  4. Film search. DEFA Foundation, accessed on February 9, 2020 .
  5. digitization. DEFA Foundation, accessed March 30, 2020 .
  6. ^ List of digitized DEFA films. DEFA Foundation, accessed March 30, 2020 .
  7. The DEFA Foundation hands over 100 DCPs to the theatrical distribution of the Deutsche Kinemathek. (PDF) DEFA Foundation, October 16, 2014, accessed on April 12, 2015 .
  8. DEFA Foundation hands over 500th DCP to the rental company. (PDF) DEFA Foundation, August 15, 2019, accessed on March 30, 2020 .
  9. Sponsor of the digitization projects for DEFA film. DEFA Foundation, accessed March 30, 2020 .
  10. The DEFA Foundation is running out of money. Frankfurter Rundschau, December 16, 2013, accessed on March 30, 2015 .
  11. Funding decisions. DEFA Foundation, accessed on May 4, 2020 .
  12. ^ Prices of the DEFA Foundation. DEFA Foundation, accessed March 30, 2020 .
  13. Sponsorship awards from the DEFA Foundation. DEFA Foundation, accessed March 30, 2020 .
  14. ^ Portrait of the DEFA Foundation. DEFA Foundation, accessed March 30, 2020 .