This week at the Berlin International Film Festival, also called Berlinale, directors Andreas Strohfeldt and Jochen Hick are screening their 2013 documentary “Out In East Berlin – Lesbians And Gays In The GDR.”
Hick, a German native, studied film at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg and Bologna. He works mainly as an independent film director and producer specializing in LGBT subjects in his feature and documentary films. From 2007-2010, Hick helped create the first TV channel for gay male viewers in many German speaking areas. Writer/director Strohfeldt organized Queer Cinema screenings in Saint Petersburg, Russia soon after moving from Moscow.
Strohfeldt and Hick have co-directed 13 biographies depicting “private and political developments which led to oppositions against the state apparatus.” Although East Germany officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1968, it appears through the film that severe homophobia still existed.
By 1968, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) seemed progressive in comparison to West Germany, who eventually followed suit in lifting the ban against homosexuality a year later. Yet society at large within Berlin and greater Germany did not welcome gay and lesbian community members.
The Stasi, East German secret police, continually spied on and attacked gay and lesbian social activists. Strohfeldt and Hick present the dual reality these young men and women lived through. By law, their lives were supposedly protected, but in actuality the state crushed the human rights of their day-to-day life. The rest of society marginalized gay and lesbian men and women on a regular basis.
The film concludes with the story of Gunter Litfin who was the first East German citizen to be shot dead while attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall. Gunter Litfin, lovingly known as “Dolly” by friends, was fleeing the country due to unspecified criminal acts related to homosexual conduct.
Rest in peace, Dolly.