Honory Award 2016
Already during his school years, born in Dresden in 1934, Herrmann Zschoche lost his heart to filming – as a member of a “cine film club”. In 1954 he was among the first to study direction at the newly founded German Film School in Potsdam-Babelsberg (now KONRAD WOLF Babelsberg Film University). In 1960 after completing his studies, he began his career at the DEFA Studio for Feature Films and shot his debut film at the age of 27: the children’s film “The Fairytale Castle” based on a picture book by Fred Rodrian. By the end of DEFA, 20 feature films had been developed under his direction, in which he often collaborated in scriptwriting. His works, which often won prizes, but sometimes also fell into disfavor with the GDR authorities, mostly tell everyday stories. They are characterized by a subtle poetic idealization on the one hand and social accuracy on the other hand and still today invite us for identification. No wonder Zschoche’s films reached an audience of millions, which was certainly not a general rule for DEFA productions.
“The Fairytale Castle” was followed by two more children’s book adaptations – “Hedgehog friendship” and “Lütt Matten and the White Shell” before Herrmann Zschoche made his first film for an adult audience: the socio-critical drama “Karla”. This film was banned in connection with the 11th plenum of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in 1965 and had its premiere in 1990 only. From the late 1960s onwards, Herrmann Zschoche’s films increasingly focused on the problems, concerns and conflicts of adolescents and young adults, such as “Life for Two” or “Seven Freckles” where he sensitively describes the transformation of a childhood friendship to first love. The film was a box office hit, such as well as the road movie “And Next Year by the Balaton Lake” directed with a light touch. In 1983 he shot the drama “Swan Island” (scenario: Ulrich Plenzdorf), in which a 14-year-old boy moves from a village into the harsh reality of a Berlin housing estate, where he has to resist the harassment and blackmail of an older student. Due to the realistic, unsparing depiction of social conditions initially not released, “Swan Island” is today considered one of the most important children’s and youth DEFA films.
Selected DEFA children’s and youth films by Herrmann Zschoche:
The Fairy-Tale Castle 1961
Hedgehog Friendship 1962 (Coproduction with film studio Barrandov/Czechoslovakia)
Lütt Matten and the White Shell 1964
Life for Two 1968
Their First Love 1974
Philipp The Small 1976
Seven Freckles 1978
And Next Year by the Balaton Lake 1980
Swan Island 1983
Just Married 1989
The Girl in the Lift 1991