Photo © Jörg Foth
Jörg Foth was born in Berlin, East Germany, on October 31, 1949. He studied directing at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen in Potsdam-Babelsberg from 1972 to 1977. While at the film academy, he met cinematography student Thomas Plenert; since then, the two have collaborated on many student and professional films. Foth’s 1975 student film Blumenland (Land of Flowers)—a short documentary about Sebnitz, a city known worldwide for artificial flower production—was shown at CILECT International Student Film Festival in Budapest, Hungary. His 1977 diploma film, Der Prozess (The Process), a moving love story between an East German girl and a young Polish man, was presented at the 1978 Berlin International Film Festival.
After graduating from the film academy, Foth worked at GDR television for a year, before he worked as a telegram messenger. Director Ulrich Weiss, who was Foth’s mentor at the film academy, brought him to the DEFA Studio for Feature Film, where Foth was his assistant director on Blauvogel.
In 1983, Foth finally had his directorial debut with Das Eismeer ruft, an adaptation of Alex Wedding’s children’s book. The film was well received by the audience, praised by film critics and screened at the prestigious 1984 European Film Fest in Munich, West Germany.
In 1984, Jörg Foth signed a “young director’s contract” with the DEFA Studio. There, he directed various short films, as well as the feature film Dschungelzeit, the only East German-Vietnamese co-production. The film tells a story about a former German soldier who has joined the French Foreign Legion in Vietnam, but then deserts to the “liberated” zone in the north. Foth then interned at the theater in Schwerin, before returning to the studio in the late 1980s. There, he directed several short films as well as Biologie!, one of few DEFA feature films to deal with environmental issues; unfortunately, reception of this last film was negatively impacted by the massive political changes taking place in Germany.
Starting in the early 1980s, Foth lobbied for a role for the youngest generation of DEFA filmmakers in studio structures. He was also a member of the DaDaeR Artistic Production Group, officially founded on January 1, 1990; his musical cabaret revue Letztes aus der DaDaeR was one of four films the group produced before the DEFA Studios were closed. Like Biologie!, this film was not widely distributed at the time. The negative was first rediscovered, during preparations for the DEFA Film Library’s well-received 2009 film series Wende Flicks: Last Films from East Germany.
Since 1991, Foth has worked in television and film, and as a music consultant and author at various theaters. One of his post-DEFA films, Prenzlauer Berg Walzer, shot by Thomas Plenert, is a documentary that employs footage shot between the fall of the Wall on 11/9/1989 and 1992 to draw a community portrait of the creative center of East Berlin; it was recently revived and shown in Berlin, where it raised memories and evoked discussions about the unification period.
Jörg Foth, who was the DEFA Film Library’s Artist-in-Residence in 2010, has been a member of the selection committee of the Szczecin European Film Festival in Poland for several years. In 2019, Foth donated his papers and private poster collection to the DEFA Film Library and the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Bibliography & More:
- Evan Torner and Victoria Rizo Lenshyn, “Imposed Dialogues: Joerg Foth and Tran Vu’s GDR-Vietnamese Coproduction, Dschungelzeit (1988),” in Comrades of Color: East Germany in the Cold War World, ed. Quinn Slobodian (New York: Berghahn Books, 2015): 243-264.
|2009||Mensch, Kotschie (Gee, Kotschie, asst. dir.)|
|2003||Brefreite Zone (The Liberated Zone, asst. dir.)|
|2001||Messias (Messiah, TV, short)|
|1997||Die Verweigerung (The Refusal, TV, short)|
|1996||Prometheus (short, TV)|
|1994||Tir na nOg (doc.)|
|1994||Prenzlauer Berg Walzer (Prenzlauer Berg Walz, TV, doc.)|
|1993||Sondern Erlöse uns von dem Bösen (But Deliver Us from Evil, TV, short)|
|1992||Australischer Besuch (The Australian Visitor, TV, short)|
|1992||Freund und Helfer (Friend and Helper, TV, short)|
|1991||Happy End Durch Drei (Happy End Divided by Three, TV)|
|1990||Letztes aus der DaDaeR (Latest from the Da-Da-R)|
|1989||Ach du jeh – Ein Hans Dampf und Wurst Dokument (Oh Dear! A Jack-of-All-Trades Document)|
|1989||Tuba wa duo (short)|
|1987||Dschungelzeit (Time in the Jungle)|
|1987||Rock ‘n’ Roll (short, doc.)|
|1987||Land mi ned o - Fass mich nicht an (Don’t Touch Me, short, doc.)|
|1984||Die Grünsteinvariante (The Günstein Variant, asst. dir.)|
|1983||Das Eismeer ruft (The Arctic Sea Calls)|
|1981||Die Kolonie (The Colony, asst. dir.)|
|1980||Die Verlobte (The Fiancée, TV, asst. dir.)|
|1979||Addio, piccolo mia (actor)|
|1979||Blauvogel (Blue Bird, asst. dir.)|