Isabel on the Stairs

Original title: (Isabel auf der Treppe)
GDR, 1983, 67 min, color
In German; English subtitles

Twelve-year-old Isabel and her mother, a famous political singer in Chile, had to escape after the 1973 military coup. Isabel’s father stayed behind, fighting in the underground. For six years, they have lived in a new apartment building in East Berlin. At first, the neighbors make an effort to welcome them, but later become more distant. Isabel does not feel at home in the strange country. Not even her friendship with Philip, can overcome it. Almost every day, Isabel sits on the stairs waiting for a letter from her father.


This film, based on a radio drama by Waltraud Lewin, reflects on the experience over 2,000 political refugees, who came to the GDR Immediately after the coup. Isabel on the Stairs—in which the lead roles are played by Chilean exiles—describes the fate of Chileans in GDR exile in the late 1970s. Official positive statements about the presence of Chilean refugees contradicted the realities of life for the expatriates in the GDR. In the 1980s, many Chileans left the GDR for Western Europe or returned home.

Isabel on the Stairs

Screening Rights: 
Educational Streaming

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