Isabel on the Stairs

Original title: (Isabel auf der Treppe)
GDR, 1983, 69 min, color
In German; English subtitles

Twelve-year-old Isabel and her mother, who was a famous political singer, had to escape Chile 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 made an effort to welcome them, but later became more distant. Isabel does not feel at home in the strange country. Not even her friendship to Philip, the neighbors’ son, can change her mind. Almost every day, Isabel sits on the stairs waiting for a letter from her father, from whom she has not heard for many years.


Immediately after the coup, the GDR accepted over 2,000 political refugees. 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.


Based on a radio drama by Waltraud Lewin.

Isabel on the Stairs

Screening Rights: 
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