Tatiana Astafeva: Touching Distance: Ostalgie in German Cinema after the Reunification

The project conceptualizes ostalgie from the cognitive-phenomenological approach as an experience of distance and approaches ostalgie as a film genre.

Project start:

The project aims at analyzing films about the German Democratic Republic (GDR) produced in the 1990s–2010s. The theoretical background of the study combines the approach to nostalgia as experience of distance suggested by Frank Ankersmit and a cognitivist-phenomenological position to cinema. In that way, instead of analyzing nostalgic films about the GDR as a homogenous phenomenon that romanticizes the totalitarian state, the project aims to conceptualize ostalgie as a multifaceted film genre. In contrast to works on nostalgia (in) cinema that are mostly based on reception studies, the project proceeds from Christine Gledhill’s premise that genres are flexible entities formed in the fuzzy space between film aesthetics and viewers’ response.

Consequently, the core of ostalgie film genre is the experience of distance that is ‘pre-focused’ by various aesthetic and narrative strategies. This genre-based definition makes it possible to conceptualize the phenomenon of ostalgie film in its heterogeneity and to reveal the mechanisms that lay in the essence of ostalgic experience. The theoretical conceptualization is underpinned by the close analysis of film examples that allow to reveal several potentials of ostalgie cinema. Thus, ostalgic experience of distance can develop reflexive potentials, so that the GDR past is critically perceived, reflected, and reworked. Besides, ostalgie films can reveal subversive aesthetics that expose the experience of distance by orienting themselves towards kitsch and retro, or dissolve in reactionary political discussions.

  • Project lead: Tatiana Astafeva
  • Contact: Tatiana.Astafeva(at)filmuniversitaet.de
  • CV: Tatiana Astafeva is a PhD candidate at the Film University Babelsberg and received a scholarship from ZeM (Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaften) in 2016-2019. She is a research fellow at the University of Bremen in the DFG-funded project "Film Comedy after the 'Third Reich'" (2021-2024) and general editor of the OA journal Research in Film and History. Her experience also entails working in the BMBF-funded research project "Audiovisual Histospheres" (2019-2020). Prior to her PhD, she studied history and philosophy at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
  • PhD Advisors: 
  • Scientific PhD in the discipline:  Media Studies