The DEFA film stock covers the entire cinematic production from almost five decades in the GDR film studios. This includes around:
- 700 feature films and 450 fictional short films
- 950 animated films
- 2,000 documentary films and 2,500 periodicals (newsreels, etc.), including documentary films produced on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MfAA)
- 6,700 German-language dubbing of foreign films
- 200 post-1990 feature, documentary and animated films, often co-produced with other companies or TV stations
- unpublished and residual materials from DEFA productions (e.g., test recordings and unused shots)
- advertising materials, photos, posters, screenplays, and literary precursors, scores, documents, and registration documents
All rights, insofar as they originated in the production and distribution process, have been transferred to the DEFA Foundation. This also applies to the unlimited use of foreign films located in the former territory of the GDR, provided that there was licensing agreement between DEFA foreign trade and foreign contractual partners.
DEFA films are evaluated by PROGRESS Film-Verleih (world distribution) and the Deutsche Kinemathek Foundation (theatrical distribution).
Commissioned productions that were realized in the DEFA studios for television and other clients are usually not part of the DEFA Foundation’s film stock. Films produced on behalf of GDR television can be found at the Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv (Potsdam-Babelsberg).
A short biography of DEFA: Outer Space and the Everyday
DEFA Film Preservation
The GDR, which initiated the UNESCO Recommendation “For the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images,” was one of few countries to impose duties to pay for films. Thus, the DEFA productions are almost completely preserved. The source material for DEFA films and an archival copy were located in the GDR State Film Archives. As the only film institution in the GDR, the archive was taken over by the Federal Archives after reunification, an institution existing in the federal states.
The physical property of the DEFA film stock, the complete film material, belongs to the Federal Archives. In accordance with its legal mandate, it is committed to the permanent preservation of almost all of the DEFA legacy. The DEFA Foundation supports the Federal Archives with endowment funds for film preservation and bears the costs of producing high-quality digitization of DEFA films, producing additional backup material for the Federal Archives.
For several years now, only digital formats of the DEFA film stock are available for use by PROGRESS and the Deutsche Kinemathek.