1. The English translation of the film’s title is variously given. On the recently released 3 DVD box set the film is presented as The Sons of Great Bear. However, the noun for “bear” in the original German title is feminine. The film has been copyrighted under the title The Sons of the Great Mother Bear. I have chosen to use this translation of the title in the present study. [return to page 1 of essay]
2. Bazin, Andre. “The Evolution of the Western.” What is Cinema? Vol. 2. Ed. and trans. Hugh Gray, pp. 149-57. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.
3. Examples include, The Red Girl (1908), Hiawatha (1913), Broken Arrow (1950), and Dances With Wolves (1990).
4. Ross, Corey, The East German Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of the GDR, London: Arnold Press, 2002, 8-10. The building of the Wall put to an end the East German exodus to the West, and unwanted capitalist influence. Interpretations of the Wall’s efficacy differed on each side of it. From a West German perspective it was seen as the “centerpiece of an illegitimate totalitarian regime.” From an East German perspective it was dubbed “an antifascist protective wall.”
5. It is important to note that West Germany too had a Western-inspired cinematic form during this period. Inaugural works of the cycle are the Winnetou I, II, and III (1963, 1964, 1965) directed by Harald Reinl. The similarities and differences of these films to the East German Indianerfilme are significant and require their own special study, one outside of the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that distinction between the East and West German films is in the quality of their story structure. So while both practices appropriate Western genre conventions, they are dissimilar in the stories they tell, and in the style of genre re-workings that they employ.
6. More recent examples include The Killer (1989), Cowboy Bebop (1998), Deadwood (2004), and 3:10 to Yuma (2007).
7. A three DVD box set was recently released through the DEFA Film Library, and includes not only The Sons of the Great Mother Bear (1965), but also the following Indianerfilme: Chinachgook, The Great Snake (1967), and Apaches (1973). The DEFA Film Library, founded by Barton Byg, is located at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Devoted to the study of East German film and culture from 1946 to the present, the library houses film prints, videos, and DVDs, as well as articles, books, and periodicals for continuing research.
8. Simmon, Scott, The Invention of the Western Film, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
9. Gemunden, Gerd, “Between Karl Marx and Karl May: The DEFA Indianerfilme” in Germans and Indians: Fantasies, Encounters, Projections, edited by ColinCoolway, Gerd Gemunden & Susanne Zantop, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2002, p. 251.
10. Jameson, Fredric, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” in The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Hal Foster, Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1983, p. 111. Jameson identifies these practices as being constituent features of Postmodernism. He defines pastiche as “imitation without laughter.” Blank parody can be further defined as the processes of appropriating the style or form of an existing artwork and placing it in a new context with new content.
12. Simmon, op. cit., pp. 3-30. [return to page 2]
14. Dippie, Brian, W. “The Moving Finger Writes: Western Art and the Dynamics of Change.” Discovered Lands, Invented Pasts: Transforming Visions of the American West. According to Brian Dippie the Indian has a consistent meaning in representation:
17. This musical score is especially striking when compared to Ennio Morricone’s score for the Sergio Leone Westerns, a use of sound that has been lauded for its sumptuousness and expressivity. The low budget status of The Sons of Great Mother Bear may be given as the reason for a use of music that often sounds like an obvious, but not always accurate, copy of per-existing scores. On the other hand, I would argue that the score of Mother Bear creates a palpable feeling of a vague, half-remembered past, a reading that is encouraged by other elements in the film.
19. This manner of analysis is influenced by Will Wright and his study of the U.S. Western in Six Guns and Society, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. However, the list of plot functions in Mother Bear is significantly different from the plot sequences Wright found in his study of the most popular U.S. Westerns, and also different from the stories of the Sergio Leoni Westerns, and even of Karl May’s Winnetou. So while the surface elements of a number of Western variations may share similarities, their story sequences can be quite different.
20. Gemunden, op. cit. p. 246-247. [return to page 3]
26. Another example of this type of story is in the Indianerfilm Chingachgook: The Great Snake (1967). Here the British and the French use the Delawares and the Hurons as pawns in the French and Indian War. Chingachook, himself an Iroquois, argues passionately that the Delawares and the Hurons should abandon their conflict and join together to fight against the colonizing French and British.
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