East Side Story (1997)

Director: Dana Ranga

Tagline: Tractor! The Musical!

I had heard rumours and seen some clips of Eastern European communist musicals before, but I never knew that someone had made a documentary about them until my research on tractors turned up this title.

Through as series of clips of the movies, interviews with the people involved in their production, audiences and recreations of party review committees, this documentary attempts to tell the story of a forgotten era of cinema from behind the Iron Curtain.

I have to say after watching this that some of these films look like the best movies ever. It is very frustrating to find out after my own further research that the amount of these movies that are actually available today can be counted on the fingers of one hand. (When I first watched this documentary back in 2005, a lot less of these movies were available.)

It is a bit sad that these films were never considered as ‘art’ when they were released, as it means that many of them were just forgotten after the fall of communism. The people involved had a hard enough time making them in the first place and they deserve recognition for their achievements.

I also liked the funny anecdotes from this movie, such as Stalin liking to laugh it up with funny movies and having a fantasy for ‘boys photographing tractors’. The views of the audience members interviewed were also great to hear as you don’t normally hear their opinions in this sort of documentary.

This documentary comes very highly recommended and I am planning on buying a copy on DVD (along with the movie ‘Hot Summer’) as soon as I am able to so I can watch it again for the great musical clips.

Rating: 9/10

Buy the documentary on VHS (DVD too expensive)

Full movie now on Youtube!

DEFA Film Library – Cinema of East Germany

Hot Summer clips

No Cheating, Darling! clips

Full list of films in the documentary and availability:

Title Non-english Title Country Year IMDB entry DVD Youtube Clip
Adventure in Marienstadt Przygoda na Mariensztacie Poland 1954 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047373/ http://www.youtube.com
The Antique Coin Antike Münze, Die Bulgaria/GDR 1966 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058911/
AT 6PM at the End of the War В 6 часов вечера в конце войны USSR 1944 http://vobzor.com/page.php?id=1394 http://www.youtube.com/
The Bright Path Светлый путь USSR 1940 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215582/ http://www.russiandvd.com/
Carnival Night Карнавальная ночь USSR 1957 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049397/ http://www.amazon.com/
Cossacks of the Kuban River Казаки Кубани USSR 1946 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041562/ http://www.ozon.ru/
Ernst Thalmann, Class Leader Ernst Thälmann – Führer seiner Klasse GDR 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048038/ http://www.amazon.de/
A Handful of Notes Handvoll Noten, Eine GDR 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0230272/
Hard Work, Happy Holiday GDR 1950
Hot Summer Heißer Sommer GDR 1968 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061756/ https://defafilmlibrary.com/
I Don’t Want to Marry Nu vreau sa ma însor Romania 1961 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125960/ http://www.youtube.com/
The Jolly Fellows Веселые ребята USSR 1934 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025946/ http://www.russiandvd.com/
The Lovable White Mouse Geliebte weiße Maus GDR 1964 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058134/ http://www.amazon.de/Geliebte-wei%C3%9Fe-Maus-Der-Reserveheld/dp/B0000AMK3R http://www.veoh.com/watch/
Midnight Revue Revue um Mitternacht GDR 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056411/ http://www.amazon.de/Revue-um-Mitternacht-Christel-Bodenstein/dp/B0012OVDZE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEeUzf6eq8M
My Wife Wants to Sing Meine Frau macht Musik GDR 1958 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051919/ http://www.amazon.de/
New Year’s Punch Silvesterpunsch GDR 1960 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0175168/ http://www.amazon.de/Silvesterpunsch-VHS-Erich-Franz/dp/B00004RXZ3/
No Cheating Darling Nicht schummeln, Liebling GDR 1973 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068999/ http://www.amazon.de/
The Swineherd and the Shepherd Свинарка и пастух USSR 1941 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034249/ http://www.ozon.ru/
Tractor Drivers Трактористы USSR 1939 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032050/ http://www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/701881/?item=2396079 http://www.youtube.com/
Vacation on the Black Sea Vacanta la mare Romania 1963 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0175289/ http://www.youtube.com/
Volga, Volga Волга – Волга USSR 1938 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030947/ http://www.ozon.ru/
The Wayward Wife Lots Weib Czechoslovakia/GDR 1965 http://www.umass.edu/defa/
Woman on the Rails Dáma na kolejích Czechoslovakia 1968 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060279/ http://www.csfd.cz/

3 thoughts on “East Side Story (1997)

  1. Nate

    Hey mate,

    Love this documentary and love this review! The availability list and YouTube links are brilliant. Nice work! I bought it on DVD a few years ago, and have tried to track down as many of these crazy awesome films as I can. Other than watching some of the Russian ones on YouTube, I bought a few on DVD – mostly the East German ones, however only one Heisser Sommer, has english subtitles. Incomprehension doesn’t stop the enjoyment, in fact it somehow enhances it! (And buy Heisser Sommer, you wont be disappointed!!) Weirdly, one or two screened at the Russian Film Festival here in Australia a few years ago. Did you get a chance to see any? Trying to track them down developed into mildly obsessive research, and I found other brilliant musical films that aren’t mentioned and have just as interesting stories and therefore are crying out for rediscovery. You gotta see them!

    Awesome blog mate!


    PS: Sid and Marty Krofft? BaHahahaha… Haven’t seen that since I was a kid!!

    1. timchuma Post author

      Thanks for your comment, I wrote the review in 2005 but only looked for the Youtube trailers/clips and DVD buy links this year. A friend who used to work at the ACMI lending library in South Melbourne used to put the documentary on the screen in the public area every Tuesday afternoon for something fun to look at. I originally found it when searching for movies about tractors and also this.

      Yes, there was a season of East German cinema at ACMI a few years back I saw Hot Summer at http://www.acmi.net.au/fo_east_german.aspx. I have the VHS of the East Side Story documentary, the DVD was listed as costing hundreds of dollars.

  2. Pingback: MIFF 2016: The Lure (2015) | Tim's Melbourne Blog

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