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TO JAN. 13, 2003

Soviet-bloc communism’s myriad failures have been well-documented, but it did have some success in improving the status of women. One of the most extensive cinematic records of this comes from East Germany, where women were encouraged to work and where the government film studio, DEFA, was more independent than many of the production units supervised by Moscow. But that doesn’t mean DEFA was never censored. This retrospective of films about women in East Germany includes Konrad Wolf’s long-suppressed Sun Seekers (at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9), in which two party girls, rounded up in a dance-hall raid, are sent to labor in the Wismut uranium mine. Still, DEFA was able to produce such skeptical work as Helke Misselwitz’s late-’80s documentary Winter ade (pictured, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13), a series of conversations with women whose lives reveal their less-than-equal status, and Hermann Zschoche’s On Probation (at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16), the story of a “bad” mother who’s ordered to surrender custody of her children but is helped by strangers who are more compassionate than the authorities. East German films got particularly audacious in the ’70s, when the Wall couldn’t bar youth culture and sexual liberation from the country. That’s the context for Heiner Carow’s The Legend of Paul and Paula (at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2), the freewheeling tale of an affair between two neighbors, set to the acid rock and sunshine pop of Puhdys, an East German band. The series runs to Monday, Jan. 13, 2003, at the Goethe-Institut’s Goethe-Forum, 814 7th St. NW. $5. (202) 289-1200. (Mark Jenkins)