Final Exposure Banned East German Comedy Premieres 40 Years Late

With so many secret police officers and informants, East Germany wasn't exactly a hub of serious crime. A film long-banned by the communist government to be premiered this week is believed to be the last film made by the legendary DEFA studios that still hasn't had a public screening. It focuses on a cop who creates crime so that he can go on the chase.


"Hands Up Or I'll Shoot." It's an unlikely title for a funny film made in the former East Germany and considered politically incorrect enough to be banned. Which is why this movie is only just making its big screen debut in Dresden on Wednesday night.

It's the peculiar story of a policeman named Holms living in the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). In a state controlled by the secret police and riddled with informers and spies, the poor man finds himself with no crime to police. So in order to banish the boredom, Holms enlists some petty criminals to steal a monument from the town center -- just so that he can give chase. Naturally, in the process our hero finds true love.

But one wouldn't want to give away too much of the 1965 movie, "Hands Up Or I'll Shoot" (In German, "Hände hoch oder ich schieße"). Because this piece of cinematic history, produced by the famous DEFA studios -- the GDR's film production monopoly -- over 40 years ago, is about to be screened to a wider audience for the first time. In the process it becomes the last piece of GDR cinema to be screened post-reunification. It sounds harmless enough but at the time of its production the film was deemed too politically provocative and was never seen outside of a censor's office.

Artistic freedom was not a priority in the former East Germany. More valued were those writers, performers and directors who ticked the right political boxes and preferably with gusto. Heavy censorship stifled the artists of the GDR and meant that audiences never actually saw many great works. In the re-unified Germany these pieces of cinematic history began to re-emerge -- some classic, some not quite so classic.

"Hands Up Or I'll Shoot" will be shown as part of Dresden's regular summer riverside screenings, known as "Film Night" on the banks of the Elbe. The film's director, Hans-Joachim Kasprzik, did not live to see the film get a general release but one of the lead actors Herbert Köfer is expected to attend the premiere. Then from Thursday, July 2, the film will also be shown at selected cinemas across Germany, giving audiences a glimpse of the dark humor behind the Iron Curtain.

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