ABOUT US

PROGRESS is one of the oldest and largest German film distributors.
It was founded on 1st August 1950 as a German-Soviet company in East Berlin.

The two founding directors were Berlin communist Rudolf Bernstein – who returned from exile in Moscow to do so – and Georgij Nikolajew, later director of the legendary Soviet film production company, Lenfilm. PROGRESS was the only film distributor in the German Democratic Republic and brought around 12000 films to the country's 830 cinemas. Almost half of them were feature films and documentaries by DEFA, the only film studio in the GDR. With roughly 100 employees, PROGRESS released around four films a week. The DEFA documentaries and newsreels show the 20th century world from an Eastern perspective. They cover all areas of life, from very private moments to big politics, from art to industry, from propaganda to revealing reality.

Among thousands of leading figures are Jane Fonda, Salvador Allende, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Indira Gandhi, Louis Armstrong, Yasser Arafat and many more.

DEFA's feature films reflect everyday life in the East and the tensions between communist utopia and escape from the system. World-class actors such as Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Mühe, Corinna Harfouch and Manfred Krug began their careers in these films. They were shot on 35mm and 16mm, and, from 1950 onwards, in colour. Among the DEFA stars are film greats, like cinematographer Joris Ivens and directors such as Konrad Wolf, Heiner Carow and Frank Beyer.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 led PROGRESS in a new direction: on behalf of the DEFA Foundation, it began marketing the only cohesive collection of films that showed a now entirely non-existent country. Other unique collections from the 20th century were added.

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The European Union financially supports PROGRESS through the project "Archive Platform PAST" in the development and accessibility of our audiovisual heritage. The aim is to publish the prototype of a new archive platform which offers media professionals and interested private customers approximately 10,000 to 20,000 minutes of archive material from important collections, museums and archives in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany and the world. With the help of the software tools, it is also possible to quickly expand the offer. The result is a growing online platform for research, licensing, learning, browsing, contributing and sharing.