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10.18.2023: German Peer Tutor Kai Reviews the Film “Coming Out” (1989)

From left to right: The film poster for Coming Out; German Peer Tutor Kai reviews Coming Out (Carow 1989)

Coming Out is a 1989 German film which was directed by Heiner Carow and written by Wolfram Witt. The film follows the main character Philipp, a high school teacher who meets and falls in love with fellow teacher Tanja. Later in the film, Philipp meets a man named Matthius at a gay bar and begins to develop feelings for him. Philipp is torn between Tanja and Mattius while struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. The film follows his journey of self acceptance and his eventual “coming out”.

The film Coming Out has great historical importance for the LGBT+ community in Germany. The film is the first and only queer film to be produced by DEFA, the East German state film studio. Coming Out was filmed during a time when the East German State was proposing stricter methods for dealing with the Queer Community. When the AIDS crisis came to a head, the East German State wanted to put any and all queer people in camps as a way to prevent the disease from spreading to the general public. Luckily, these plans never made it to fruition due to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The film premiered on November 9, 1989, the same night that the Berlin Wall fell. The actors of the film found out about the falling of the wall during the premier of the film.

The film portrays very real aspects of queer life in East Germany at the time and was filmed at various well-known gay hangouts throughout East Berlin. The film even includes a cameo with a famous German trans activist named Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. Shortly after the release of the film, the main actor, Matthias Freihof, publicly came out as gay. In an interview with Deutsche Welle entitled “‘Coming Out’ as the Wall comes down”, the main actor in the film, Matthias says that he and many others in the cast considered it vital that the queer community have a face and a voice in mainstream media. The film went on to win a number of awards including a Silver Bear and a Teddy Award at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival and other awards at the National Feature Film Festival. Coming Out was a tremendously important film for the LGBT+ community in Germany and was a major step towards public acceptance for the queer community.

For further information on the historical importance of this film, check out these websites: