Friday, May 20, 2011

Winnetou et al -- Interview with Gojko Mitic, European western star

Gojko Mitic as Winnetou. Bad Segeberg festival 2003. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The blog westernsallitaliana, which is devoted to western movies, posts an interview with Gojko Mitic, the legendary Yugoslav-born actor who played the Indian hero in East German Defa movies and also, after the fall of the Wall, played Winnetou at the Bad Segeberg Karl May Festival.

He was immensely popular -- when I saw him perform as Winnetou at Bad Segeberg in 2003, the crowd chanted "Goj-ko! Goj-ko!" when he appeared and surged forward to shake hands and get his autograph.

Gojko Mitic in the DEFA film  Die Söhne der großen Bärin (The Sons of the Great Bear)

Mitic, now 70, was taking part in a film festival in Linz Austria this month where some of the 12 DEFA "Indianer" films were shown. The Austrian News Agency APA conducted the interview with the "Winnetou of the East."
APA: You are known as the "Winnetou of the East", is this a compliment?

Mitic: I don’t mind, because I'm already used to it. When the GDR still existed, they gave me a nickname: I was called "Indian chief" because I starred in the DEFA films as different Indians. Then when I appeared in Bad Segeberg for 15 years and 1,400 performances at the Karl May Festival, the writers like you, gave me that name.

: "Red Westerns" are something completely different than the American Western.

: Of course, I grew up with the US-Western. I can remember that we were all glad when John Wayne appeared. But I never wanted to be an Indian, because they were "evil". In retrospect, I realize that we have done them wrong. We were the ones who came to their country and decimated them. These Indians, who I played did not meet the American stereotype. It was researched more at the DEFA films, they were stories of real Indians retold. These films were for me, a bit of an attempt to correct the story.
 Continue reading HERE

Funnily enough, when I actually met Gojko Mitic -- at the Karl May Festival in Radebeul, Germany a few years ago -- he was dressed as a cowboy. Dana Weber (who has done here PhD dissertation on Karl May Festivals) and I interviewed him -- I'll see if I can find the transcription and post it.

Me with Gojko Mitic (cowboy style) and Dana Weber at the Karl May festival in Radebeul.

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