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Bonn International Silent Film Festival 2017
by Brenda Benthien

The Bonn International Silent Film Festival (Internationale Stummfilmtage) was held this year from August 10 – 20. Screenings at this event take place outdoors rain or shine, on a big screen in a lovely inner courtyard of the University of Bonn.

This year there was more rain than shine, but still the festival attracted 19,500 hardy viewers. At this, Germany’s largest silent festival, film archives from around the world present cinematic rarities, often newly-restored. All films are accompanied by international musicians who specialize in silent film accompaniment. This year’s program featured fantastic stories, from the Fall of the House of Usher to Aelita, a 1924 Soviet cubist-expressionist extravaganza about a journey to Mars. Silent divas Pola Negri and Louise Brooks were on view, as were the Russian-French star Ivan Mosjoukine and a swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks. Of particular interest were a film made by the Ministry of Education of Japan in 1926, instructing country people how to behave when sightseeing in the big city of Tokyo, and a 1927 biography of Bonn’s native son Beethoven, shot on location in the city. Also popular were symposia on “Kafka and the Cinema,” suffragettes on film, and the First World War in 3D.