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The 20th British Silent Film Festival


For the third time in a row, Leicester was the venue for the British Silent Film Festival. This year's theme was the connections between British cinema and the Weimar Republic and it kicked off with the German From Morn to Midnight in Leicester's lovely Museum and Art Gallery. This was made in that brief post-Caligari moment when producers thought what audiences really craved was weird non-naturalistic sets - turned out they didn't. As a film, it was a bit of a struggle but as an example of theatrical practice in post-war Germany it was invaluable.  

Other purely German films included The Oyster Princess (1919), The Struggle for the Matterhorn (1928) and, the undoubted hit of the festival, Spring Awakening (1929).

A second theme was 1919 and as well as The Oyster Princess we were shown The Song of the Scarlet Flower from Sweden, The Midnight Girl from the US, and Maurice Elvey's Comradeship.

An unofficial theme seemed to be getting to know you, which was kicked off by Ray and Sylvia Spare's charming lecture on their family history research. This unearthed a lot of information about film pioneer Alfred Collins and his friends and relations getting involved in film production. This theme continued with Michelle Facey's introduction to the makers of The Midnight Girl which included her lovely rendition of the theme song. For a bit of local flavour we had a lecture on the people behind the Leicester film society which was followed by The Puppet Man (1921) starring one of its luminaries, the actor Hugh Miller.

Perhaps the person we got to know best was the Polish tenor Jan Kiepura. Two of his films played, The City of Song and Tell Me Tonight, and he charmed in both of them.   

We also got a great crop of late silent/early sound films including Tesha, The Alley Cat and as the surprise film, The Blue Danube. Plus plenty of material ranging over the whole of the silent period and beyond. It really was a fabulous feast for cinema fans and the best British Silent Film Festival yet.

A big thanks must go the organisers of the event  and the musicians and cinema staff fro all their hard work to make it possible.