Importing Asta

Asta Nilesen, from

Over 27 to 29 September 2011 the Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt, and Media Studies, University of Trier are organising an international conference dedicated to arguably the leading European film star of the early cinema period, Importing Asta Nielsen: Cinema-Going and the Making of the Star System in the Early 1910s. The conference is curated by leading German early film scholar Martin Loiperdinger, and here’s the descriptive blurb:

Asta Nielsen has been the first renowned female star of world cinema. Her name is inextricably connected with the advent of the long feature film and the introduction of the star system. Her films played a crucial role in the transition from short films to the long feature film as the main attraction of the programme which took place in various countries, in the years before the First World War.

Asta Nielsen’s international film career started in Germany with the ‘invention’ of the Monopolfilm, the monopoly rental system, in late 1910. Her films were distributed within this exclusive system and received tremendous box-office records. The screen personality of the Danish actress appealed to audiences of all sorts. Branded as ‘the Eleonora Duse of Film Art’ she uncontestedly was the most popular film actress with German film audiences in 1913.

But was this also the case with the many countries which imported Asta Nielsen films before the First World War?

How was the distribution of her films organized in those countries?

Did the Danish actress indeed attract audiences in those countries as she was able to do in Germany? And did her films also play a crucial role in establishing the long feature film format as they did in Germany?

What about the reception of her films in so many countries with different cultures and customs? How did censorship react to the provoking characters which Asta Nielsen played on screen? How did trade periodicals and daily newspapers respond to her screen personality?

And, last but not least, in which ways was Asta Nielsen on screen appropriated and received by the varied audiences of so many countries, varying not only in gender and class, but also in education, religion, and life style? Is it possible to map different patterns of audience response to Asta Nielsen films in different countries?

The conference will discuss various modes of distribution, exhibition, appropriation, and reception of Asta Nielsen within countries of all continents.

The conference takes place in Frankfurt (at the Deutsche Filminstitut Filmmuseum), and is scheduled to take place just before the Pordenone silent film festival (which starts 1 October). The conference organisers point out that participants will be able to travel easily from Frankfurt airport to Venice Marco Polo airport, or by Ryanair from Hahn airport (1 hour bus ride from Frankfurt) to Treviso airport (30 minute train ride to Pordenone). The conference fee will be 30 Euro for three days, 15 Euros for one day; the fee for students will be 15 Euro and 7.50 Euro respectively, which all sounds very reasonable indeed. Participants are requested to register up to 15 September 2011 via email at

And here’s the conference programme:

27 September

09:00 – 10:00 Registration

10:00 – 10:15 Opening of the Conference

10:15 – 12:30
Panel 1: Asta Nielsen and the Emergence of the Star System in Germany

Martin Loiperdinger (Trier):
The German Model – Asta Nielsen Monopolfilm Series

Andrea Haller (Frankfurt):
Asta Nielsen, the Introduction of the Long Feature Film and Female Audiences – the Case of Mannheim

Pierre Stotzky (Metz):
The Exhibition of Asta Nielsen Films in Metz

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 15:30
Panel 2: Asta Nielsen in Austria-Hungary and Poland

Patric Blaser (Vienna):
Asta Nielsen in Austria-Hungary

Jakub Klíma (Brno):
Asta Nielsen in Brno

Andrzej Debski (Wrocław):
Asta Nielsen in Poland

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:30
Panel 3: Asta Nielsen in Small Countries – Northern Europe

Anne Bachmann (Stockholm):
Public Response to Asta Nielsen’s Clash with the Censorship Board in Sweden

Outi Hupaniittu (Turku):
“Three times at the censorial office and nothing to remark, for you with a special price” – Afgrunden’s lucky escape and the new ways of promotion in Finland

Gunnar Iversen (Trondheim):
Asta Nielsen in Norway

18:00 Dinner

20:30 – 22:30
Cinema Lecture
Karola Gramann, Heide Schlüpmann, (Frankfurt):
Asta Nielsen – A Cinematic Phenomenon (followed by film screenings)

28 September

09:00 – 10:30
Panel 4. The First Filmstar – Asta Nielsen in Italy and Russia

Giovanni Lasi (Bologna):
Italy’s First Film Star – Asta Nielsen, ‘Polaris’

Lauri Piispa (Turku):
Marketing Russia’s First Film Star – Asta Nielsen in the Russian Trade Press

10:30 – 11: 00 Coffee Break

11:00 – 13:00
Panel 5: Asta Nielsen in Great Britain and the US

Jon Burrows (Coventry):
‘”The Great Asta Nielsen”, “The Shady Exclusive” and the birth of film censorship in Britain, 1911-1914’

Richard Abel (Ann Arbor):
The Flickering Career of Asta Nielsen in the US, 1912–1913

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00
Panel 6: The Emergence of the Long Feature Film in Denmark

Caspar Tybjerg (Copenhagen):
Hjamlar Davidson, His Kosmorama Cinema, and Afgrunden

Isak Thorsen (Copenhagen):
The Mülleneisen Case: Asta Nielsen and Nordisk Films Compagni

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 17:00
Panel 7: Film Stars and Marketing Policies in the Early 1910s

Caroline Henkes (Trier):
Asta Nielsen and Her Poor Female Characters of 1911

Ian Christie (London):
From Screen Personalities to Divas – Early Film Stars in Europe

19:00 Dinner

29 September

09:00 – 11:00
Panel 8: Strange Encounters – Asta Nielsen in Arabia and the Far East

Ouissal Mejri (Bologne):
Asta Nielsen in Egypt and Tunisia

Sawako Ogawa / Hiroshi Komatsu (Tokyo):
Asta Nielsen in Japan

Stephen Bottomore (Bangkok): Asta Nielsen in Australasia

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 13:30
Panel 9: Asta Nielsen in Small Countries – Western and Central Europe

Ansje van Beusekom (Utrecht):
Distributing, programming and recycling Asta Nielsen films in the Netherlands

Paul Lesch (Luxembourg):
“Earning the audience’s unbridled applause” – Asta Nielsen in Luxembourg

Mattia Lento (Zurich) / Pierre-Emmanuel Jaques (Lausanne):
Asta Nielsen in Switzerland

13:30 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00
Panel 10: Digital Tools for Comparative Research in the Emergence of the Star System

Karel Dibbets (Amsterdam):
The Cinema in Context Database

Joseph Garncarz (Cologne):
The Siegen Database

N.N. (Brno):
The Local Cinema History Database on Brno

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 17.30
Comments and Closing Discussion

Truly a gathering of notable scholars from around the world in celebration of a world star. It looks like an excellent event all round, and fingers crossed that a publication comes out of it as well.

More information should eventually be available from this link:, but until it’s ready try this one (in English) or this one (in German) instead.

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