Of the many film festivals I enjoy each year, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is certainly one of my favorites. I love the fact that the Festival Directors, Anita Monga and Stacey Wisnia, curate my experience. There is only one film playing at a time and all are at the mighty Castro Theatre accompanied by wonderful live music.
You come in the morning for a 10am show and stay until after the sun goes down…most likely around 11pm. A community develops where you run into friends you haven’t seen in years and make lots of new friends waiting in line (to get in, to buy food or use the rest rooms) or while sitting in the theater before the show starts. As the festival progresses through its five days you realize that this is the closest thing to a movie summer camp.
Bring family and friends, especially those who have never seen a silent film on the big screen with live music and a lively audience. They will become converts.
At first glance this Classic of Silent Cinema would seem to appear as a nostalgic step back into the 1920s, when the Railroads of America dominated many people’s lives. However as the story unfolds, it is imbued with the classic icons of Silent Cinema including jealous lovers, family values and harrowing train wrecks, and is both entertaining and well written. Beautifully photographed on location along the Noyo River in the redwood forests of Northern California with excellent acting, this long lost treasure of Silent Cinema was carefully restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s Robert Byrne in collaboration with Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury of Photoplay Productions. It bears repeated viewing.
I have attended dozens of film festivals from the biggies like Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Venice, SXSW and Sundance to more intimate gatherings of movies and their makers from Telluride high in the Colorado Mountains, Morelia in Mexico’s Michoacán to Devour! In tiny Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
Most screen new movies with occasional restorations while others focus exclusively on the classics. I like many of them though have burned out on the monster events. The San Francisco Bay Area hosts nearly one hundred film festivals a year including some of the best and most unique.
It is easy for me to claim that the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is my favorite. Some might say, “But they only show old movies.” It is true that most of the films were made before 1930 and the only sound is that of the live music and enthusiastic audience reactions.
One print of Silence is known to survive at the Cinémathèque Française. The Cinémathèque, Rob Byrne, and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival collaborated to have the surviving print scanned, digitally repaired and cleaned, translated from French back into the original English, then printed to film for exhibition and preservation.