San Francisco’s Silent Film Festival: celebrating its 20th anniversary with 20 gems and an added day—kicks off this Thursday, May 28, 2015
On Thursday, the beloved San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) returns to San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre and runs through Monday with a program of rare silent-era gems—20 features and numerous additional fascinating clips—well worth the trip to San Francisco. This year, the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary and has added a full day of programming on Monday, including a free silent film trivia event hosted by Film Forum’s Bruce Goldman. From iconic silent film actors to fantastic restorations, this year’s lineup spans the far corners of the globe and delivers an outstanding mix from cinema’s golden age and American classics. SFSFF this presents these gems in all their glory as they were meant to be seen—on the big screen in the beautiful Castro theatre, a beloved San Francisco landmark built in 1992 during the silent era. Every film is presented with live musical accompaniment from musicians who live to breathe life into silent film and who will trek in from Colorado, New York, England, Germany and Sweden to perform at the Castro.
The festival’s spectacular historical footage of foreign lands, old customs and great storytelling is what keeps me coming back year after year. It’s that and the audience, as you never know who you’ll end up sitting by. Last year, I sat by a wonderful Hollywood costume designer who gave me a fascinating blow by blow account of the special tailoring techniques used in many of the outfits on screen.
This year’s festival includes early films from China (1), France (3), Germany (2), UK/German (1), Norway (1), Sweden (1) and the USA (10). The line-up includes such rarities as the first Chinese film to screen in Norway; an early Swedish film about an young boy who has to learn to adapt to a step-mother and step-sister after his mother’s sudden death; the earliest known surviving footage of a feature film with black actors; two French films illustrating artistic and intellectual life in avant-garde 1920’s Paris; a silent version of Sherlock Holmes; and the first film to win Oscars for both Outstanding Production and Best Director (Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front). The Castro seats 1400 but these films are immensely popular, so do buy your tickets ahead of time to ensure you get a seat.
Festival director, Anita Monga, responsible for programming, adds “We are trying to represent the breadth and depth of the silent era, balancing drama and comedy and presenting things from around the world. Every year, there are more and more restorations of wonderful films that are being discovered. This year, we are presenting several restorations of films that were lost—Cave of the Spider Women, Sherlock Holmes (with William Gillet, the foremost interpreter of Sherlock on stage). We’re also doing 100 years in Post-Production…an important presentation about a film that was found at New York’s MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) with an all African-American cast that includes the great entertainer Burt Williams. Ron Magliozzi, the MoMA curator for the project, will be here narrating and sharing dozens of rare photographs too. We’ve added an extra day and new free programs that will engage the audience. We’re offering a very rich experience that is set to live music.”
Full festival schedule here.
Details: SFSFF runs Thursday, May 28, 2015 through Monday, June 1, 2015 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco. Tickets: $16 for all films, except opening night film which is $22. Passes to all films (Opening Night Party not included) are $260 general and $230 for San Francisco Silent Film Society members (lowest membership level is $50). Click here for tickets. Click here for passes and membership info. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org.
Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking in the Castro district and walking to/from the theatre. Plan on arriving at the theater at least 15 minutes prior to the screening.
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