At San Francisco’s 21st Silent Film Festival, Something for Everyone─through Sunday
With the proliferation of film festivals in the Bay Area, each offering an overwhelming selection, it’s hard to feel that any one of them is really that special. Here’s one that truly is. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), now in its 21st year, which kicked off Thursday at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre and runs through Sunday. This long weekend of silents is the country’s top silent festival and people come from all over the world to experience its magic. This is silent film as it was meant to be seen─on the big screen with live musical accompaniment and informative introductions by experts and with an enthusiastic audience. This year’s festival offers a treasure trove of discoveries, rediscoveries and restorations─18 full-length feature films from all over the world. And on Sunday, there’s a dazzling Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema program, curated by EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, that will present exquisite clips of hand painting, dyeing and stencil coloring from another 15 early short color films.
This year, there is an emphasis on film restoration. “We’ve gradually been dipping our toe into film restoration,” said festival director Anita Monga. “Now, we’re actually participating in restoration efforts. Our board president, Rob Byrne graduated from the EYE Film Institute’s preservation program and now he’s an itinerant restoration guy. This year, we have five films that we have been directly involved in restoring─René Clair’s (The Italian Straw Hat (Un Chapeau de paille d’Italie)(1928) and his Les Deux Timides (1928) both in partnership with the Cinémathèque Française; Irvin Willat’s Behind the Door (1919) in collaboration with the Library of Congress and Gosfilmofond of Russia; the hilarious 1926 Richard Wallace short film, What’s the World Coming To? in collaboration with Carleton University and New York University. This film is part of our Sunday program on early cross-dressing Girls Will be Boys. Finally, there’s Willis Robards’ 1917 suffrage film, Mothers of Men, in collaboration with the Library of Congress, the British Film Institute, and film archivist James Mockoski.”
The Festival’s wonderful historical footage of foreign lands, old customs and great storytelling keeps me coming back year after year. When you see these films, you actually forget they’re silent and become engrossed in the wonderful stories. And the enthusiastic and well informed audience is an added bonus. Do plan ahead: battling the traffic to get into the City and then to find parking is a huge a factor in the decision to attend an event or not. I recommend choosing one day on the weekend and coming in for two or three films. On Sunday, you can park on most streets in the Castro in one spot for the entire day without having to reload your meter or move your car. On Saturday, you’re off the clock after 6PM.
Highlights of this year’s festival include:
Saturday, June 4, 12:00 PM The Strongest (Den starkaste)
Saturday, June 4, 5:15 PM Within Our Gates
Sunday, June 5, 10:00 AM Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema
Details: The San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs Thursday, June 2, 2016 through Sunday, June 5, 2016 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco. Tickets: $16 to $20; click here to purchase tickets. Festival Pass $190 for Silent Film Festival members and $225 general. Click here to purchase passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org
Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available near the Castro Theatre. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.
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