BFI Silents: February roundup

Lord Richard in the Pantry
Walter Forde is on the right, directing Richard Cooper in Lord Richard in the Pantry (1930)

It’s all about the archives this February at BFI Southbank. The stand-out feature for us is What Next? (1928) directed by and starring Londoner Walter Forde. Encouragingly, this film was recently discovered as a result of the BFI’s Most Wanted project, which searches for lost films. Forde, born in Lambeth in 1898, started out in musical halls before becoming a popular film comedian, then gradually moved into directing. What Next? is described as a”cheerful farce” and features a “deranged archaeologist” chasing our hapless hero around a museum at night in pursuit of a valuable Egyptian candlestick. As a bonus feature there’s a short film, Walter the Sleuth (1927). Both films are, of course, accompanied by live piano.

What Next? is screened in NFT2 on Wednesday 2 February at 6.10pm and will be introduced by a curator of the BFI archive.

There are also archival treasures to be found in the Tales From the Shipyard season, which opens with a compilation launch event on 7 February. At that event, and on 17 February as part of the A Ship is Born in Belfast programme, you can see footage from 1910 of the SS Olympic, which was the Titanic’s sister ship.

The Tales from the Shipyard launch event is on Monday 7 February in NFT1 at 6.20pm

A Ship is Born in Belfast is on Thursday 17 February in NFT2 at 8.30pm.

The most intriguing item is a talk on 19 February called The Tragic Launch of HMS Albion. Film-maker Patrick Keillor will be joined by the BFI’s Bryony Dixon, John Graves from the National Maritime Museum and London historian Chris Ellmers to discuss the terrible events of 21 June 1898. On that day, the battleship HMS Albion was christened, but as it entered the Thames, a wave caused a platform bearing spectators to collapse, and 34 people were drowned. The ship’s launch and the subsequent disaster were being filmed – so the debate will cover the ethics of documentary film-making, as well as providing historical context.

The Tragic Launch of HMS Albion is on 19 February from 11am to 4pm in NFT3 and tickets are £5

The BFI’s Tales From the Shipyard DVD will be released on 14 February.

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