Are you currently perched on a plump suitcase, train tickets in hand, perusing the Leicester Phoenix listings and counting the days on your fingers until the British Silent Film Festival begins on Thursday? Well why not?
The four-day event is nearly upon us, and this is your friendly reminder to get your gorgeous selves to Leicester next weekend for some hot silent film action. This year the festival is back in the city of its birth, and most of the films will be shown at the Leicester Phoenix cinema and art centre. The schedule is out now, and the selection looks fantastic, with everything from rare historical footage of the sinking of the Lusitania to a programme devoted to Buster Keaton; the splendour of Michel Strogoff starring Ivan Mosjoukine and the antique charm of early screen advertising. If you read Charles Barr’s recent Hitchcock Lost and Found, you’ll no doubt be intrigued that a film the young Master of Suspense worked on that had previously been thought lost, Three Live Ghosts (1922) has been unearthed in a Russian archive and will play at this year’s festival.
There is a focus on the transition to sound in Britain, so there are some early talkies in the mix as well as the silents, and there are fancy-dan screenings in the evenings, with the chance to hear brand new scores by some of our favourite musicians.
There’s far too much to mention here, so take a look at the listings yourself:
Thursday 10 September
9am onwards: Registration in the Phoenix foyer
10.30am The W Plan + introduction
1.30pm Was Blackmail Britain’s First Talkie?
2.30pm Dark Red Roses
6.00pm High Treason
8.30pm The Guns of Loos
Friday 11 September
9am The Rocks of Valpre
11am Not for Sale
1.30pm The Man from Home
3.30pm The Strongest/Den Starkaste
6.00pm Three Live Ghosts
8.30pm Michel Strogoff
Saturday 12 September
11.00am The World in 1915: The Sinking of the Lusitania
12.00pm ‘The Death of a War Hero’ highlights from the Imperial War Museum
1.30pm Steamboat Bill Jnr and Buster Keaton programme
4.00pm The Great Game
6.00pm The Cosmic Voyage
8.30pm Jane Shore at Leicester Cathedral
Sunday 13 September
9am The World in 1915: Gallipoli
11am Tell England
1.30pm The Silent Persuaders: Early British Advertising Films
3.15pm The Kingdom of Rye/Ragens Rike
Just to highlight those special musical screenings. The epic historical romance Jane Shore (1915) will screen at Leicester Cathedral with the new, and highly acclaimed, score by Laura Rossi, which she talked about in an interview for Silent London here. The ghost of Richard II will surely be in attendance and who knows if he will approve.
I am especially excited about The Guns of Loos, a first world war film featuring Madeleine Carroll’s screen debut, which will play at the festival with a new score by the one and only Stephen Horne. And Neil Brand will provide intergalactic thrills with a new electronic soundtrack for Soviet flight-of-fancy The Cosmic Voyage.
Guy Bartell’s “gaslight horrortonica” project Bronnt Industries Kapital, which has previously given us a thrilling score for Turksib, will present new music for Alexander Dovzhenko’s war film Arsenal on the Sunday night, which should be a rousing finish to the weekend.
So what are you waiting for?
Just to be serious for a minute. We’re lucky to have the British Silent Film Festival – it’s been doing sterling work since 1998, rescuing films and film-makers from obscurity, and bringing them to our lucky eyes. And it’s all accomplished by a team of dedicated, tireless, and really rather lovely people. It’s not an easy gig, putting on an event of this scale, by any means. I think we’ve all missed the BSFF while it has been slimmed down these past two years, and the fact that it is back in full effect is cause for both celebration, and reflection.
It’s a win-win scenario this one – come along to the festival and you’ll see some wonderful silent films, with first-rate music and knowledgeable introductions. Which is fun for you. And also you will be supporting a valuable institution: the backbone of silent film culture in this country, and a model for events worldwide. Buy a ticket, and make the silent film world a better place. You know you want to.
- The 18th British Silent Film Festival takes place in Leicester from 10-13 September 2015. To find out more, and to buy tickets, either for individual films, a day or a whole weekend pass, visit britishsilentfilmfestival.com