The votes are in! Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts to this year’s poll – we had a wide range of responses, and votes cast from around the world. Looking back on the 2015 reveals that it was a very strong year for silent film, which meant that many of these decisions were very close-run things. Congratulations to everyone who won a category – and those who just missed out too.
The best DVD/Blu-ray of 2015
There have been some corking discs and box sets released this year, so there were several contenders for this prize. But out in front by some distance, was the BFI’s brilliant suffragette compilation with music by Lillian Henley: Make More Noise! Don’t mind if we do.
The best theatrical release of 2015
Not so many titles up for contention here, and some confusion as to what represents a bona fide theatrical release. Good to see some love for films that were popular on the festival circuit such as Synthetic Sin and The Battle of the Century, even if they weren’t exactly what we were looking for here. However, among several nods to Steamboat Bill Jr and Man With a Movie Camera, your winner was … well why not: Make More Noise! again. Congratulations to Bryony and Margaret Deriaz, who curated this fabulous selection of films.
The best modern silent of 2015
My personal favourite new film of 2015 won this category hands-down. While Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s deaf-school drama The Tribe technically has plenty of dialogue, the fact that said dialogue is entirely in Ukrainain sign language makes this a silent film for most. And an astonishingly powerful one too. Not for the faint-hearted, but a fantastically exciting film nonetheless.
The best orchestral film screening of 2015
Well you saw some excellent shows in 2015, didn’t you? There were many great nominations for this category, and the title very nearly went to a London screening … but not quite. The winner was the triumphant conclusion to this year’s Pordenone silent film festival: The Phantom of the Opera with Carl Davis’s excellent score played by Orchestra San Marco and conducted by Marc Fitzgerald. I can confirm that this was a blinding performance, but also that the Teatro Verdi lighting stayed firmly in place throughout the show.
The best screening with a small ensemble of 2015
Again, you nominated some amazing screenings for this one – but the clear winner was Annie Laurie, accompanied by the Shona Mooney trio, both at the Barbican in London and at the Hippodrome festival in Bo’ness, which commissioned the score. A ravishing combination of sensitive, lush music, and a picturesque Hollywood film. I’d love to see this one again.
The best screening with a single accompanist of 2015
So many great shows listed here, and if you were at Pordenone, no surprises for guessing that Les Misèrables had an impressive number of votes, but the overall winner was another performance from the Hippodrome festival of silent cinema – Stephen Horne’s gorgeoius accompaniment for Piccadilly. Just brilliant.
The best festival in 2015
Browsing these votes is as good a way to plan your 2016 holidays as any you’ll find, with nominations coming in for festivals far and wide including some of my favourites and a few I long to visit. And it’s a testament to how good these festivals are that we have a tie for first place: the return of the British silent film festival takes joint honours with the northern splendour of the Hippodrome festival of silent cinema. A double British triumph!
The best venue of 2015
It’s not all about the films, but where you see them too. And you couldn’t pick an outright winner in this category either. It’s another tie, and a sign that you like to keep things vintage. Last year’s victor The Cinema Museum/Kennington Bioscope shares the glory with the beautiful Hippodrome in Bo’ness.
The silent hero of 2015
Great list of nominations here, including a few votes to make your humble scribe blush, but in a hotly contested field, there was a clear winner … the BFI’s tireless, perspicacious curator of silent film, Bryony Dixon!
Your silent discovery of 2015
I didn’t expect to be able to pick a winner from this category, but just to have a peek at what everybody else has been enjoying over the year. I can tell you that there were votes for everything from Nancy Carroll (“good comedian and dramatic actor, good set of gams”) to the fantastic playing of Stephen Horne, to the BFI’s package of silent films of China. There was a nod to Louise Brooks (as there probably should be every year) as well as Annette Benson, the 1916 Sherlock Holmes, The Cosmic Voyage, Mack Sennette, Evangeline, Silent but deadly! and so much more … but there was an outright winner. Henri Fescourt’s magnificent, epic adaptation of Les Misérables takes the laurels. And a hugely deserving winner it is too!
Thanks again to everyone who voted, congratulations to the winners, and here’s wishing you all a sweet ’16!