There ain’t no party like a Silent London Poll-Winners’ Party. Why? Partly because this is a virtual party, so you can join in the fun, and still stick to your Dry January #goals. Alternatively, take a shot every time you spot a typo and boy will this blogpost go with a swing. Not only that, but we politely declined Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s offer to host this year, so fingers crossed, the prizes will go to their rightful winners, right away.
While I shuffle the envelopes and the guests sashay down the red carpet, a little announcement. Every year the poll gets more international (although obviously the British bias is strong). Plus, this year we had the most votes we had had in years. As you are free to nominate whatever you like (and you did!), the answers were pretty diverse. So in the 2017 poll, I am awarding Gold, Silver and Bronze awards for the very first time. At Silent London, we like to share the love!
So, as the sports commentators say, let’s find out who, and what, podiumed this year!
Best silent film DVD/Blu-ray release of 2017
GOLD: You’re going to hear this name a lot tonight. The best silent film DVD/Blu-ray release of 2017 is London Symphony – out now in the US from Flicker Alley. Some of these votes may also have been anticipating the UK DVD release in February from New Wave.
SILVER: Another British film gets a medal, though it’s more international than most. Second prize goes to the BFI’s Dual Format DVD/Blu release of Arthur Robison’s The Informer.
BRONZE: It’s another Flicker Alley release at number three! The notorious Behind the Door, directed by Irvin V Willat, restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and once seen, never forgotten.
Best silent film theatrical release of 2017
GOLD: It’s a second gold medal for London Symphony, which went on an ambitious tour of UK venues in 2017 – and is still going!
BRONZE: The Informer places here too, for its theatrical run after the 2016 LFF Archive Gala.
Best modern silent of 2017
GOLD: Can you guess? It’s another gold medal for London Symphony!
SILVER: Lots of you voted for Bill Morrison’s magical documentary Dawson City: Frozen Time. And who can blame you? Not strictly a modern silent but I see exactly why you love it.
BRONZE: The Moonshiners takes third place. This Finnish short, directed by Juho Kuosmanen, is actually a remake of Finland’s first ever fiction film – the original is sadly now lost. You can read more about The Moonshiners in the February 2018 edition of Sight & Sound, too.
Best orchestral silent film screening of 2017
GOLD: Massive competition here, but the winner, by the length of Norma Shearer’s dainty nose is the screening of Ernst Lubitsch’s perfectly bittersweet comedy The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg at Pordenone with Carl Davis’s score played by the Orchestra San Marco, conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald.
SILVER: Which means that second place goes to another sublime silent, The Crowd, which opened the same festival – another Davis score, performed by the Orchestra San Marco, and conducted by Davis himself.
BRONZE: Hitchcock’s The Lodger, with the brilliant new score by Neil Brand, places a close third, following rapturously received screenings in Yorkshire and Brighton.
Best silent film screening with a small ensemble of 2017
SILVER: In second place, an unforgettable screening from the British Silent Film Festival – Carl Th. Dreyer’s Vampyr, accompanied by Stephen Horne and Minima.
BRONZE: It’s The Informer again! But this time with the score composed by Stephen Horne, and played by Horne, Günther Buchwald and Frank Bockius – you may have seen this at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival or in Bo’ness. It has a tendency to make my eyes leak.
Best silent film screening with a single accompanist of 2017
GOLD: First prize goes to … Pavement Butterfly, accompanied by Stephen Horne for the Kennington Bioscope at the Cinema Museum. Kicking myself for missing this one …
SILVER: It’s that man again. You voted Stephen Horne into second place for his beautiful accompaniment of Pandora’s Box – which you may have heard in several venues during 2017, and can catch again in Manchester, at HOME, at the end of this month.
BRONZE: A spine-tingler from the Teatro Verdi takes the bronze medal. You had a lot of love for Neil Brand’s live score for Victor Sjöstrom’s Vem Dömer? at Pordenone. And rightly so. Sticklers for accuracy will remember that he was joined by Frank Bockius for this one.
Best silent film book of 2017
GOLD: I’m blushing. No really. You were kind enough to vote for my BFI Film Classic on Pandora’s Box as your silent film book of the year. I’m very touched.
SILVER: Lawrence Napper’s excellent tour of late silent film, Silent Cinema: Before the Pictures Got Small, takes silver. If you haven’t got it yet, buy it now!
BRONZE: A tie! The bronze medal is awarded jointly to two books on silent cinema comediennes: Steve Massa’s Slapstick Divas (not picture), and Anthony Slide’s She Could be Chaplin! The Comedic Brilliance of Alice Howell.
Best festival for silent cinema of 2017
GOLD: It’s had a few mentions already – the gold medal goes to the Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, thriving under the artistic direction of Jay Weissberg.
SILVER: The British Silent Film Festival takes the silver medal, after a triumphant return to the Phoenix Arts Centre in Leicester.
BRONZE: Our friend in the north, The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival, takes the bronze. Watch out for 2018 programme announcements from Hippfest shortly.
Best silent film venue of 2017
GOLD: It may be under threat of redevelopment, but you sure showed your love for the wonderful Cinema Museum in our poll. If you haven’t already, sign the petition to save the museum now.
SILVER: This year’s silver medal is awarded jointly to the Hippodrome in Bo’ness and the Barbican in London – two very different venues, but both with a commitment to silent cinema all year round.
BRONZE: In third place, a stalwart of the silent cinema scene in London – the BFI Southbank
Silent hero of 2017
GOLD: After London Symphony swept the board in three different categories, perhaps it was inevitable that director Alex Barrett is your silent hero of 2017! A great bloke, whose dedication to making a City Symphony worthy of the British capital is truly inspirational. He sent us this message to express his appreciation for your support of his fantastic film (we didn’t tell him that he had won an individual award at this stage):
Thank you so much to everyone who voted for London Symphony. I’m overwhelmed by the support you’ve shown, and I’m struggling to find the words to express my gratitude… London Symphony was a long time in the making, and there were many ups and downs during that process – this is certainly one of the best ‘ups’ so far, and makes all those ‘downs’ worthwhile! Given that London Symphony is, essentially, a film that belongs to a niche within a niche (a non-narrative silent film with a city as its protagonist) it really does mean a lot to me to know that it’s found an appreciative audience. As a filmmaker, that’s really all you can ever ask for. So thank you very much for making those long years of hard work feel worthwhile, and giving me a better start to 2018 than I could have imagined!
SILVER: It’s the doyenne of silent cinema – in the UK and beyond. Your silver medal winner works with festivals and musicians around the world as well as curating the archive here in Britain. It’s Bryony Dixon, of course.
BRONZE: Yours truly. You’re very nice, you lot.
Silent discoveries of 2017
No overall winners in this category – just a snapshot of what turned you on in silent cinema this year. In no particular order, you voted for highlights including The Informer, London Symphony, Nell Shipman, A Cottage on Dartmoor, Maurice Elvey’s Balaclava, Behind the Door, and the brilliant Tableaux Vivants programme at Pordenone. Can’t ask for much more variety than that!
Best intertitle of 2017
A new category for this year, suggested by the fabulous John Sweeney. I didn’t think you would reach a consensus – but you did. The overall winner was this memorable, gasp-inducing line from Shiraz:
“Then you die by the elephant’s foot!”
Thanks to everyone who voted, congratulations to the winners and let’s do this all again in a few months. Happy New Year, and may your 2018 be beautifully silent!