So, 2020 wasn’t a standard year by any stretch, but instead of giving up on the Poll I decided to go ahead with it, to celebrate all the people who kept silent film culture alive in the midst of a global pandemic. And you clearly agreed, because I had far more votes to count this year than last. Here are your winners!
Best real-world silent film screening of 2020
None of us got to the pictures as much as we would have liked in 2020, but nevertheless there were some choice events nominated in this category. Your favourite? Filibus, presented by Hippfest at the The Barony Community Theatre in Bo’ness with accompaniment by Jane Gardner (piano) and Hazel Morrison (percussion).
• Honourable mentions:The Big Parade with Neil Brand at BFI Southbank and Tatjana with John Sweeney at The Kennington Bioscope.
2. Best online SILENT FILM SCREENING OF 2020
Did we ever think we would get used to streaming silents so much? Or that the quality of presentation and music could be *this* good? This was a hotly contested category, but the winner is Penrod & Sam, with Stephen Horne, presented as part of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival online.
As I wrote at the time: “A delightful film, and beautifully accompanied, it left me with just one poignant thought – that this sort of caper is exactly, exactly the kind of film that comes alive when watched with a crowd. The laughter and tears might be heard ‘as deep down as China and as far back as the alley’.”
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.