The San Francisco Silent Film Festival returns next week, with a line up that includes a mix of established classics, like Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman (which opens the festival on Thursday evening) and Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, and lesser known works from around the world, including Poland and Japan; plus films by an early African-American director, and the first woman to direct a major motion picture. Artistic Director Anita Monga gives a preview.

There’s more information about the full lineup at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival website.

One of the discoveries that Monga is most pleased with is the 1929 film from Poland A Strong Man. “I’d never seen it, I’d never heard of it,” Monga says. “It confirms that Poles knew filmmaking from the very beginning. It’s so accomplished and beautiful and modernist, and a precursor to film noir.” A consumptive writer allows his friend to read his manuscript. “And his ‘friend’ is going to give him some good advice, and essentially his advice is ‘your manuscript is completely mediocre’, and his friend commits suicide. And he takes the manuscript and becomes famous. Then the truth falls down around him by the end.” There are two restorations being shown that the SFSFF played a part in: Silence, a Cecil B. DeMille production from 1926 that was long thought lost, and the Douglas Fairbanks version of The Three Musketeers. DJ Spooky (Paul D. Miller) will provide the score for the Oscar Micheaux film Body and Soul, which marked the screen debut of Paul Robeson.  “I became aware of DJ Spooky when I saw a remix of Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which DJ Spooky called Rebirth of a Nation, Monga says. “He uses essentially a laptop, and sometimes mechanical instruments. Body and Soul is going to be a combination of a lot of different things, including soul and gospel.” And ballerina Anna Pavlova stars in The Dumb Girl of Portici, in which she plays a mute, and which was directed by Lois Weber. “The film has all kinds of firsts to it – it was the first blockbuster to ever be directed by a woman, it was Universal’s biggest production to that date.”

 

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