Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Seen The Artist and loved it? Want more? Give heavily discounted
SFSFF 2012 all-program Festival Passes to the film lovers you love.  
Until January 6, all Festival Passes are being offered at a very special holiday rate - even lower than our early bird rates! We're planning at least 17 programs at our July 2012 Festival - wonderful films with extraordinary musical accompaniment by musicians from around the world, so don't miss out!

For each pass you purchase, you'll receive a gift voucher card suitable for giving to your fellow film lover. And at the SF Silent Film Festival in July, you or your recipient can present the voucher card at the Will Call table at the Castro Theatre in exchange for the Festival Pass.

Members take their discount at checkout.
For questions, please email 
or call 415-777-4908 x 1
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hunchback of Notre Dame screens in SF New Years Eve

For more than a few years now, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has screened a silent film on New Year’s Eve. The tradition continues in 2011 when the landmark Episcopal Church offers two screenings of the 1923 classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

With legendary Lon Chaney in the title role, this early adaption of Victor Hugo's famous novel remains one of the most iconic films in cinema history. A critical and commercial blockbuster, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of the highest-grossing films of the silent film era. The film was a major production from the Universal Studio - where it was considered a "Super Jewel."

The Hunchback of Notre Dame tells the story of Quasimodo, a deformed, deaf and half-blind bell-ringer who lives in the famous Parisian cathedral. It was directed by Wallace Worsley and stars Chaney - "The Man of a Thousand Faces" - as Quasimodo and Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda, his love interest. Also in the cast are notables Norman Kerry,Ernest Torrence, Tully Marshall, Raymond Hatton, and Gladys Brockwell.

The film is remarkable for many things, including its grand sets which recall Paris in the 15th Century. It is also remembered for Chaney's remarkable performance and spectacular make-up as the tortured bell-ringer. The film elevated Chaney, a well-known character actor at the time, to star status. It also helped raise the bar for many subsequent adaptations of horror films, including Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera just two years later.

Acclaimed organist Dorothy Papadakos will accompany The Hunchback of Notre Dame on the Cathedral’s 7,466 pipe Aeolian-Skinner organ. Papadakos came to international attention as organist at the world’s largest gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, where she served from 1990-2003. Papadakos is also a member of the six-time Grammy Award-winning Paul Winter Consort, and is celebrated for her imaginative improvisations and compositions for theatre, film, television, and ballet - as well as for her silent film accompaniments.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a moving film – full of pathos, drama and atmosphere. And what’s more, the Gothic surroundings of Grace Cathedral and the film's musical accompaniment should lend themselves to a memorable viewing experience.

More info: Grace Cathedral is located at 1100 California (at Taylor) in San Francisco. New Year’s Eve screenings of The Hunchback of Notre Dame are set for 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm. The film runs 110 minutes. Additional information, including ticket availability, can be found at

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Silent films among those named to 2011 National Film Registry

Every year, the Librarian of Congress selects twenty-five American films - each "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant - for addition to the National Film Registry. The selection of films is based on suggestions from the library’s National Film Preservation Board along with those made by the general public.  

Today, the Library announced twenty-five new inductees to the National Film Registry.  This year's selection includes silent era masterpieces The Kid (1921) and The Iron Horse (1924), as well as a child labor exposé The Cry of the Children (1912).

Spanning the years 1912-1994, the twenty-five films named to the registry include Hollywood classics, documentaries, animation, home movies, avant-garde shorts and experimental motion pictures. Representing the rich creative and cultural diversity of the American cinematic experience, this year’s selections bring the total number of films in the registry to 575. More than a handful of the silent era entries have been shown at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

From the Library of Congress website, here are the four films dating from the silent era - along with their LOC descriptions.

The Cry of the Children (1912)
Recognized as a key work that both reflected and contributed to the pre-World War I child labor reform movement, the two-reel silent melodrama The Cry of the Children takes its title and fatalistic, uncompromising tone of hopelessness from the 1842 poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Cry of the Children was part of a wave of "social problem" films released during the 1910s on such subjects as drugs and alcohol, white slavery, immigrants and women’s suffrage. Some were sensationalist attempts to exploit lurid topics, while others, like The Cry of the Children, were realistic exposés that championed social reform and demanded change. Shot partially in a working textile factory, The Cry of the Children was recognized by an influential critic of the time as "The boldest, most timely and most effective appeal for the stamping out of the cruelest of all social abuses."

A Cure for Pokeritis (1912)
Largely forgotten today, actor John Bunny merits significant historical importance as the American film industry’s earliest comic superstar. A stage actor prior to the start of his film career, Bunny starred in over 150 Vitagraph Company productions from 1910 until his death in 1915. Many of his films (affectionately known as "Bunnygraphs") were gentle "domestic" comedies, in which he portrayed a henpecked husband alongside co-star Flora Finch. A Cure for Pokeritis exemplifies the genre, as Finch conspires with similarly displeased wives to break up their husbands’ weekly poker game. When Bunny died in 1915, a New York Times editorial noted that "Thousands who had never heard him speak…recognized him as the living symbol of wholesome merriment." The paper presciently commented on the importance of preserving motion pictures and sound recordings for future generations: "His loss will be felt all over the country, and the films, which preserve his humorous personality in action, may in time have a new value. It is a subject worthy of reflection, the value of a perfect record of a departed singer’s voice, of the photographic films perpetuating the drolleries of a comedian who developed such extraordinary capacity for acting before the camera."

The Iron Horse (1924)
John Ford’s epic Western The Iron Horse established his reputation as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished directors. Intended by Fox studios to rival Paramount’s 1923 epic The Covered Wagon, Ford’s film employed more than 5,000 extras, advertised authenticity in its attention to realistic detail, and provided him with the opportunity to create iconic visual images of the Old West, inspired by such master painters as Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. A tale of national unity achieved after the Civil War through the construction of the transcontinental railroad, The Iron Horse celebrated the contributions of Irish, Italian and Chinese immigrants although the number of immigrants allowed to enter the country legally was severely restricted at the time of its production. A classic silent film, The Iron Horse introduced to American and world audiences a reverential, elegiac mythology that has influenced many subsequent Westerns.

The Kid (1921)
Charles Chaplin’s first full-length feature, the silent classic The Kid, is an artful melding of touching drama, social commentary and inventive comedy. The tale of a foundling (Jackie Coogan, soon to be a major child star) taken in by the Little Tramp, The Kid represents a high point in Chaplin’s evolving cinematic style, proving he could sustain his artistry beyond the length of his usual short subjects and could deftly elicit a variety of emotions from his audiences by skillfully blending slapstick and pathos.

Annual selections to the registry are finalized by the Librarian after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public (including some 2,228 films nominated by the public) and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB).

The public is urged to make nominations for next year’s registry at the NFPB’s website (www.

These Amazing Shadows, a documentary about the National Film Registry, will air nationally on the award-winning PBS series "Independent Lens" on Thursday, December 29 at 10 p.m (check local listings). Written and directed by Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton, this critically acclaimed documentary has also been released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dizzy Heights: Silent Cinema and Life in the Air

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival - along with the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, have joined together to present a series of films devoted to aviation. "Dizzy Heights: Silent Cinema and Life in the Air" is set to take place February 23 - February 26, 2012.

"For many years, the vehicle in which most people first experienced flight was not the airplane, but the movie theater. The new flying machines were still prohibitively expensive and often dangerous, but the vertiginous thrills they provided could safely be simulated with a fisticuffs-on-the-wing film like Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts (1915). That is, when the idea of mechanical flight did not seem simply far-fetched. If a ship could actually fly, it was thought, well then anything might fly: beds, houses, people. The great silent fantasists — Winsor McCay, Georges Méliès, Walt Disney — all explored these possibilities."

"Others imagined how life might be lived in a world of commonplace flight. The London of High Treason (1929), a science-fictional “aerotropolis” of conspirators and saboteurs, suggests that such speculation was not without attendant anxieties. This was, after all, the first generation to see these machines put to war. In A Trip to Mars (1918), made at the war’s end, we find a pacific message gleaned from the new technology of flight. Above all, the new way of seeing — the aerial view — is savored in these films. In The Mystery of the Eiffel Tower (1927), director Julien Duvivier steals glances at the world below from every available purchase, possessed by the view from above — a harbinger of our present life in the air."
-- Patrick Ellis, Guest Curator
Thursday, February 23, 2012
7:00 p.m. A Trip to Mars
Holger-Madsen (Denmark, 1918) Archival Restoration! Introduced by Mark Sandberg. Bruce Loeb on piano. Part science fiction and part utopian fantasy, this silent film from Denmark combines the fascination for flight with a WWI-era imagination of a world without war—in this case, perhaps ironically, the planet Mars. (90 mins)

Friday, February 24, 2012
7:00 p.m. High Treason
Maurice Elvey (U.K., 1929) Archival Print! Live musical accompaniment by Peter Chapman. In a futuristic London, the Peace League must stage a popular revolt in the air force —and in so doing repair the romance between a pacifist and a soldier. A modernist Lysistrata, an English Metropolis: High Treason is science fiction for the Jazz Age. (75 mins)

Saturday, February 25, 2012
6:00 p.m. The Mystery of the Eiffel Tower
Julien Duvivier (France, 1927) Archival Print! Introduced by Patrick Ellis. Live musical accompaniment by Ken Ueno, Matt Ingals, Hadley MacCarroll. A palate cleanser for those who found Spielberg’s Tintin wanting, Julien Duvivier’s late-silent adventure masterpiece served as an inspiration for the original Tintin comics, and delivers much of the same charm, inventiveness, and visual delight. We are pleased to be screening the only known copy of this rare film. (129 mins)

Sunday, February 26, 2012
2:00 p.m. Fantasies of Flight: Animation and Comedy Shorts
Introduced by Patrick Ellis
. Frederick Hodge on piano. The utter novelty of human flight during most of the silent period is hard for our post-jet-set age to fathom: this program aims to recapture an inkling of this lost sense of wonder. Included are the French comedy Airplane Gaze; Edwin S. Porter’s The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend; Winsor McCay’s The Flying House; Disney’s Alice’s Balloon Race; Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon, and the Mack Sennett-produced aviatrix comedy, Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts. (97 mins)

Patrick Ellis is a doctoral student in the Department of Film and Media at UC Berkeley. "Dizzy Heights: Silent Cinema and Life in the Air" is a project of the UC Berkeley graduate course in film curating taught by BAM/PFA curators Kathy Geritz and Steve Seid. With thanks to Doug Cunningham, Laura Horak, Luke McKernan, Alexa Punnamkuzhyil, Mark Sandberg, and Stacey Wisnia. Presented with support from the Graduate Film Working Group and the Department of Film and Media, UC Berkeley. We are grateful for the assistance of Marianne Jerris, Danish Film Institute; Fleur Buckley, British Film Institute; Marleen Labijt, Eye Film Institute Netherlands; Daniel Bish, George Eastman House; Marie-Pierre Lessard, Cinémathèque Québécoise; Serge Bromberg and Maria Chiba, Lobster Films; Nicholas Varley and Mark Truesdale, Park Circus; and Mary Tallungan, Walt Disney Studios.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Specials from the Silent Film Festival

Holiday Specials from the Silent Film Festival

This is the perfect stocking stuffer for the holiday season! Give heavily discounted SFSFF 2012 all-program Festival Passes to the film lovers you love. Until January 6, all Festival Passes are being offered at a very special holiday rate - lower than our early bird rates! We're planning at least 17 programs at our July 2012 Festival-wonderful films with extraordinary musical accompaniment by musicians from around the world, so don't miss out!

Buster Keaton Holiday

For each pass you purchase, you'll receive a gift voucher card suitable for giving during the holiday season. At the SF Silent Film Festival in July, you or your recipient can present the voucher card at the Will Call table at the Castro Theatre in exchange for the Festival Pass.

Members take their discount at checkout.

For questions, please email 
or call 415-777-4908 x 1