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San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2017

Each year at the Castro Theatre audiences are treated to four days of classic silent films, projected on the big screen as they were meant to be seen, and accompanied by live music as they were meant to be heard. Silent films were never silent. With picture and accompaniment, they enchanted early movie goers, and today they still have that same magic, and reach across time to today’s audiences. Nowhere is this better accomplished than at this amazing Silent Film Festival. New discoveries of “lost films” are often part of the program, but it’s the recent restorations that provide a look at a pristine copy of these early cinema masterpieces. Films of every genre are included in each year’s program.

Opening night is the classic Harold Lloyd film, The Freshman, seen in a new restoration. A special treat will be the appearance of Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, appearing at the opening night screening to introduce this silent comedy classic.


SFSFF Announces Lineup for the 22nd San Francisco Silent Film Festival, June 1–4, 2017, Castro Theatre, San Francisco

SFSFF announced today the complete lineup for the 22nd annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which will take place June 1–4 at SF’s landmark movie palace, the Castro Theatre. The program features a diverse and lively schedule of silent-era films, all with live musical accompaniment by accomplished musicians from around the world.

This year’s program features many new film restorations, including two full-length titles SFSFF has had a direct hand in restoring (The Three Musketeers, 1921, and Silence, 1926), as well as a very special discovery: a reel from a lost 1927 Louise Brooks/Wallace Beery comedy (Now We’re in the Air)! Films from nine countries will be represented — France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Sweden, UK, USA, and the USSR — as well as two titles helmed by female directors.

The 2017 San Francisco Silent Film Festival Award will be presented to the Netherland’s EYE Filmmuseum on Saturday, June 3, with a screening of EYE’s exquisitely restored 1915 Italian futuristic crime adventure, Filibus. Archivists Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi and Frank Roumen will accept the award on stage.

SFSFF 2017 will be dedicated to film preservationist David Shepard, who recently died. Shepard was responsible for the preservation and restoration of hundreds of silent-era titles, including several restorations (The Lost World, 1925; A Page of Madness, 1926) in this year’s festival. A special Saturday matinee program, Magic and Mirth, will include a collection of enchanting short films hand picked by Shepard’s colleague Serge Bromberg, to be presented in tribute.


Opening Night

Live musical accompaniment by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor | USA, 1925 | 76 m.

The 22nd San Francisco Silent Film Festival opens on Thursday night, June 1 with the hilarious 1925 Harold Lloyd comedy, The Freshman. Lloyd’s Harold Lamb dreams of being a big man on campus and gets advice from pamphlets such as “Clever College Clothes” and “How to Play Football.” A disastrous tryout lands him a spot on the football team as a human tackling dummy before he becomes the team’s water boy. But Harold holds on to his dreams, aided by his sweetheart, Peggy (Jobyna Ralston). The Freshman’s climactic football game was filmed at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium! Restoration by UCLA Film and Television Archive.

2017 marks the third year Berklee Silent Film Orchestra will appear at SFSFF. Incubated at Boston’s world-renowned Berklee College of Music, BSFO is a group of student composers and musicians who work under the leadership of Professor Sheldon Mirowitz.

Thursday, June 1, 7:00 pm | $22 general / $20 member
The Opening Night Party will take place at McRoskey Mattress Company, 1687 Market Street after the screening, starting at 9:00 pm. Party tickets: $25 general / $20 member. Combo Film and Party combo: $44 general / $36 member

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
SFSFF continues its behind-the-curtain look at the international preservation scene with another edition of this popular free program.

Sharing their amazing preservation tales are Library of Congress’s George Willeman, who has managed to sync cylinders from Edison National Historical Park with eight films from LOC’s collection for his presentation on Edison Kinetophones from 1912–13; Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi from EYE Filmmuseum, whose presentation will reveal the wonders of EYE’s UNESCO-inscribed Jean Desmet collection; and Heather Linville from the Academy Film Archive, sharing rarely-seen footage of globetrotting filmmaker adventuress Aloha Wanderwell.

Friday, June 2, 10:00 am | Free admission

Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Directed by Dorothy Arzner | USA, 1927 | 53 m. (Total program: 76 m.)

Silent-era “It” girl Clara Bow falls for French aristocrat (Buddy Rogers!) after they are locked overnight in a Paris wax museum. There’s a sticking point, though – Rogers’s blueblood is betrothed to another! The Library of Congress has reconstructed the film from recovered materials, filling in missing sequences with key photos and intertitles—and in the process rescuing Bow’s incandescent performance for posterity.

Plus: SFSFF’s Rob Byrne made a remarkable discovery in the National Film Archive of the Czech Republic—footage from the lost Wallace Beery/Louise Brooks comedy, Now We’re in the Air! He was able to restore the 23-minute fragment in time for its premiere in this program. Restoration by San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Friday, June 2, 1:00 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Directed by Lois Weber, Phillips Smalley | USA, 1916 | 112 m.

Legendary ballet dancer Anna Pavlova was at the height of her fame when she teamed up with director Lois Weber to make The Dumb Girl of Portici. Pavlova choreographed, produced, and starred in this historical epic, Universal’s most expensive production to date and the first blockbuster ever directed by a woman. Set in mid-17th-century Spanish-occupied Naples, Pavlova’s mute fisher-girl sparks a revolution. Restoration by the Library of Congress.

Friday, June 2, 3:30 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Special Event

Live musical accompaniment by DJ Spooky
Directed by Oscar Micheaux | USA, 1925 | 93 m.

One of the few surviving titles from the groundbreaking African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, Body and Soul features the great Paul Robeson in his film debut. Robeson plays dual roles – an escaped convict posing as a preacher, and the corrupt preacher’s honorable twin brother.

The prolific artist and innovator Paul D. Miller will perform the accompaniment. Miller, whose stage name is DJ Spooky, has long had an affinity for silent film. In 2004 he created and performed the extraordinary remix of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation – Rebirth of a Nation — which he recorded in 2015 with the Kronos Quartet. He has performed his original scores for Alexander Dovzhenko’s Earth and Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, among other titles. Miller is one of the producers of the Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection, responsible for the restoration of Body and Soul.

Friday, June 2, 7:00 pm | $22 general / $20 members

Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne, Guenter Buchwald, Frank Bockius
Directed by Arthur Robison | United Kingdom, 1929 | 99 m.

The earliest adaptation of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel, this Irish revolutionary drama anticipates film noir in its aesthetics and fast-moving narrative. Set among Dublin revolutionaries in the early days of the Irish Free State (formed in 1922), the action starts when a clandestine meeting of revolutionaries is raided by the police and the police chief is shot and killed. Director Arthur Robison’s taut masterpiece was famously remade in 1935 by John Ford. Restoration by the British Film Institute.

Friday, June 2, 9:30 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius

This enchanting collection of short films was selected by Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films to commemorate preservationist David Shepard’s contribution to film culture. Titles include THOSE AWFUL HATS (USA, 1909, d. D.W. Griffith), CARTOON FACTORY (USA, 1924, p. Fleischer Studios), THE MASQUERADER (USA, 1914, d. Charlie Chaplin), FIRST PRIZE FOR CELLO PLAYING (France, 1907, p. Pathé Frères), FANTASMAGORIE (France, 1908, d. Émile Cohl), TIT FOR TAT (France, 1906, d. Gaston Velle), WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES (UK, 1907, d. Walter Booth), DOWN IN THE DEEP (France, 1906, d. Ferdinand Zecca), THE DANCING PIG (France, 1907, p. Pathé Frères), THE WITCH (France, 1906, d. Georges Méliès). Total running time: 60m.

Saturday, June 3, 10:00 am | $16 general / $14 members / Free for children under the age of ten.

Live musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Sascha Jacobsen
Directed by Henryk Szaro | Poland, 1929 | 80 m.

Unsuccessful writer Henryk Bielecki coaxes his friend Jerzy to suicide so he can steal the manuscript of Jerzy’s book and publish it as his own. The book becomes a bestseller, leading to fame and fortune for Henryk — and a stage production. But as the play is about to go on, Henryk’s secrets start to unravel. This elegant thriller is based on a novel by Polish modernist Stanisław Przybyszewski.

Saturday, June 3, 12:00 noon | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Directed by Mario Roncoroni | Italy, 1915 | 71 m.

Glamorous Baroness de Troixmonde has a secret—her alternate identity is a criminal mastermind called Filibus! The masked sky-pirate flies around in her technologically advanced zeppelin—manned by black-suited, masked, obedient male acolytes—committing crimes and toying with the police. When a reward is offered for information leading to the capture of the notorious criminal, the Baroness visits the police station to declare her intention to prove that Filibus is no other than the detective assigned to the case! The beautifully tinted and toned print adds to the wonderment!

Preceding the screening of Filibus, the 2017 San Francisco Silent Film Festival Award will be presented to the EYE Filmmuseum for its commitment to the preservation and presentation of silent cinema.

Saturday, June 3, 2:30 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius
Directed by Tod Browning | USA, 1920 | 76 m.

San Francisco crime boss Silent Madden and his daughter, Molly ‘Silky Moll’ Madden, are friends with respected Confucian master Chang Lo, whose influence is shifting the Maddens’ thinking toward the straight-and-narrow. But nefarious Black Mike Sylva has other ideas! Sylva frames Silent for murder and manipulates Molly into a return to crime. Lon Chaney has dual roles in the story—as the evil Sylva and as Ah Wing, Chang Lo’s dedicated servant—but the real star is the tough-as-nails Priscilla Dean as Molly. Look for Anna May Wong in one of her earliest roles! The restoration of Outside the Law is part of the Universal Pictures silent film restoration initiative.

Saturday, June 3, 2:30 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble
Directed by Sergei Eisenstein | USA, 1925 | 72 m.

Battleship Potemkin changed cinema history forever. Commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of the failed 1905 revolution, Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece is a vibrant paean to collective heroism. From the moment of its 1925 premiere at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, the film was hailed as a masterpiece and Eisenstein’s theories of montage became aesthetic tools for filmmakers everywhere. But almost from the beginning, Potemkin was the object of censorship and suffered decades of re-cuts and re-translations that blunted its energy and originality—which makes it a special delight to present the film in its definitive restoration, completed in 2007.

Saturday, June 3, 7:15 pm | $22 general / $20 members

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra
Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa | Japan, 1926 | 70 m.

A retired sailor volunteers to work odd jobs at the asylum where his wife has been confined since her attempt to drown their infant son many years before. Without intertitles, Page evokes a world as seen by the mentally disturbed—through shifting images and rapid editing—and creates a modernist tour-de-force as psychologically and aesthetically compelling as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Restoration by Lobster Films.

Saturday, June 3, 9:30 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch Germany, 1919 | 60 m.

Baron von Chanterelle has one condition in his will: His beloved nephew Lancelot must be married to inherit the estate. But Lancelot is so averse to marriage that he flees to a monastery, where the financially ailing monks devise a plan that will make everyone happy! One trip to the dollmaker and ersatz wedding later, Lancelot brings his mechanical bride back to the friary, planning to share the bequest with the brothers. What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, June 3, 10:00 am | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Directed by Rupert Julian | USA, 1926 | 70 m.

This Cecil B. DeMille production was considered lost for many decades and the recent discovery of materials at the Cinémathèque Française is cause for celebration! Based on a successful Broadway play, Silence opens with gallows being constructed. Jim Warren (H.B. Warner) awaits hanging for murder, but his lawyer is certain that Warren is innocent and shielding the guilty person. What follows is a gripping tale of love and sacrifice. Restoration by Cinémathèque Française and San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Sunday, June 3, 12:00 noon | $16 general / $14 members

With live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble
Directed by Victor Sjöström | Sweden, 1917 | 60 m.
With Victor Sjöström, August Falck, Edith Erastoff, Bergliot Husberg

Terje Vigen inaugurated Sweden’s Golden Age of film and confirmed Victor Sjöström’s primacy as a filmmaker. Here he brilliantly captures the spirit of Henrik Ibsen’s epic poem, aided by Julius Jaenzon’s beautiful camerawork. Sjöström plays the sailor Terje, who braves a British blockade to find food for his starving family but is captured and imprisoned by a heartless British captain. While languishing in prison, Terje’s family dies. His bitterness and desire for revenge grows until… Restoration by the Swedish Film Institute.

Sunday, June 3, 2:00 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra
Directed by Harry O. Hoyt | USA, 1925 | 100 m.

This was the first of many film adaptations based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel about an Amazonian land where prehistoric creatures hold sway, and for decades it could only be seen in an abridged version. This new edition combines portions of eleven film elements to present the most complete reconstruction possible. Wallace Beery arranges an expedition to the Amazon and a motley crew—including Lewis Stone, Bessie Love, and Lloyd Hughes—sign on. But the creatures engineered by Willis O’Brien (King Kong) are the true stars. Restoration by Lobster Films.

Sunday, June 3, 4:00 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Directed by Heorhii Stabovyi | USSR, 1927 | 60 m.

Set during the 1917–21 Civil War in Ukraine, Two Days tells the story of a faithful servant, Anton, who remains behind to guard the master’s mansion as the family flees the approaching Bolsheviks. In the chaos of their escape, the landowner’s young son is left behind and Anton hides the boy in the attic. The Bolsheviks arrive to occupy the house, and it turns out that Anton’s son — whose political beliefs run counter to his father’s — is their leader. What unfolds is a complex drama, full of nuance and expressively told. Restoration by the Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre.

Sunday, June 3, 6:30 pm | $16 general / $14 members

Live musical accompaniment by the Guenter Buchwald Ensemble
Directed by Fred Niblo | USA, 1921 | 146 m.
With Douglas Fairbanks, Adolphe Menjou, Nigel de Brulier, Léon Bary

The story is familiar—young Gascon D’Artagnan shows up in 1625 Paris eager to join forces with the King’s musketeers to save the Queen’s honor — it’s been told many times. But through sheer force of his exuberant physicality, Douglas Fairbanks puts his indelible stamp on Alexander Dumas’s character — and creates the playbook for swashbucklers for all time. The Three Musketeers features lavish sets, romance, intrigue, and sword play aplenty! Restoration by the Museum of Modern Art and San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Sunday, June 3, 8:15 pm | $22 general / $20 members


ALLOY ORCHESTRA is a three-man musical ensemble that uses found percussion and state-of-the-art electronics to create scores for classic silentfilms. Founded more than 25 years ago, Alloy has composed numerous original scores and performed in venues around the world. Members include Terry Donahue, Roger Miller, and Ken Winokur.

Based at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, BERKLEE SILENT FILM ORCHESTRA is an international, all-student group of composers and players. This year’s group includes composers Vincent Isler, Esin Aydingoz, Bernard Duc, Victoria Ruggiero, Andres Gutierrez, Jeffrey Gaiser, and Vinicius Pippa; and players Gabriela Sofia Gomez Estevez (flute/piccolo), Lindsey Stein (oboe/English horn), Stephanie Clark (clarinet/bass clarinet), Dan Pfeiffer (horn), Joey Epstein (trumpet), Ethan Santos (trombone/bass trombone), Kino Lee (keyboard), Eren Başbuğ (keyboard), Tania Mesa (violin), Nathaniel Taylor (cello), Michael Simon (bass), Patrick Hanafin (percussion)

Percussionist FRANK BOCKIUS joined Guenter Buchwald’s Silent Movie Music Company twenty years ago and has since performed for silent films around the world. Bockius will accompany Buchwald and several other performers this year.

GUENTER BUCHWALD is a pioneer of the renaissance in silent film music. He has provided live accompaniment for thousands of titles, playing at festivals worldwide from Berlin to Tokyo, both solo and with other musicians through his Silent Movie Music Company.

Principally a pianist, STEPHEN HORNE often incorporates flute, accordion, and various other instruments into his performances, sometimes playing them simultaneously. Horne is considered one of the world’s leading silent film accompanists.

Playing a variety of instruments that include piano, glockenspiel, violin, and percussion, the MATTI BYE ENSEMBLE is led by Matti Bye, silent-movie pianist at the Swedish Film Institute since 1989 and one of his country’s leading film composers. The ensemble members include Kristian Holmgren, Henrik Olsson, and Laura Naukkarinen.

PAUL D. MILLER, aka DJ SPOOKY, has long had an affinity for silent film. In 2004 he created and performed the extraordinary remix of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation—Rebirth of a Nation — which he recorded in 2015 with the Kronos Quartet. He has performed his original scores for Dovzhenko’s Earth and Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, among other titles.

Reviving the tradition of silent-film orchestras, MONT ALTO MOTION PICTURE ORCHESTRA culls historic libraries of music for live musical accompaniment. Rodney Sauer, Britt Swenson, David Short, Brian Collins, and Dawn Kramer have recorded and toured widely, creating vibrant and historically appropriate musical scores.

DONALD SOSIN scores silent films for major festivals, archives, and DVD recordings and is the resident accompanist at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Last year, Sosin’s orchestral score for Sherlock Holmes was performed on the Potemkin Steps at the Odessa International Festival.

Tickets Information, Festival Dates and Public Contact Numbers
The 22nd San Francisco Silent Film Festival will take place June 1–4, 2017 at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco. For complete ticket information, please visit the San Francisco Silent Film Festival at The all-festival PASS is available for $260 general / $230 member. For group sales, call 415-777-4908 ext. 1.