Just like it was in the olden days


Another day, another silent film festival. This time its New Zealand, and it’s the Silent Film Festival at Opitiki (‘Cinema – just like it was in the olden days’), which runs 5-6 September. Taking place in Opotiki’s Art Deco theatre, the festival encourages attendees to dress up in period style and travel in vintage cars. Piano accompaniment will be provided by Nick Giles-Palmer, and the films are accompanied by period shorts and newsreels courtesy of the New Zealand Film Archive.

Here’s the programme:

The Mark of Zorro 1920 ~ 93mins
In old Spanish California, the oppressive colonial government is opposed by Zorro, masked champion of the people, who appears out of nowhere with flashing sword and an athletic sense of humour, scarring the faces of evildoers with his Mark ‘Z’. Meanwhile, beautiful Lolita is courted by villainous Captain Ramon, rich but effete Don Diego… and dashing Zorro, who is never seen at the same time as Don Diego. As Zorro continues to evade pursuit, Ramon puts the damsel in distress…

Fairbanks’ prodigious athletic prowess and tremendous enthusiasm made the original movie a great success and enormous sets gave him plenty of room to swash and buckle in. His astonishing acrobatics amaze even modern audiences, particularly in the film’s climax.

Saturday 6th Sept ~ 7.30pm ~ Main Theatre ~ $14

It – starring Clara Bow 1927 ~ 77mins
Clara Bow, one of the most adorable actresses to grace the silent screen, stars in this delightful romantic comedy. As Betty Lou Spence a shopgirl at Waltham’s Department Store, she falls for her boss, the handsome Cyrus Waltham, Jr. and decides that he is to be her husband. With the help of his friend Monty and her own ‘It’ factor, Betty tries to win the man of her dreams.

Clara Bow’s vitality and sexiness defined the liberated woman of the 1920s and she became one of Hollywood’s brightest lights. Clara was known as The ‘It’ Girl. As well as representing sex-appeal, ‘It’ symbolized the tremendous progress women were making in society. Her dynamic performance as the cute, bubbly, down-to-earth Betty makes this film one of the most charming and entertaining silents as well as providing an interesting slice of history.

Saturday 6th Sept ~ 2pm ~ Main Theatre ~ $14

Venus of the South Seas 1927 ~ 77mins
Visited infrequently by the supply schooner ‘The Southern Cross’ lies the little island of Manea. The owner of the island has made a fortune in copra and pearl but more precious than all these treasures is his adored daughter – Shona, the most skilful diver in the South Seas. Romance blossoms when a yacht anchors in the mystic moonlit harbour and Shona swims out to meet it. A pearl pirate attempts to steal the pearls but is foiled by the young man Shona falls in love with.

Annette Kellerman, who plays Shona, was a champion diver and swimmer who made headlines in 1907 when she was arrested in Boston for wearing a one-piece bathing suit. The exterior scenes were filmed in Nelson, the interior in Christchurch.

Friday 5th Sept ~ 7.30pm ~ Main Theatre ~ $14

Intolerance 1916~3.5hr Spectacular!
Intolerance and its terrible effects are examined in four eras, spanning several hundreds of years and cultures. Themes of intolerance, man’s inhumanity to man, hypocrisy, bigotry, religious hatred, persecution, discrimination and injustice achieved in all eras by entrenched political, social and religious systems, create a spectacular and dramatic epic.

Director D.W. Griffith’s ambitious silent film masterpiece is one of the milestones and landmarks in cinematic history.

Saturday 6th Sept ~ 9.30am ~ Little Theatre
Includes buffet lunch.

Films of Opotiki
From the New Zealand Film Archives – a fascinating historical record of small town NZ.

A special compilation of films made by local electrician & projectionist John Wilkinson, between 1950-1974, forms most of this presentation. A fascinating record of Opotiki life they include films of the Opotiki port and the arrival of MV Waiotahi, dramatic scenes of thermal activity on White Island in 1956, terrible flood devastation in Opotiki and the clean-ups. Street parades, school kids in fancy dress and on floats, marching girls and Opotiki High performing the haka…and more. Another home movie by Ester and Deryk Rogers documents the cultivation of kumara at Maraenui in the 50’s. The programme begins with local personality, Epi Shalfoon, and His Melody Boys (1930) jazz band playing ‘E Puritai Tama e’.

By popular request, the programme concludes with the award winning short film, Two Cars One Night, (2003) made by Taika Waititi, which was filmed in the Te Kaha pub car park.

Friday 5th Sept ~ 1pm ~ Main Theatre ~ $14

Buster Keaton in ‘The Goat’ 1921 ~ 27mins
Madcap chases and hilarious displays of physical agility are the highlights of this frenetic Buster Keaton short. Dumb luck sets some policemen on his trail – after a series of innovative escapes, he gets mistaken for a murderer with a price on his head, which means the people that aren’t chasing him are fleeing from him. Nonstop laughter.


Harold Lloyd in ‘Sailor-Made Man’ 1921 ~ 46mins
Comedy great, Harold Lloyd, plays baseball-mad twerp ‘Speedy’ Swift. When his girl’s father insists that, before he will agree to Speedy marrying his daughter, he must first prove that he can do something more worthwhile than act the playboy, he joins the navy, just like that! Classic slapstick feature-length movie, especially in the final scenes.

Both showing together (total time: 75mins)
Fri 7th Sept – 11am and 4.30pm
Sat 8th Sept – 4.30pm
Sun 7th Sept – 11am, 1pm and 3pm

More details on booking, timetable, and a gallery showing how people have got into the spirit of things in past festivals can all be found on the site.