The Legend of the Mountain Man


The Bioscope has an interest in films made for and by the deaf, as old hands may know. Deaf cinema shouldn’t be equated with silent cinema in general, but there is a fascinating history of deaf people’s engagement with film during the silent era, to which I shall certainly return, and it is worthwhile noting from time to time what is going on in the world of deaf film, as a sort of parallel activity to the modern silent film (another activity we’ve also been tracing).

All of which leads us to The Legend of the Mountain Man, a feature film wholly silent yet very much a talking picture, except that the language is ASL, or American Sign Language. It is made by ASL Films, who have set themselves up to produce feature films to professional standards for the deaf community, and have now made three titles: Forget Me Not (2006), Wrong Game (2007) and The Legend of the Mountain Man, which was released late last year. Their films are pure ASL, without captions or voiceover, and so for the hearing viewer offer a purely silent experience as well as a window onto a wholly talkative world.

Mountain Man concerns three children staying at their grandparents’ Montana ranch who encounter a mysterious mountain creature, and through their adventures help bring back together their dysfunctional family. It looks to be heartwarming, family fare, and has been warmly accepted by the deaf community in America (not least for its purist ASL policy). There’s plenty of information to be found on the film, and ASL Films’ mission, on the movie’s official site, which has trailer, cast interviews, showtimes, photos and news.

To find out more about deaf cinema, and deaf art and media in general, visit The Deaf Lens, whose list of links alone is just amazing, not least for what it reveals of the number of deaf film festivals out there.

Cinefest 2009

Cinefest, the annual collectors’ film festival held in Syracuse, NY, takes place 19-22 March 2009. The films on show are combination of silents and early talkies, with these being the silent choices (subject to any last minute changes):

On 16mm

LESS THAN THE DUST (1916) with Mary Pickford, David Powell
LOVE NEVER DIES (1921) Dir. King Vidor, with Lloyd Hughes, Madge Bellamy, Lillian Leighton
THEY SHALL PAY (1921) with Lottie Pickford, Allan Forrest, Paul Weigel
WHITE GOLD (1927) with Jetta Goudal, Kenneth Thomson, George Bancroft, George Nichols, Clyde Cook
WOMAN (1918) Dir. Maurice Tourneur with Warren Cook, Florence Billings

On 35mm

EVERYBODY’S SWEETHEART (1920) with Olive Thomas, William Collier Jr.
TWENTY DOLLARS A WEEK (1924) with George Arliss, Ronald Colman
A MILLION BID (1927) with Dolores Costello, Warner Oland, William Demarest
BEGGAR ON HORSEBACK (1925) with Edward Everett Horton, Betty Compson, Esther Ralston
THE SHOPWORN ANGEL (1928) with Gary Cooper, Nancy Caroll, Roscoe Karns, Paul Lukas
BACK PAY (1922) Dir: Frank Borzage, with Seena Owen, Matt Moore

Musical accompaniment comes from a star-studded line-up of Philip Carli, Makia Matsumura, Donald Sosin, and Ben Model, and there are other goodies on offer (aside from the sound features), include rare shorts, Joan Crawford’s home movies, and the auction hosted by Leonard Matlin.

Full details, including registration and accommodation, from the festival website.