The world before you

J.B.L. Noel, cinematographer for The Epic of Everest (1924), from

No doubt taking its title from Charles Urban’s slogan “We put the world before you”, the British Silent Festival has announced the theme of its upcoming festival as being ‘The World Before You’: Exploration, Science and Nature in British Silent Film.

The festival is being held 15-18 April 2010 at the Phoenix Square Cinema, Leicester (home of the very first British Silent Film Festival, several moons ago). This, the thirteenth such festival, will focus on the relationship between the natural world and cinema before 1930, and will include films about the following:

  • science and nature
  • exploration and discovery of polar regions, mountains, jungles and oceans
  • early ethnography
  • natural phenomena, climate and weather
  • the British coast, maritime activities and natural history on film

The festival organisers promise us a four-day packed programme filled with many rare and re-discovered films, presentations and social events. All films will have live musical accompaniment from a star-studded array of the finest silent cinema musicians.

The festival has moved from its strictly British focus of past years to cast a wider net, and this year highlights will include screenings of The Lost World (US 1925), Drifters (UK 1929), The Bridal Party of Hardanger (Norway 1926), the Dodge Brothers performing to Beggars of Life (US 1928), Damian Coldwell’s new score for Tol’able David (US 1921) with more new music for The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks (UK 1917) and Ernest Shackleton’s epic South (UK 1919). Special presentations will include Everest on Film, The Perilous Life of the Wildlife Cameraman, Around the British Coast in Film, and the Race to the South Pole: Britain and Norway (so I hope that includes the film that exists of Amundsen’s team as well has Herbert Ponting’s record of Scott’s doomed party).

Full programme and timetable information are promised shortly. For bookings contact Phoenix Square Box Office (+44) 0116 242 2800. Ticket prices (which include lunch each day and tea/coffee) are Festival 4 day pass £95 (£70 concession) or Festival 1 day pass £45 (£30 concession).

Accommodation is available at the discounted rate of £45 pp per night (including breakfast) at the Ibis Hotel, Leicester. Please telephone the Hotel directly and quote ‘Phoenix Square’. The address is Ibis Hotel Leicester, St George’s Way, Constitution Hill, Leicester LE1 1PL tel. 0116 248 7200.

For any information contact the Festival Directors Laraine Porter (lporter [at] or Bryony Dixon (bryony.dixon [at], or visit

3 responses

  1. I can guarantee you that Amundsen´film will be shown at the festival. The Norwegian Film Institute will soon release a DVD with all the footage made by Amundsen and his men in 1910-12, and I will bring the restored cinema version (16 minutes long) to the festival.
    And I am looking forward to see what BFI have found in their archives.

  2. Terrific news – though is 16mins all that survives of the Amundsen footage? Anyway, it’s reason enough for me to go to Leicester, if I weren’t already plotting something for the festival filmed in the desert rather than at the Poles…

  3. The complete footage taken in Antarctica is more than 30 minutes. On the DVD there will be The Cinema version, the English and the German lecture films and all the footage in the order it was filmed. There will also be some extra material – a serie of his lecture photos, and interviews with modern explorers, together with a book in Norwegian and English about the film and how Amundsen used it. The release date is in early May, but I hope I can bring copies.

%d bloggers like this: