Sounds of Britain – and beyond

Beau Geste (1926), from

The 2011 British Silent Film Festival will be taking place 7-10 April 2011 at the Barbican Cinema, London. As was the case in 2009, the festival will run in conjunction with ‘The Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain’ conference, previously trailed on the Bioscope. The title of the festival will be Going to the Movies: Music, Sound and the British Silent Film. However, as one may judge from the programme highlights advertised so far, the festival is continuing the trend of the past few years of stretching beyond the confines of British silent cinema to look further afield – which I think is a good thing.

Here’s the descriptive blurb:

Music and sound in silent film will be our key themes during the four days of the 2011 British Silent Film Festival. A packed programme of rare silent films will explore how filmmakers communicated sound to cinema audiences through music and visual clues, what it was like to be in the audience of the ‘silent movies’ and how the British industry geared up for the talkies. Accompanied by the world’s best silent film musicians the programme will feature special events, presentations by special guests and unique archive film from the BFI, the Imperial War Museum and other collections.

Highlights will include

  • The Annual Rachael Low Lecture
    Delivered by Matthew Sweet, broadcaster and author of Shepperton Babylon, on stars, stardom and scandal in British silent cinema
  • Topical Budget is 100!
    Celebrating 100 years since the birth of the British newsreel with highlights from the Topical Budget series
  • ‘Only the Screen Was Silent’
    Luke McKernan, moving image archivist from the British Library, will talk about the experience of cinemagoers from the silent days using oral history material from the British Library and BFI
  • Cinema on the Fronts
    Toby Haggith will screen highlights from the Imperial War Museum collection showing how cinema addressed soldiers at the Front and their families back on the Home Front during the Great War
  • Radio on Film
    Bryony Dixon will present a selection of films looking at silent cinemas fascination with the birth of radio including radio Europa, Romance of the Postal Telegraphy, ‘I’ Got a Sweetie on the Radio’, Mr Smith Wakes Up, Bonzo Broadcasted and Wireless Whirl
  • In Sound and Silence
    Tony Fletcher presents a programme of popular classical music, opera and dance in the 1920’s and the various experiments in synchronous sound that recorded these performances
  • Transports of Delight
    A family programme of vehicular fun featuring trains, planes, automobiles and silent comedy
  • New Discoveries in British Silent Film
    Including Cecil Hepworth’s Helen of Four Gates (1921) starring Alma Taylor, rediscovered almost ninety years after it was believed destroyed and Walter Forde’s 1928 comedy What Next?
  • From Silent to Sound
    An illustrated presentation from Robert Murphy and Geoff Brown on the how British cinema made the transition from silent to sound cinema
  • Genre Film and Genre Music
    Neil Brand and Phil Carli discuss why high staccato strings means murder in cinema and how various musical themes developed during the silent period
  • Beau Geste (1926)
    Hollywood director Herbert Brenon’s adaptation of the best-selling British adventure story about the Foreign Legion starring the quintessentially English Ronald Colman
  • Twinkletoes (1926)
    US director Charles Brabin’s take on the British music hall starring Hollywood’s favourite flapper Colleen Moore
  • Lonesome (1928)
    Paul Fejos’s brilliant part-talkie where dialogue was introduced as a novelty in this story of two lonely people trying to find love in New York. The film features a fantastic jazz-fuelled parade in Coney Island
  • Morozko (1925)
    Yu Zhelyabuzhsky’s rarely seen Soviet fantasy about a stepdaughter who is driven out to face the spirit of winter is here presented with its original music score rediscovered and reconstructed for orchestra. Presented in conjunction with Sounds of Early Cinema Conference
  • I Was Born But … (1932)
    Ozu’s classic family comedy marks the very end of the silent period. As one of the greatest silent films ever made, it is screened here to celebrate the artistic excellence which the silent cinema had achieved

The Festival is organised in partnership with the British Film Institute. The conference is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its ‘Beyond Text’ programme, and organised in conjunction with Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Edinburgh.

Well, that looks like an interesting mixture of usual suspects and unexpected suspects. Among the usuals, my contribution will hopefully be a bit more than just me talking about the experiences of filmgoers during the silent era – I plan to be putting together an entertainment of some sort. Anyway, riches a-plenty, and it’s always good news to learn that the festival has managed to survive another year – no mean feat in these straitened times.

More information will appear in due course on the British Silent Film Festival website.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: The British Silent Film Festival – April 2011 « Silent London

%d bloggers like this: