Silent films are often labelled as perky-jerky pictures with no sound but just text to give the viewer a context. That is not the complete picture as Robert Byrne, film restorer and Board President, San Francisco Silent Film Festival shares. Silent films contributed many of the techniques and narratives used by modern day filmmakers points out Byrne. Filmmakers and actors like DW Griffith, Abel Gance and Mary Pickford played a key role in the Silent Film era. Mary Pickford, for instance, was one of the founders of United Artists studio and took pains to preserve her films.
Silent filmmakers were prolific in their output, but sadly many of their films don’t exist.They were either lost in accident, destroyed or poorly archived. Byrne, who is a film restorer explains how he along with other organizations uncover and painstakingly restore silent films. Many of these restored silent films are then shown at the annual 5-day San Francisco Silent Film Festival in San Francisco.
The 2018 San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs from May 30 through June 5 at the Castro Theatre. The films are accompanied by live musicians and orchestra that adds a wonderful touch to the movie watching experience.
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Meet Robert Byrne, President, Board of Directors of San Francisco Silent Film Festival, film restorer and engineer. We sat dow to talk about how he developed his passion for silent films, the legacy of silent films and his work in restoring silent films. We also find out why Byrne switched his major from film and theatre to computer science. After working as an engineer for many years, he went back to pursuing his primary passion in films.
Many films were destroyed or lost over the decades. But every now and then a lost print will surface like the 1916 on Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette. Byrne was involved in the restoration of this iconic film since Gillette is the one who created that memorable get-up for Holmes through his stage play, which later on became a silent film. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle approved of Gillette’s stage play on Holmes. That long coat, curved pipe and the deerstalker hat are creations of Gillette points out Byrne.
Every June the San Francisco Silent Film Festival takes place where they showcase silent films from around the world. The festival recreates the silent film era experience complete with live music by well-known orchestras. This year the San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs from June 1 through June 4, 2017 at the Castro Theatre.
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It is that time of year again in San Francisco bay area – film festival season. And we are not talking about “talkies,” but the Silent Film Festival of San Francisco, which is one of the longest running festivals in the US in this genre. This year marks the 19th year of the an Francisco Silent Film Festival (May 29-June 4, 2014). This year the festival is paying homage to the Roaring 20’s and features 17 silent films and a few short films. A highlight of the festival is the live orchestra that will play the music for the films. A handful of orchestras are featured in this year’s festival.
The opening night film is Rudolph Valentino’s “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse,” by Rex Ingram. The film premiered in 1921 and changed Valentino’s career and turned him into a superstar of the silent films era. This was one of the highest grossing films of its time. Monto Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will play live music during the screening of the film.
A film that caught my eyes is the 1924 “The Epic Of Everest” that traces the 3rd expedition to this Himalayan mountain. Shot by Captain John Noel, the film was recently restored by Britain BFI National Archives. This is an unusual film since it has some of the earliest scenes of Tibetan people from the Tibetan Plateau from the 1920s. The film gives you an idea of what kind of preparation it took to undertake an expedition to Mount Everest.
The closing night film is Buster Keaton’s “The Navigator” (1924). The film was directed by comedic genius Keaton and Donald Crisp. This was the fourth film of “The Great Stone Face,” which was Keaton’s nickname.
Here is a full line-up of the films at this year’s Silent Film Festival. For tickets and information please visit the festival’s website.