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Film historians celebrate forgotten British cinema

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SCANDAL: The 1922 advert for the film

Film scholars and academics are to celebrate 15 years of bringing forgotten films of British cinema back into the limelight with a symposium and one-day festival of silent film this weekend.

Laraine Porter, of De Montfort University’s Cinema and Television History Film Centre, is a director of the British Silent Film Festival (BSFF) which is organising events on Friday and Saturday.

The BSFF has given scholars, archivists and enthusiasts the chance to re-assess filmmaking in Britain between 1895 and 1930.

By bringing forgotten films from the archive and encouraging scholarly debate and analysis, the festival has been a driving force to bring the world of silent cinema back to life.

A one-day symposium on Friday at King’s College, London, will review the achievements and key debates of the festival as well as present new research.

The next day London’s Cinema Museum, which is linked with DMU’s Cinema and Television History centre, will screen some of the most sensational films of the 1920s.

First to be shown is Cocaine (1922), the then shocking tale of how addiction was sweeping the capital’s nightclubs, promoted by gangsters and leading to tragedy for one good-time girl.

At the time, British authorities were terrified it would lead to the glamorising of drug use, but it was eventually passed by the censors after they were convinced its message was actually anti-drugs.

There are more thrills with The Monkey’s Paw, a 1923 horror film about a family who get a monkey’s paw which can be used to grant wishes – with terrible results. An episode of the Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror was based on this story.

Top of the bill is the full version of The Yellow Claw, written by Sax Rohmer, the creator of Fu Manchu and the 21st century premiere of the 1920 Hobson’s Choice, a silent adaptation of the Harold Brighouse classic made famous by David Lean.

Laraine, senior lecturer at CATH, said: “These are films that have not been seen for many, many years in the UK. The British Silent Film Festival has got quite a following and we tend to get a few hundred people at our events.

“They are a mixture of things that we have only just discovered, to ones that have not been seen for the best part of 100 years. Cocaine, for example, has been restored and re-edited from fragments – the full film cannot be shown but we are getting it back to as near a complete state as we can.”

The symposium at King’s College, London, takes place on Friday from 9am to 6pm, while the one-day festival at the Cinema Museum is on Saturday from 10am to 8pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Thursday 18th December 2014

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