Silent Film Festival draws crowds to Leicester

Silent films drew the crowds to the British Silent Film Festival, a five-day celebration of historic films co-curated by a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) academic.

Laraine Porter of DMU’s Cinema and Television History Research Centre worked with the British Film Institute (BFI) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council on a programme of rediscovered silent and early sound films from the world’s archives.

It was launched with an evening of Edgar Allan Poe films hosted at St Mary De Castro Church. The church’s amazing acoustics were shown off to full effect as leading silent cinema musicians including Neil Brand provided the accompaniment to horror silents such as The Fall of the House of Usher.

Film Studies students at DMU have been helping out after learning about silent cinema during a visit to Il Cinema Ritrova, in Bologna, which celebrates little-known films and particularly the silent era.

Jack Davis, Natalie Fairchild and Conor Jones, all going into their third year, were on hand to help out and make sure the event ran smoothly. They worked with Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema to get industry experience in screening these films, many of which needed special projection equipment to be shown.

Jack said: “We have been bitten by the festival film bug in Bologna. I had not watched many silent films until then but I loved the dramatic footage and the economy of the dialogue.”

“Sometimes dialogue can make excuses for poor cinematography,” added Conor. “The silent films are all about the shots and the production.”

Natalie was looking forward to seeing some of the comedy shorts popular in the early 1920s.

She said: “My favourites were the really fun comedy films, the canine capers, including a dog saving a woman tied to the railway tracks by a baddie!”

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The festival was held at the Phoenix Cinema from Thursday to Sunday, with special screenings of rare films including The Pleasure Garden – Hitchcock’s first film – and a glimpse at the kind of films bringing in the crowds in the 1920s, which included PG Wodehouse’s The Clicking Of Cuthbert and British heroine Betty Balfour.
Owen Sandy, of Blackheath, London, was at the PG Wodehouse shows. He said: “I am a huge Wodehouse fan and to see films that were made within months of the books coming out just shows that he was as popular then as he is now.”

Andy Aldridge tweeted: “On the train home from a very lovely and exhausting British Silent Film Festival. Thanks to everyone involved in making it happen!”

Posted on: Monday 18 September 2017

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