I always look forward to my annual interview with Anita Monga, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. A genteel woman with a sly sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge about cinema history, she never fails to delight in both her conversation and the dynamic cross-section of films that she programs for the festival to which she is so devoted. This year those delights include a screening of the seminal film from Sergei Eisenstein, BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, as well as rare treats from Japan, Poland, and a tribute to revolutionary women, including Lois Weber and Ana Pavlova in her only feature film appearance.
We started out conversation on May 22, 2017, talking about the restoration work with which the festival also occupies itself; why the pairing of DJ Spooky with Oscar Micheaux’s BODY AND SOUL, starring Paul Robeson, is anything but counterintuitive; the opening night film, Harold Lloyd’s THE FRESHMAN; how San Francisco does and doesn’t appear in Todd Browning’s OUTSIDE THE LAW, starring Lon Chaney; a look at the excellent reasons for programming BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN; the power of women in early cinema; the charm of Pavlova; the athleticism of Douglas Fairbanks; why no one should miss a pair of rare films (TWO DAYS and THE STRONG MAN); and why Japan’s A PAGE OF MADNESS is sui generis.
We went on to discuss the hazards of shipping; how the festival will be honoring the late, great film preservationist, David Shepherd with a series of enchanting short films, including hand-painted examples from Georges Meliès (see left) that are suitable for children as well as adults; why Ernst Lubitsch’s THE DOLL also appeals to both.
We finished up with the delights of seeing the original version of the oft-filmed THE LOST WORLD; and the magic of the zeppelin used by a masked heroine in Italy’s FILIBUS (1915) to taunt the police.
This year’s festival, the twenty-second, runs June 1-4, 2017 at the fabulous Castro Theater and opens with the Harold Lloyd classic, THE FRESHMAN, and includes, as always, the ever astounding, AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES, a free program in keeping with the festival’s education mandate, which details the advances in film preservation, and the truly amazing processes used to bring badly damaged nitrate virtually back from the dead. For more information about the 2017 San Francisco Silent Film Festival, visit SilentFilm.org