After what I call a two-year pandemic pause, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival returns for its 25th year of showcasing the rich legacy of film history from the time before movies spoke. When I talked via Zoom with the festival’s Artistic Director, Anita Monga, on April 30 2022, we discussed the amazing range of the programming, including restorations, documentaries, and films from Europe and Asia, but I wanted to start with a silent film star that, for me and for Monga, is timeless. That would be Buster Keaton in STEAMBOAT BILL, JR.
We went on to talk about the opening night film, a restoration of Erich von Stroheim’s FOOLISH WIVES, and its long journey to the festival screen; the very different sides of Oscar Wilde in the program; films from and about Ukraine, and the why the festival is helping to support the work of the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre in Kyiv; the unexpected advances found in Victorian filmmaking; and programming specifically for children.
We finished up with DJ Spooky’s presentation of RE-BIRTH OF A NATION, which uses images from the infamous film by D.W. Griffith that led to the resurgence of the KKK to exorcise its evil; discovering the literal color of silent films; the return of Serge Bromberg with new restorations from his Lobster Films; and how to get in on all the action at this year’s festival.