Few people speak about silent cinema with such authority and such affection as Anita Monga, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. When we spoke on May 16, 2016, it was to discuss not just the dynamic slate of films at this year’s festival, its 21st, but also the work that the festival has done in contributing to the work of film preservation and restoration, including several examples that would be shown.
We also talked about Oscar Micheaux’s place in cinema history, the evolution of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.’s cinematic persona, the first documentary, NANOOK OF THE NORTH, and the hard-hitting social issues that films could, and did, present before the advent of the Hayes Code in the early talkie era. We finished up with the technology of color before films could talk.
Celebrating its 21st incarnation June 2 – 5, 2016, at the fabulous Castro Theatre, the festival brings together well-known classics, both domestic and international, such as Rene Clair’s AN ITALIAN STRAW HAT, Fritz Lang’s DESTINY, Louise Brooks in William Wellman’s BEGGARS OF LIFE, and the inimitable Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. as a hypochondriac instead of a swashbuckler in WHEN THE CLOUDS ROLL BY, as well as a veritable cornucopia of gems that deserve to be better remembered including MOTHERS OF MEN, a timely tale of women in government made three years before women won the right to vote. In addition, the traditional Amazing Tales from the Archives updates us on the new restoration of Abel Gance’s NAPOLEON, as well as the premiere of the newly restored THE LAST WARNING. There will also be a presentation explaining that not all silent film was in black and white, and that controversial social issues were no stranger to the big screen before movies had spoken dialogue, with a screening of Oscar Micheaux’s WITHIN OUR GATES, and the gender bending program entitled GIRLS WILL BE BOYS.