Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bay Area Becoming Mecca for Silent Film

The San Francisco Bay Area is becoming a Mecca for silent film. 

In its near 20 year history, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has grown to become the leading and largest such event in the Western Hemisphere. Last year, it sponsored an epic, even historic screening of Napoleon that made news around the United States. And in June, it is putting on a three day event at which all nine of Alfred Hitchcock's silent films will be shown. 

Over in the east bay, the Niles Essanany Silent Film Museum has been showing silent movies every weekend for nearly 10 years. They also put on an annual Charlie Chaplin Days event and Broncho Billy Film Festival.

Silent films are also occasionally shown in the north bay, at the Rafael Film Center, in the south bay at the Stanford Theater, and in Berkeley at the Pacific Film Archive. And don't forget the Berkeley Underground Film Society, an all ages club for collectors, researchers, and film enthusiasts whose weekly programs of rarely projected, or otherwise obscure 8mm, Super 8, and 16mm prints includes a fair number of early and silent cinema.

Another east bay contribution to the local scene is The Second International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema, which this year will be held from February 21-23 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Following the successful first Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema in 2011 (which had the theme "Cinema Across Media: The 1920s"), this year's conference similarly explores an aspect of film and film culture in the silent era. 

Each of the conferences is designed to advance research and promote public interest in silent cinema by combining a three-day academic conference (free and open to the public) with an evening series of screenings at the Pacific Film Archive related to the topic under discussion.

This year the conference focuses on the theme "On Location." Four plenary speakers, thirty invited presenters, and six introduced screenings will explore the ways in which films in the silent era created new possibilities for experiencing place in a cinematic way. 

This year's plenary speakers are Jennifer Bean (University of Washington), Donald Crafton (Notre Dame), Aaron Gerow (Yale), and Scott Simmon (University of California, Davis). Among the other speaks are Janet Bergstrom (UCLA), Mary Ann Doane (University of California-Berkeley), Anton Kaes (University of California-Berkeley), and Shelley Stamp (University of California, Santa Cruz). Each is the author of a notable book in the field of film studies. Doane, in particular, is the author of a 1991 book likely familiar to readers of this blog, Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis (Routledge).

More info: Click here to see the conference schedule. Click here to see a list of speakers. Or click here to see a list of films to be shown as part of the conference.

Unfortunately, the one Louise Brooks film made on location in Berkeley, Rolled Stockings (1927), is lost. Parts of this college comedy romance were filmed on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. Other scenes from the film, which featured rowing competition, were shot on the San Francisco Bay.

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