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August 28, 2014

The 8th International Silent Film Festival

A Guide To The 8th International Silent Film Festival


The Annual International Silent Film Festival, the only one of its kind in Asia, returns for its eighth edition at the Shang Cineplex, running from August 28 to 31. There are just seven films in the festival’s lineup, but each of them is a genuine cinematic treasure. As usual, the films will be scored live by musical acts, and this year’s lineup, aside from featuring some of the country’s most notable acts, will include a visiting master pianist from France. Admission is free. Here’s a look at what you can experience this year.

AUGUST 28, 8 PM: City Lights (USA)

The festival opens with what is largely considered one of the greatest films of all time. Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, made in the waning years of the silent era, is a true labor of love, with Chaplin stubbornly sticking to the form even in the advent of sound in filmmaking. The movie is a romantic comedy tracing the relationship of a vagrant and the blind woman that mistook him for a millionaire. While Chaplin is largely known for his comedy, there’s an alluring vein of melancholy that pervades this film, striking at a depth of emotion in its images that transcends the need for sound.

The film will be accompanied by the scoring of Radioactive Sago Project, who stated their intention to stick closely to Chaplin’s original score. Tickets will be very limited for the opening night, so people who want to see this will have to line up pretty early.

AUGUST 29, 5 PM: Destiny (Der Müde Tod, Germany)

Fritz Lang’s Der müde Tod is said to have inspired the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Buñuel to get into filmmaking. It’s not hard to see why. The film, which tells three tales set in exotic locales, really seemed to be designed to push the medium to its limits. Lang put on a lavish production, one that includes gigantic sets, state-of-the-art special effects, and at one point, an elephant. As always, Lang seemed to defy the very limits of technology of the time, in the end crafting a timeless piece of art.

German composer Pierre Oser is collaborating with Dr. Jonas Baes and the Manila Composers Lab to put together the score of this film.

AUGUST 29, 7:30 PM: Verdun: Visions of History (Verdun Visions D’Histoire, France)

Leon Poirier’s Verdun: Visions of History also came at the tail end of the silent era, and was mostly overlooked during its time. But it’s a remarkable movie. It was made to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the end of World War I, and is a beautifully made pacifist film that sought to expose the foolishness of all war. To achieve this effect, Poirier meticulously restaged some of the battles and mixed it in with real documentary footage. And to add to the realism of the piece, he hired real war veterans to play the parts in his movie.

The film, which has just been recently restored, travels with French-Algerian Pianist Hakim Bentchouala-Golobitch. The multi-awarded pianist has interpreted several silent film scores, and will bring his interpretation to André Petiot’s original score.

AUGUST 30, 5 PM: Love Everlasting (Ma L’Amor Mio Non Muore, Italy)

A good chunk of Italy’s silent era is marked by the “diva film,” these big cinematic melodramas headlined by a female star. And Mario Caserini’s Love Everlasting is the progenitor of this trend. It brought to screen stage actress Lyda Borelli, whose sensuous, expressive face set off a frenzy in Italian cinema, and gave rise to a studio system that would define the industry for the next years. The movie casts her as Elsa, a woman who meets a tragic fate due to the machinations of a villain.

Electronic artists Caliph8, Malek Lopez and Fred Sandoval will be joined by soprano Fame Flores to bring texture to this operatic tale.

AUGUST 30, 7:30 PM: A Diary of Chuji’s Travels (Chuji Tabi Nikki, Japan)

Only a fraction of Daisuke Ito’s A Diary of Chuji’s Travels survives today. The film, originally released in three parts that totaled four hours, has largely been lost. But its legacy as one of Japan’s greatest films lives on today. It was one of the earliest samurai films to feature an outlaw hero, documenting the woes of a Yakuza boss on the run from the law. Director Ito was ahead of his time, displaying a kinetic style and a sympathy for downtrodden characters.

Accompanying the film is experimental electronic duo Kaapin, who promise to improvise and react to the movie real time.

AUGUST 31, 5 PM: Curro Vargas (Spain)

The rarest film in this year’s lineup is Jose Buchs’ Curro Vargas, a silent zarzuela based on the novel El Niño de la Bola by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. It tells the story of a poor boy who tries to make good in America in order to win the heart of a woman. The 1923 film seems to be one of the earliest examples of the silent zarzuela, which is a pretty interesting form that in the olden days involved the audience singing along to the orchestral accompaniment.

That’s probably not going to happen at the screening, which will have Blues group Glass Cherry Breakers standing in for the live orchestra.

AUGUST 31, 7:30 PM: Riddles of my Homecoming (Ang Tigmo sa Aking Pagpauli, Philippines)

With archival efforts only having started recently, our country has already lost much of its cinematic heritage. And so we must draw from more recent films for our entries to this festival. Arnel Mardoquio’s Riddles of My Homecoming follows a man’s journey into the afterlife, which according to Mindanaoan mythology, also takes him back to his home. Mardoquio crafts a lyrical, dreamlike film that speaks exclusively in the imagery of his native Mindanao.

Gauss Obenza’s award winning score hardly needs replacing, but a new live score from Kalayo (formerly known as Pinikpikan) should prove to be just as interesting.

Silent Film Festival Schedule:

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The 8th International Silent Film Festival runs from August 28 to 31 at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall.Free admission on a first come, first served basis. For more information, please call (63 2) 526-1482 or check out the Festival's Facebook Page (InternationalSilentFilmFestivalManila).

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Event Info

8th International Silent Film Festival

Instituto Cervantes, the Japan Foundation Manila, the Goethe-Institut Philippinen, the Film Development Council of the Philippines and the embassies of Italy, United States of America, and France proudly present the 8th International Silent Film Festival from August 28 to 31 at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall.
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