Rare films mark Silent Film Festival

MUMBAI: Rare films from around the globe marked the 16th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) in the last weekend.

The festival, that had wide-ranging featuring films from Sweden, Japan, Germany, Italy, England, and Russia, was marked by the world premiere of a newly-restored Douglas Fairbanks film from 1918, Mr. Fix-It that was written and directed by Allan Dwan. Another world premiere was a restoration of Lois Weber‘s Shoes from 1916. 

It also came to light that it was only through the determination and research of Cole Johnson and David Gerstein that two early Disney animated shorts were discovered hiding in plain sight at the Museum of Modern Art.

When British distributor Wardour Films acquired them in the early-talkie era they retitled Goldilocks and the Three Bears as The Peroxide Kid and Jack the Giant Killer became The K.O. Kid. 

As he did at the recent TCM Classic Film Festival, Disney scholar J.B. Kaufman presented these and all of Walt‘s other early Kansas City animated shorts in an entertaining program co-sponsored by San Francisco‘s Walt Disney Family Museum.

Then on Sunday, film historian Kevin Brownlow gave a fascinating illustrated lecture about his lifelong fascination with Napoleon and traced his herculean efforts to piece the neglected film back together.

Every year, the SFSFF invites a contemporary filmmaker who appreciates silent films to participate as well. This year, it was the chance of Alexander Payne, the talented and articulate writer-director (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways) who delivered a speech about his introduction to silent films as a boy and his ongoing admiration for them.

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