Women at the Festival Diary

March 23, 2010

We are now counting down the days to the 13th British Silent Film Festival! The festival runs 15th-18th April in Leicester and the theme for this year’s event is exploration, science and nature in the British silent film.

Over the course of the four days we will be writing a women-focused festival diary, highlighting films and presentations of especial interest to this site. To whet your appetites in the meantime though, read more about some of women involved in cinema and science, exploration and/or nature…

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See Festival flyer and other info.

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2 Responses to “Women at the Festival Diary”

  1. Nathalie Says:

    Days 1 & 2

    ‘Exploration, Science and Nature’ has already proven itself to be a rich and productively strange theme. So far we have ben treated to fantastical features (the 1926 adaptation of H Rider Haggard’s She with American star Betty Blythe in lots of diaphanous outfits, plus brilliant production design and a bonkers plot; and The Lost World US, 1935), an imaginative interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s dinosaur fable); a look at early wildlife films (‘Birdman, Beeman, Hunter, Spy); a selection of films and images depicting various Polar (Arctic and Antarctic) expeditions (including a feature presentation of Frank Hurley’s film of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, South, with beautiful music from Neil Brand on piano and Gunter Buchwald on violin); a recreation of the American journalist and showman Lowell Hunter’s illustrated lecture With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia; and much more.

    Women have only had a slight look in so far – last night’s (Thursday) evening screening was The Sheik (1921) the famously steamy desert-set romance featuring Rudolph Valentino as a sexy but sadistic Arab lover, based on the 1919 novel by E M Hull. You can read more about E M Hull in this piece by Amy Sargeant. As the programme notes pointed out, quoting from the American Film Institute Catalog:
    ‘Here is romance Red-Hot. If you have read the story, you will go to see the filmization. If you haven’t you will go anyway. This is popular entertainment -that and nothing more. But that is enough. The best-selling story by E M Hull, scoffed at by the higher-browed critics, but read and re-read by two thirds of the women in this country, has been made into a very exciting, very old-fasioned photo play.’

    Today (Friday) we saw Sam’s Boy, a Lydia Hayward/Manning Hayes adaptation of a W W Jacobs story. This gentle comedy, telling the story of a parentless urchin who latches on to a seaman, the eponymous Sam, delighted the audience with its acting, dialogue and canine capers. Actor/screenwriter Kate Gurney also makes an appearance as the main character’s wife, pointing out to her friend that “All ‘usbands is good ‘usbands until you find them out”.

  2. Ben Says:

    Hi Nathalie,

    I enjoyed reading this and agree with all your thoughts here! It was a great festival this year! I particularly liked the variety of different kinds of film, which included short travel and nature films, alongside feature length documentaries, comedies and drama. I like the way the festival doesn’t appear to be too formally ‘organised’, into e.g. different categories for different days. It allows you to make your own connections between films I think… I’m in my third year of coming to the festival and love the community spirit too. I’m already looking forward to next year!

    There were so many great films, but some favourites for me were She, Sam’s Boy, Tol’able David and Beggars of Life. All of these films really are forgotten masterpieces. South was also terrific.

    All of the musical accompaniment was of the highest quality too. It’s such a privilege to have so many great accompanists playing along in film after film.

    As a final note I would like to add that Michael Eaton’s documentary The Masks of Mer was a surprising standout at the festival. Not knowing what to expect I found myself gripped by the story of the world’s first anthropological film (from 1898!) The film engages with subtle ideas about the nature of anthropology and cinema. It’s roughly 60 minutes in length and would fit very well on BBC Three or Four.


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