FESTIVAL 2017: June 1–4

The Freshman on Opening Night of SFSFF 2017 wilth Berklee Silent Film Orchestra. Photo by Pamela Gentile

For four days in June, audiences thrilled to indelible live cinema events at San Francisco’s glorious silent-era movie palace, the Castro Theatre. This year brought many film restorations including three titles SFSFF had a hand in—Silence (1926) with Cinémathèque Française, The Three Musketeers (1921) with MoMA, and a fragment of the lost Wallace Beery, Louise Brooks film Now We’re in the Air (1927) with the Czech National Archive! Other restorations included Tod Browning’s 1920 Outside the Law, a film from Universal Studios Silent Film Preservation initiative; Arthur Robison’s The Informer (1929) from the British Film Institute; and Lois Weber’s The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916) starring Anna Pavlova, a restoration by the Library of Congress. 


SFSFF 2017 was dedicated to preservationist David Shepard, who died this January. Along with two feature titles Shepard was involved in restoring—The Lost World (1925) and Page of Madness (1926)—Shepard’s partner in preservation Serge Bromberg organized and presented a tribute of enchanting silent short films in a program called Magic and Mirth. 


The San Francisco Silent Film Festival Award was given to EYE Filmmuseum of the Netherlands and EYE’s Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi and Frank Roumen accepted the award on stage and introduced a spectacular restoration from their Desmet collection—Filibus!


Altogether SFSFF screened films from nine countries, including Poland, Japan, and Ukraine, and including two films directed by women!


All films at SFSFF are accompanied with live music and some of the best accompanists from around the globe converged on San Francisco for the festival. This year there were 36 extraordinary musicians, including members of the Alloy Orchestra, Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, Matti Bye Ensemble, and Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, plus Frank Bockius, Guenter Buchwald, Stephen Horne, Sascha Jacobsen and Donald Sosin—and in his SFSFF premiere, DJ Spooky. 


More than 800 people flocked to the free program, Amazing Tales from the Archives, where special guest presenters included Heather Linville (Academy Film Archive), Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi (EYE Filmmuseum), and George Willeman (Library of Congress). Special guests also introduced other programs, including Cari Beauchamp (Mary Pickford Foundation), Serge Bromberg (Lobster Films), Suzanne Lloyd (Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc), Eddie Muller (TCM, Film Noir Foundation), and Jay Weissberg (Giornate del Cinema Muto). 


Some audience responses:


“This was my ninth consecutive year traveling from NYC for the SFSFF, and it won’t be my last. I love the ambiance, the audiences, the crowd control, the music, the chances to meet friends new and old. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about the Festival is the great mix of programs, featuring the familiar classics and less well-known films. I’ve had the great chance to revisit and rediscover such works as Pandora’s Box and The Last Laugh and most recently Battleship Potemkin in ways that made me see them fresh, almost as if for the first time! And it was at SFSFF that I saw lesser known (to me at least) works as Rotaie, Mr. Fix-it, and this year’s The Doll.”

“The films presented at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival not only celebrate the origins of cinema but also showcase the international artistic talent that gave this new art form the global momentum it still enjoys today. Each year the festival proves that great storytelling never goes out of style. Accompanying each film with live musical performances is just one way that the San Francisco Silent Film Festival excels at its ability to not just entertain but also amaze and inspire.”


“High art. The pinnacle of live cinema. For newcomers and patrons alike sharing in the delight and joy of film, music, and the cultural community that truly transcends time.”


“The films at the SF Silent Film Festival always wow me. Every year, a diverse selection of rare films grace the screen at the Castro Theatre in front of many other lovers of film. It’s so well organised and well attended...it’s wonderful being in a theatre with so many enthusiastic viewers. And the guest speakers introducing the upcoming film are always great!”



SFSFF 2017 Sponsors: Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, Consulate General of Sweden SF, French American Cultural Society, Leather Gloves by Fratelli Orsini, McRoskey Mattress Company, Movette Film Transfer, Universal Studios, Wells Fargo 

SFSFF 2017 Hotel Partners: Hotel del Sol, Hotel Rex, Hotel Whitcomb, Phoenix Hotel, Queen Anne Hotel


SFSFF 2017 Grantors: The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Five Arts Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation, Ira M. Resnick Foundation, The George Lucas Family Foundation, Grants for the Arts, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Watson Trust, Words of the World Fund