The Silent Film Festival: A nonprofit organization promoting the artistic, cultural, and historic value of silent film.

Silent Film

Silent filmmakers produced masterpieces and crowd-thrilling entertainments. Remarkable for their artistry and their inestimable value as historical documents, silent films show us how our ancestors thought, spoke, dressed and lived. It is through these films that the world first came to love movies, and learned how to appreciate them as art. They have influenced every generation of filmmakers, and continue to inspire audiences nearly a century after they were made.


We believe the best way to truly appreciate the power and beauty of a silent film is by seeing it as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen with live musical accompaniment. For fifteen years, we’ve hand-selected the finest 35mm prints, engaged leading musicians to compose and perform live era-authentic musical scores, and invited filmmakers, authors, stars, archivists, and scholars to provide context and commentary for each film.

We are committed to exploring the broad spectrum of silent film. Our programming is a lively and thought-provoking mix of education and entertainment which combines established American classics, lesser-known gems, rare and/or recently restored films, and important international work, including films from China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Italy, France, and Russia.

Each year, we work to make sure audiences know, see, and continue to value silent film. Our current activities include:

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is held every July at The Castro Theatre and is the largest silent film festival in the country. In 2010, our fifteenth year, we expanded the festival to four days and eighteen programs.

An all-day “mini-festival” in the winter.

The publication of original educational materials on each film we show. In some cases, these materials mark the first published work on the subject.

Co-presentations of silent films with other organizations involved in San Francisco’s film festival scene.

Public educational panels featuring experts in film history and preservation.

Consultation with artists and organizations to encourage and support recognition of the thematic and cultural diversity of silent film.

Our History

Melissa Chittick and Stephen Salmons founded the The Silent Film Festival in 1992. Over 1,800 people came to the first festival, and annual attendance has grown over the years to nearly 11,000. The organization now involves a nine-person board of directors, a staff of four, a twenty-two-member Advisory Committee, and more than 100 event volunteers.

The Iron Horse

The Iron Horse

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