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Press Room

Press Release: November 19, 2009

PRESS NOTICE: For Immediate Release


The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is pleased to announce several special guests to attend the fifth annual Winter Event on Saturday, December 12 at the Castro Theatre.

Melissa Cox, granddaughter of Buster Keaton, will grace the festival with her presence at the 7:00 pm presentation of Keaton's magnificent Sherlock Jr., which will be playing with his brilliant short The Goat. Interviewing Ms. Cox on the Castro's stage will be actor/director/writer Frank Buxton, who acted in a Summerstock production with Keaton. Buxton, whose resumé includes writing What's Up, Tiger Lily? with Woody Allen, and writing and directing many episodes of  television's The Odd Couple, has a distinct, hilarious take on comedy in Hollywood.

Preservationist Robert Byrne, who worked this summer with the restoration team at Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, will introduce the North American Premiere of the Filmmuseum's beautiful restoration of Abel Gance's J'Accuse. Not only is the festival the first place outside of Holland and Italy to screen the restoration, but this version—the complete, original cut of Gance's seminal film—has never before been seen in this country! J'Accuse screens at 2:00 pm.

New York Times bestselling author Mark Vaz will introduce Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness at the 11:30 am screening. Vaz wrote Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong.

Also invited, Ron Chaney, great-grandson of Lon Chaney.

The complete schedule for the Silent Film Festival Winter Event, December 12:

11:30 AM
Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness

Cast: Kru, Chantui, Nah, Ladah, Bimbo
Produced and Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, USA, 1927
35mm print from Milestone Film & Video. Approximately 68 minutes

Shot entirely in Siam (present-day Thailand), Schoedsack and Cooper's thrilling adventure is clearly the prototype for their later masterpiece King Kong—and a spellbinding success in its own right. The publicity of the time touted a cast of 500 native hunters, 400 elephants, tigers, leopards, pythons, and other denizens of the wild! Chang is a simple story of one family's survival on their small farm on the edge of the jungle—a way of life that often pits them against forces of nature. The film was nominated (along with Murnau's Sunrise and Vidor's The Crowd) for “Artistic Quality of Production” at the first ever Academy Awards.

Donald Sosin will accompany Chang on the piano with an original score

Introduced by Mark Vaz

2:00 PM
North American Premiere!

Cast: Romauld Joubé, Séverin-Mars, Maryse Dauvray, Maxime Dejardins
Directed by Abel Gance, France, 1919
35mm Print from Netherlands Filmmuseum. Approximately 162 minutes

Abel Gance's brilliant pacifist epic is set against the backdrop of the Great War, delineating the tragedy of that war's waste and carnage. Gance returned to active service in 1918 to film actual battle scenes and his expressionistic camerawork and rapid-cut editing are revolutionary, but the heart and soul of J'accuse is the romantic triangle between poet Jean Diaz (Joubé), his beloved Edith (Dauvray), and her husband François Laurin (Séverin-Mars). Though a huge hit in France, the film was truncated for its American release to blunt its antiwar message, and it flopped. Gance's original cut has been long unavailable until this major restoration made possible by Lobster Films Studios and Netherlands Filmmuseum.

Robert Israel will perform his original orchestral score adapted to play on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

7:00 PM
Sherlock Jr.

Cast: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, Ward Crane
Directed by Buster Keaton, USA, 1924
35mm Print from David Shepard, courtesy of Douris UK, Ltd. Approximately 45 minutes

 One of the great movies of all time about the movies—impeccably scripted, beautifully filmed, funny, moving—by one of the great geniuses of cinema, Buster Keaton. Keaton plays a cinema projectionist who dreams of being a famous detective. When he's framed for petty theft by a rival for his sweetheart's affection, Buster nods off on the job and his dream comes true—he projects himself onto the screen as Sherlock Jr., the world's greatest detective who's on the trail of the stolen watch. A brilliant meditation on the nature of the cinema, Sherlock Jr. contains some of the most astonishing effects ever put on film.

With: The Goat (Directed by Buster Keaton and Malcolm St. Clair, USA, 1921, 35mm Print from David Shepard, courtesy of Douris UK, Ltd. Approximately 25 minutes)

Dennis James will accompany these Keaton classics on the Mighty Wurlitzer, aided by foley artist Todd Manley with special sound effects.

 Guests: Melissa Cox, granddaughter of Buster Keaton, and Frank Buxton

9:15 PM
West of Zanzibar

Cast: Lon Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Nolan, Warner Baxter
Directed by Tod Browning, USA, 1928
35mm Print from Warner Bros. Approximately 65 minutes.

Like The Unknown (2008's Directors Pick) West of Zanzibar is an inspired partnership between director Tod Browning and actor Lon Chaney. Chaney has never been more affecting than in this fever-pitched nightmare of betrayal and revenge. Moving from the vaudeville stage to the jungles of the Congo, West of Zanzibar tells its story of darkness and redemption with great skill and beauty, investing each of its desperate characters with depth and humanity.

Dennis James will accompany on the Mighty Wurlitzer.


The Silent Film Festival is a nonprofit organization promoting the artistic, cultural, and historic value of 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.

The 15th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival will take place July 15-18, 2010 at the Castro Theatre. Reserve the date!

Anita Monga, Artistic Director
Telephone: 510-843-4245

For information, please visit our website in early November.

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Lady of the Pavements (1929)

Lady of the Pavements (1929)