23rd San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the Castro Theatre, May 30–June 3, 2018

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) announced today the complete lineup for its 23rd edition. Adding a fifth day to the annual celebration of art of live cinema (silent-era films with live musical accompaniment), the festival will take place May 30 to June 3, 2018 at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

The largest, most prestigious festival devoted to silent film in the Americas, SFSFF will present twenty-three programs, all with live musical accompaniment, including eleven recent film restorations. Ten of those restorations will make their North American premieres at the festival and four are SFSFF projects.

Films from nine countries will be represented at the festival (Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Sweden, USA, and the USSR), and more than 40 musicians from around the world will accompany the films. The musicians include: the Berklee Silent Film Festival (student composers, conductors, and players, from the Berklee College of Music in Boston), Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius  (Germany), Sascha Jacobsen and the Musical Art Quintet (San Francisco), Stephen Horne (UK), Matti Bye Ensemble (quintet from Sweden and Finland), Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (Colorado), Donald Sosin (New York), and Alicia Svigals (New York).

The 2018 San Francisco Silent Film Festival Awaard will be presented to Jon Wengström and the Swedish Film Institute at the premiere of the SFI’s new restoration of The Saga of Gösta Berling on Saturday, June 2, 7:00 pm. The film marks Greta Garbo’s first starring role!

The festival will begin on Wednesday, May 30 with a special presentation of Universal Pictures’ new restoration of Paul Leni’s 1928 The Man Who Laughs. Leni’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1869 novel about a man disfigured from childhood stands with the great masterworks of the silent era. This presentation also marks the world premiere of a commissioned score by Berklee College of Music’s Silent Film Orchestra.

To close the festival on Sunday, June 3, SFSFF will present the North American premiere of Cineteca di Bologna’s restoration (in collaboration with Cohen Film Collection) of Buster Keaton’s Battling Butler, which will be accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Keaton considered this sparkling comedy his personal favorite among his works.

Complete information is available at www.silentfilm.org


May 30, 7:00 pm | Opening Night
111 minutes | $24 general / $22 member
USA, 1928, d. Paul Leni
Cast: Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Julius Molnar, Olga Baclanova
Spellbinding in its visual acuity and psychological depth, director Paul Leni’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1869 novel about a man disfigured from childhood stands with the great masterworks of the silent era.
Live musical accompaniment by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
Restoration by Universal Pictures

May 30, 9:00 pm | Opening Night Party
120 minutes | $25 general / $20 member
Combo Film and Party: $45 general / $37 member

  • Special added program May 30, 3:00 pm: Jon Wengström of the Swedish Film Institute (this year’s SFSFF Award recipient) will present an illustrated lecture with rare Greta Garbo footage at the PFA, Berkeley with Stephen Horne on piano. Info: bampfa.org

May 31, 10:00 am
Amazing Tales from the Archives
100 minutes | Free
Join us for another edition of our popular free program—a behind-the-curtain look at the international preservation scene! Sharing their amazing preservation tales are Deutsche Kinemathek’s Martin Koerber, who, with Weimar film scholar Cynthia Walk, will talk about the complete reworking of E.A. Dupont’s The Ancient Law (screening on Sunday); Davide Pozzi from L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, whose Kinemacolor presentation will examine the first successful color process for motion pictures; and Elżbieta Wysocka of Filmoteka Narodowa, with SFSFF’s Robert Byrne and Russell Merritt, will share the detective story that led to the rediscovery and restoration of Richard Oswald’s German version of The Hound of the Baskervilles (screening on Saturday).
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin

May 31, 1:00 pm
45 minutes / with short: 62 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
USA, 1925, d. Lloyd Ingraham
Cast: Harry Carey, Lillian Rich, Paul Weigel, Francis Ford
Harry Carey plays small-town sheriff Pat Halahan, who comes into an inheritance and travels to San Francisco to collect. All hell breaks out in the crime-ridden metropolis, but Sheriff Pat holds his own, gets the girl, and saves the day!
With short: Detained (1924, d. Scott Pembroke, starring Stan Laurel, 17 m.)
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Soft Shoes restoration funded through a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation with additional funding from the SFSFF Film Preservation Fund. Film restored by by SFSFF in partnership with Národní Filmový Archiv (Prague) and is based on the nitrate print preserved at the archive.

May 31, 2:45 pm
107 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
Denmark, 1925, d. Carl Th. Dreyer
Cast: Johannes Meyer, Astrid Holm, Mathilde Nielsen, Karin Nellemose
Several years before his piercing drama The Passion of Joan of Arc, Danish master Carl Th. Dreyer made this exquisite comedy. When downsized husband Viktor (Johannes Meyer) becomes an autocrat at home, his wife Ida (Astrid Holm) and wily family nanny Mads (Mathilde Nielsen) turn the tables, deftly puncturing Viktor’s sense of entitlement and restoring domestic equilibrium.
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Print courtesy of the Danish Film Institute

May 31, 5:15 pm
80 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
Japan, 1935, d. Yasujirô Ozu
Cast: Takeshi Sakamoto, Yoshiko Okada, Chôko Iida, Tomio Aoki
Ozu’s poetic masterpiece follows a single father (Takeshi Sakamoto) who wanders the industrial outskirts of Tokyo looking for work with his two young boys in tow. The story is told with great delicacy and humor, the characters drawn with such vivid humanity, that, like most of Ozu’s oeuvre, Inn bristles with life-affirming truth.
Live musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius
Print courtesy of Janus Films

May 31, 7:15 pm
73 minutes | $24 general / $22 member
Germany, 1930, d. Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann
Years before their eventual Hollywood successes, a group of young German filmmakers took to the streets of Berlin to create “a film without actors.” A descendant of the “city symphony” films of the 1920s, People follows a coterie of city dwellers (an appealing cast of non-professionals) who go on a weekend outing. In its blending of fiction and documentary, the film is both charming and lyrical—and a breathtaking portrait of Weimar Berlin on the cusp of the rise of the Nazis.
Live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Print courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek, with permission of Janus Films

May 31, 9:15 pm
83 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
France, 1929, d. Jean Grémillon
Cast: Paul Fromet, Geymond Vital, Genica Athanasiou, Gabrielle Fontan, Maria Fromet
A raging sea strands a man and his son in a lighthouse off the coast of Brittany in this silent French masterpiece. As the film unfolds it becomes apparent that the son is suffering from rabies and getting progressively worse. Based on a one-act play created for the Théâtre du Grand Guignol, director Grémillon limns the horrific psychological details without resorting to guignolesque excess.
Live musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius
Print courtesy of National Film Centre of Tokyo

June 1, 10:00 am
60 minutes | $14 general / $12 member
USA, 1920, d. Roy William Neill
Cast: Constance Talmadge, Vincent Coleman, Ned Sparks, Nellie P. Spaulding
One of the brightest comedic stars of the silent era, Constance Talmadge plays a penniless, yet cheerful single gal who can’t find work because of her lack of references—until she impersonates a sick friend and gets a job as secretary to an elderly socialite. And then things really go downhill!
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Restoration by UCLA Film and Television Archive from an original nitrate print discovered at the Národni Filmový Archiv in Prague

June 1, 12:00 noon
65 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
USA, 1925, d. B.F. Stanley
Cast: Alice Calhoun, Robert Frazer, Helen Lee Worthing, Gertrude Short
Robert Marshall’s dying utterance seems to point to Colman Colby (Robert Frazer) as his killer. Colby is arrested and at trial all testimony points to his guilt. But as the jury deliberates, the unfairly named “other woman” (Helen Lee Worthing) sets out to prove his innocence.
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Restoration by SFSFF using materials preserved at the Library of Congress, Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation with funding by David Stenn
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

June 1, 2:00 pm
70 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
From the collection of Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Films
Included in this program of films from the extraordinary Unseen Cinema collection: Anémic Cinéma (1924-26, Marcel Duchamp); [Pas de deux] Looney Lens (1924, Fox Movietone); a Slavko Vorkapich montage with four sequences (1928–34); A Bronx Morning (1931, Jay Leyda); The Life and Death of 9413–A Hollywood Extra (1927, Robert Florey); Hände (1927, Mikos Bandy and Stella F. Simon); and 1931 Mexican footage by Sergei Eisenstein.
Live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble
Prints courtesy of Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941, a collaborative film preservation and restoration project by Anthology Film Archive, New York, and Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt-am Main, with generous support by Cineric, Inc., Eastman Kodak Company, and Film Preservation Associates
Live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble

June 1, 4:15
90 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
USA, 1923, d. Ernst Lubitsch
Cast: Mary Pickford, Holbrook Blinn, Irene Rich
Mary Pickford brought German director Ernst Lubitsch to Hollywood to direct her in Rosita, his first American film and their only collaboration. Pickford plays a Seville street singer who catches the eye of the comically lecherous Spanish king. MoMA’s restoration has returned this legendary film to a form as close as possible to its original release.
Live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Restoration by MoMA with funding provided by the Louis B. Mayer Foundation, Mary Pickford Foundation, RT Features, and The Film Foundation

June 1, 6:30 pm
133 minutes | $24 general / $22 member
Germany, 1929, d. Piel Jutzi
Cast: Alexandra Schmidt, Holmes Zimmermann, Ilse Trautschold
Mother Krause shares a tenement apartment in Berlin’s Wedding district with her grown children, a shady lodger, his prostitute lover, and her child. She ekes out a living by selling newspapers, but when son Paul drinks up her earnings, desperation sets in. This Weimar masterpiece inspired R.W. Fassbinder’s 1975 Mutter Küsters’ Fahrt zum Himmel.
Restoration by the Munich Film Archive who reconstructed the film combining materials from the only remaining nitrate prints. The print has original intertitles in Berliner dialect.
Live musical accompaniment by Sascha Jacobsen and the Musical Art Quintet

June 1, 9:30
121 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
Japan, 1933, d. Tomu Uchida
Cast: Eiji Nakano, Isamu Kosugi, Taisuke Matsumoto
One of the few pre-WWII films of Tomu Uchida to survive reveals the Japanese director’s astonishing range. A stylish crime drama melding the fast pace of Hollywood with the fluid, evocative camerawork of the Germans is a gripping story of two childhood friends who grow to be on opposite sides of the law.
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Print courtesy of the National Film Centre of Tokyo

June 2, 10:00 am
65 minutes | $14 general / $12 member
USA, 1926, d. Lewis Seiler
Cast: Tom Mix, Tony the Horse, Eva Novak, Frank Campeau, Michael D. Moore
Tom Mix was the first authentic cowboy to become a Hollywood Western star, appearing in nearly 300 films—almost all silent. One of the best titles Mix made for Fox Films, No Man’s Gold is a fast-paced actioneer featuring adventure, romance, and gorgeous Death Valley and Alabama Hills locations.
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin and Frank Bockius
Print courtesy of Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague

June 2, 12:00 noon
111 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
USA, 1926, d. Rex Ingram
Cast: Alice Terry, Antonio Moreno
Espionage, romance, and submarine warfare come together in this story, loosely based on Mata Hari, from the author of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Filmed in director Rex Ingram’s Nice studio and on Mediterranean locations, John Seitz’s luminous photography is shown to full effect in this tinted print.
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius

June 2, 2:45 pm
52 minutes, with short: 62 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
Italy, 1922, d. Eugenio Perego
Cast: Leda Gys, Suzanne Fabre, Gian Paolo Rosmino, Claudio Mari, Carlo Reiter
This effervescent comedy features one of the first starring roles for Leda Gys, Italy’s most-loved diva. Here she plays the irrepressible Leda Bardi, who goes from orphan to film star, poking gentle fun at convent life, movie production, and screen goddesses along the way.
With short: San Francisco, 1906 (newly discovered post-Earthquake footage!), screening in conjunction with Silver Shadows and the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Print courtesy of Cineteca Italiana, Milano

June 2, 4:45 pm
65 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
Germany, 1929, d. Richard Oswald
Cast: Carlyle Blackwell, Alexander Murski, Livio Pavanelli, Fritz Rasp
SFSFF is pleased to return Richard Oswald’s German version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles to the Sherlockian canon. Long considered lost, this version was the last silent Sherlock Holmes film ever made and is considered the most important Hound produced in Europe.
Live musical accompaniment by the Guenter Buchwald Ensemble
SFSFF restoration in partnership with Filmoteka Narodowa – Instytut Audiowizualn (Poland), based on film materials conserved at the archive.

June 2, 7:00 pm
200 minutes | $24 general / $22 member
Sweden, 1924, d. Mauritz Stiller
Cast: Lars Hanson, Greta Garbo, Sven Scholander, Ellen Hartman-Cederström
Along with Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller was a leading force behind the golden age of Swedish cinema. And his discovery of the young Greta Gustafsson gave the world the dazzling film star Greta Garbo! This is Garbo’s first starring role and she is radiant opposite the superb Lars Hanson as the defrocked minister.
Live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble
Restoration by the Swedish Film Institute
>>Preceding the screening, the 2018 SFSFF Award will be presented to Jon Wengström and the Swedish Film Institute.
>>There will be a 30-minute intermission at approximately 8:45 pm

June 3, 10:00 am
65 minutes | $14 general / $12 members
A selection of short silents from Lobster Films—including several in 3D!
Included are Georges Méliès’s Robinson Crusoe (1902) and The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906); and in 3D, a Lumière Brothers stereoscopic selection and accidental 3Ds by Georges Méliès—The Oracle of Delphi (1903), The Infernal Cauldron, and The Mysterious Retort (1906). Plus, a stereoscopic demonstration from 1900, and a surprise or two!
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin

June 3, 12:00 noon
74 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
India, 1929, d. Franz Osten
Cast: Seeta Devi, Humansu Rai, Charu Roy
Inspired by a tale in the Mahabharata, A Throw of Dice tells the story of two kings vying for the hand of a young woman. Filmed entirely on location in India, the film features Indian screen legends in the starring roles, a cast of more than 10,000 extras, and stunning visuals that capture exquisite landscapes.
Live musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius
Print courtesy of the British Film Institute

June 3, 2:15 pm
129 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
Germany, 1923, d. E.A. Dupont
Cast: Henny Porten, Ruth Weyher, Hermann Vallentin, Ernst Deutsch
Ancient Law takes on the theme of Jewish assimilation in 19th-century Europe as it contrasts the closed world of shtetl life with liberal society. With its depiction of a rabbi’s son who breaks with family tradition to become an actor, this 1923 film was clearly the inspiration for the 1927 American film The Jazz Singer.
Live musical accompaniment by the Donald Sosin Ensemble with Alicia Svigals
Restoration by Deutsche Kinemathek

June 3, 5:30 pm
109 minutes | $17 general / $15 member
USSR, 1929, d. Fridrikh Ermler
Cast: Fiodor Nikitin, Yakov Gudkin, Liudmila Semionova, Vaelerii Solotsov
A shell-shocked World War I soldier regains his memory after ten years and returns home to St. Petersburg, finding peace and justice but also heart-wrenching change. An exhilarating hymn of solidarity, this masterpiece has long been available only in truncated prints missing its most celebrated imagery—until now!
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius
Restoration by SFSFF, EYE Filmmuseum, and Gosfilmofond of Russia, based on materials preserved by EYE Filmmuseum and Cinémathèque Suisse

June 3, 8:00 pm
74 minutes | $24 general / $22 member
USA, 1926, d. Buster Keaton
Cast: Buster Keaton, Snitz Edwards, Sally O’Neil, Walter James
This sparkling comedy has Keaton as a wealthy fop who takes a high-end camping trip, meets a country girl, falls in love, and proposes marriage. When her he-man father won’t consent to a union with such a weakling, Buster masquerades as a prizefighter (who happens to share his name) to win the day.
Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Restoration by Cineteca di Bologna in collaboration with Cohen Collection


Based at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the all-student BERKLEE SILENT FILM ORCHESTRA composes and performs under the leadership of Alison Plante.

Conductor, composer, pianist, and violinist GUENTER BUCHWALD is a pioneer of the renaissance in silent film music. He has provided live accompaniment for thousands of titles, playing at festivals worldwide from Berlin to Tokyo, both solo and with other musicians through his Silent Movie Music Company. Percussionist FRANK BOCKIUS joined Buchwald’s Silent Movie Music Company twenty years ago and has since performed for silent films around the world. Bockius will accompany Buchwald and several other performers this year.

Principally a pianist, STEPHEN HORNE often incorporates flute, accordion, and various other instruments into his performances, sometimes playing them simultaneously. Horne is considered one of the world’s leading silent film accompanists.

Led by bassist and composer Sascha Jacobsen, SASCHA JACOBSEN AND THE MUSICAL ART QUINTET also features Matthew Szemela and Michele Walther on violin, Keith Lawrence on viola, and Lews Patzner on cello. For his compositions, Jacobsen draws on a wealth of musical styles from classical to jazz.

Playing a variety of instruments that include piano, glockenspiel, violin, and percussion, the MATTI BYE ENSEMBLE is led by Matti Bye, silent-movie pianist at the Swedish Film Institute since 1989 and one of his country’s leading film composers. The ensemble members include Kristian Holmgren, Helena Espvall, Lotta Johannson, and Laura Naukkarinen.

Reviving the tradition of silent-film orchestras, MONT ALTO MOTION PICTURE ORCHESTRA culls historic libraries of music for live musical accompaniment. Rodney Sauer, Britt Swenson, David Short, Brian Collins, and Dawn Kramer have recorded and toured widely, creating vibrant and historically appropriate musical scores.

DONALD SOSIN scores silent films for major festivals, archives, and DVD recordings and is the resident accompanist at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Violinist ALICIA SVIGALS is the world’s leading klezmer fiddler, a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics who she led for seventeen years, and a composer who was selected to be a 2014 MacDowell Fellow.


Preservationist SERGE BROMBERG is the founder of Paris-based Lobster Films, where he has collected and preserved thousands of titles. Bromberg travels the globe presenting rare films with a showman’s flair.

SFSFF 2018 Award recipient JON WENGSTRÖM is curator of the archival film collections at the Swedish Film Institute, Stockholm.

This year’s Amazing Tales from the Archives presenters include: CYNTHIA WALK, Associate Professor Emerita, UC San Diego; MARTIN KOERBER, head of the department of Audiovisual Heritage at the Deutsche Kinemathek; SFSFF Board President and independent film preservationist ROBERT BYRNE and RUSSELL MERRITT, Professor in the Film Studies Department at UC Berkeley and member of the SFSFF board; ELŻBIETA WYSOCKA, head of film restoration and digital repository at Filmoteka Narodowa in Warsaw; and DAVIDE POZZI, Director at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna.

* Tickets Information, Festival Dates and Public Contact Numbers
The 23rd San Francisco Silent Film Festival will take place May 30-June 3, 2018 at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco. For complete ticket information, please visit the San Francisco Silent Film Festival at silentfilm.org. The all-festival PASS is available for $260 general / $230 member. For group sales, call 415-777-4908 ext.1.

* For more information, visit the SFSFF website at silentfilm.org.