LE GIORNATE DEL CINEMA MUTO
also known as THE PORDENONE SILENT FILM FESTIVAL
is devoted to films made before the advent of sound. New productions (on film or video) can be also shown, provided they are about that period.
LE GIORNATE DEL CINEMA MUTO
also known as
THE PORDENONE SILENT FILM FESTIVAL
Created in 1982 as a collaborative effort between La Cineteca del Friuli - a film archive located in the town of Gemona and member of FIAF (Federation Internationale des Archives du Film) - and the Cinemazero filmclub in Pordenone, the Giornate del Cinema Muto, aka Pordenone Silent Film Festival, has established itself as the leading international event dedicated to the preservation, diffusion, and study of the first thirty years of cinema.
Every year in October, upwards of 1000 visitors from across the world, ranging from academics, archivists and critics to private enthusiasts and collectors, gather for a weekly marathon of screenings, all accompanied by live piano, ensemble and orchestral music.
From 1985 to 1998, the festival's venue was the Cinema Verdi in Pordenone, a picture palace from the great post-war era of Italian cinema-going. Following the local authorities' decision to demolish the Verdi, in 1999 the Giornate moved to the Teatro Zancanaro in Sacile (15 km from Pordenone), a well-equipped modern auditorium behind the older facade of a theatre which has been presenting films since 1911. In October 2007 the festival moved back to Pordenone and to the new Verdi theatre.
Since its inception, the Pordenone Silent Film Festival has covered all aspects of early film history, ranging from the classical Hollywood cinema to avant-garde and animation. "These gatherings," write Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell in Film History: An Introduction, "have revolutionized the study of silent cinema... The Silent Film Festival has helped emphasize how crucial the preservation and availability of early films are to our knowledge of cinema history."
The first retrospective, focussing on French comedian Max Linder, was organized as a true labor of love, with a shoestring budget and an audience of eight patrons. Today, the screenings are attended by several hundreds of people from all continents.
Over the years of its existence, the festival has stimulated and assisted the process of recovering and restoring the film heritage, which is the vital role of the world's film archives. Thanks to the extraordinary periodic meeting of expertise at the Giornate, lost films have been rediscovered, orphan reels have been identified, and chance personal encounters have led to restoration projects.
The Gosfilmofond archives in Moscow revealed in 1989 - for the first time outside the former Soviet Union - the treasures of Russian cinema before the 1917 revolution. A spectacular collection of early European films found in the Komiya Collection was presented in 1992, thanks to the generous contribution of the National Film Center in Tokyo.
Exhaustive retrospectives were devoted to silent cinema in Australia and New Zealand (1993); India (1994); China (1995 and 1997); Israeal (1995); former Yugoslavia (1988); Scandinavia (1986, 1999, 2006), Germany (1990, 2007), Japan (2001 and 2005).
Retrospectives on Italian comedians, the American production of the Teens, the French company Eclair, the world film production in the year 1913, Mack Sennett, Thomas Ince, Roscoe Arbuckle, Frank Borzage, Walt Disney, Augusto Genina, funny ladies, Feuillade, Cooper & Schoedsack, Dziga Vertov, Antoine, Rene Clair, Ladislas Starevich, etc. were also held.
In 1997 the Giornate began a multi-year challenging project which continued up to 2008 and which involved the screening of all the hundreds of films made by David W. Griffith from 1907 to 1931.
The quality of film presentation - on a very large screen, with state-of-the-art equipment and variable speed control - is enhanced by the music performed for each program. A staff of seven talented pianists (affectionately called "The Magnificent Seven") from different countries play improvised, original or contemporary music throughout the entire event. While inviting the leading orchestral conductors of silent film music (Carl Davis, Gillian B. Anderson, John Lanchbery, Timothy Brock), the Pordenone Festival has often acted as a talent scout for individual performers and groups, ranging from the British one-man band Adrian Johnston to the American percussionists of the Alloy Orchestra. Experimental and contemporary music is also represented (original scores have been written and performed by famous composers such as Wim Mertens and John Cale). In 1990 a benshi performance (by Ms Midori Sawato) was among the highlights of the programme, an experience that was successfully repeated in 2001. In 2003, the Giornate audience could appreciate Giuni Russo's unique soprano voice when she accompanied The Song of Naples, a film directed in 1926 by Roberto Leone Roberti (father of Sergio Leone).
Annual exhibitions on selected topics related to each year's program are also organized. At least some of them need to be mentioned. In 2000, "Erich von Stroheim: A Life Revealed", curated by Rick Schmidlin, featured over a hundred never before seen private photos, personal costume design dreawings and documents from the family files of Erich von Stroheim. In 2003, "Distant, Difficult, and Dangerous: The Life and Films of Merian C. Cooper", curated by James V. D'Arc, displayed artefacts and documents from the Merian C. Cooper Papers, Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections, Brigham Young University. In October 2006, "Chaplin's Shadow" featured photographs and documents from the precious collection of Toraichi Kono (1885-1971), who for two decades played an important role in the life of Charles Chaplin.
An annual prize, the Jean Mitry Award, is given every year to scholars and archivists in recognition of their work in preserving, interpreting and promoting the silent film heritage. The first recipients were Kevin Brownlow and David Gill (1986), while the 2007 winners were John Canemaker and Madeline Fitzgerald Matz.
The current prestige of the Silent Film Festival derives also from its books, programs and brochures, many of which are regarded today as basic reference works in the field. The books published by the Giornate include essential reference works such as Silent Witnesses: Russian Films, 1908-1919 (1989), the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award winner Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney (1992), the fascinating anthology Light and Movement: Incunabula of the Motion Picture (1995), the entertaining I Want to See This Annie Mattygraph: A Cartoon History of the Coming of the Movies (1995), the monumental filmography Edison Motion Pictures, 1890-1900 (1997) and Yuri Tsivian's Lines of Resistance - Dziga Vertov and the Twenties (2004), covering almost everything about Vertov. In October 2006, for the 25th anniversary of the Giornate, La Cineteca del Friuli published another first class piece of research by animation specialists Russell Merritt and J.B. Kaufman, Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series.
The Giornate's latest publication is Alexander Shiryaev, Master of Movement (2009), edited by Birgit Beumers, Victor Bocharov and David Robinson and following on the Giornate's 2008 presentation of Shiryaev's entire surviving film works. The book, which incorporates Shiryaev's own memoirs, here available in English for the first time, reveals the importance of his work as dancer and teacher at the Imperial Russian Ballet in St Petersburg. It was his desire to record ballet that led him to take up film-making and to become not just one of the earliest but also one of the most inspired animation artists in film history.
The Pordenone Silent Film Festival is a non-profit association, whose president is Livio Jacob. The director (appointed in 1997) is David Robinson. The other members of the festival board are Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli, Piero Colussi, Luciano De Giusti, Carlo Montanaro, Piera Patat.
The festival is non-competitive. An annual prize, the Jean Mitry Award, is given every year to scholars and archivists in recognition of their work in preserving, interpreting and promoting the silent film heritage. The first recipients were Kevin Brownlow and David Gill (1986), while the most recent winners are:
Henry Bousquet, Yuri Tsivian (2005)
Roland Cosandey, Laurent Mannoni (2006)
John Canemaker & Madeline Fitzgerald Matz (2007)
Laura Minici Zotti & AFRHC (2008)
Maud Linder & "Les Amis de Georges Meliès" (2009)
Closed to the public
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