Curtain to rise on silent film festival’s 10th anniversary

Pic Lisa Ferguson . Alison Strauss Festival Director (dark hair) and Nicola Kettlewood Producer and Youth and Engagement Programmer.
Pic Lisa Ferguson . Alison Strauss Festival Director (dark hair) and Nicola Kettlewood Producer and Youth and Engagement Programmer.

Falkirk Community Trust has announced details of its 10th Silent Film Festival, at the Bo’ness Hippodrome between March 18-22.

Affectionately known as ‘HippFest’, this annual event is Scotland’s only festival dedicated to silent film – recently scooping two accolades in the international Silent London Poll – winning ‘Best Venue for Silent Film’ and an honourable mention as ‘Best Festival 2019’.

This year’s programme is packed with silent films featuring masked crusaders, real-life martyrs and mysterious femme fatales; world-class live music accompaniment, talks, workshops, tours and – in true Keystone fashion – a massive custard pie fight to kick off the festival.

All films at HippFest are accompanied by live music and for this 10th anniversary sees the return of skiffle and blues band the Dodge Brothers (Mike Hammond, film critic Mark Kermode, Aly Hirji, and Alex Hammond) and broadcaster, pianist and HippFest favourite Neil Brand performing the Scottish premiere of their new live score for FW Murnau’s City Girl (1930).

The event also welcomes acclaimed screen actor Paul McGann for the first time to provide live narration of the beautifully stylised, poetic intertitles that accompany the Closing Night screening of L’Homme du Large (1920). This is a powerful tale of a fisherman and his family living on the remote Breton coast and torn apart by their idle and degenerate son.

Other new performers this year include Irine Røsnes, who will join Yorkshire Silent Film Festival’s Jonny Best with a new musical collaboration to accompany Marlene Dietrich’s The Woman Men Yearn For (1929); and UK-based Australian musician Meg Morley, who will accompany The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s new, 100th anniversary restoration of The Sentimental Bloke (1919), which will be screening at HippFest just after its world premiere in Sydney in February.

This year also sees the return of Andy Cannon, one of Scotland’s leading storytellers and founder of Wee Stories Theatre, collaborating with musicians Wendy Weatherby, Frank McLaughlin and David Trouton on a new music and storytelling piece written for the world premiere of a new restoration of The Loves of Mary, Queen of Scots (1923), an extremely rare British feature film full of intrigue, betrayal and scandal.

Friday’s gala for the 10th festival is The Mark of Zorro (1920) with swashbuckling screen-idol Douglas Fairbanks as Don Diego Vega aka ‘Zorro’, the original caped crusader. Audiences are encouraged to dress ‘Zorro-esque or HippFest glamour’ and to enjoy the pre-screening birthday celebrations at a reception featuring Scotland’s own mariachi band, ‘Rapido Mariachi’.

Other screen highlights include the premiere of Laurel and Hardy’s recently restored Duck Soup, screening with two other comedy classics Two Tars and Liberty.

Danish superstar Asta Nielsen is taking the lead role in Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy Hamlet with a controversial twist as Nielsen plays a cross-dressing Hamlet whose true sex is kept secret to secure the future of the throne.

Other international highlights include Julien Duvivier’s Poil de Carotte (1925), based on Jules Renard’s famous novel about an unloved, redheaded farm boy; Ernst Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, based on Oscar Wilde’s hit play; Chinese silent A String of Pearls (Yichuan Zhenzhu) (1926), based on Guy de Maupassant’s short story The Necklace, about a social-climbing middle-class housewife who cajoles her husband into borrowing an expensive necklace to wear at a party which is then stolen.

David White, chairman of Falkirk Community Trust, said: “We are delighted to present HippFest for its 10th year. This world-class festival is packed with distinctive community events and high-profile film restorations accompanied by some of the most accomplished musicians working in this unique field.

“The organisers have pulled together a programme which will appeal to all ages, and reaching right across the community.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our core funders, local businesses, and all the film archivists, artists and musicians who work with the teams at Falkirk Community Trust to make this Festival one of Scotland’s great cultural events.”