National Silent Film Day cuts through the noise for silent films.
In its inaugural celebration this year, NSMD will celebrate the cinematic form on September 29 and encourage audience participation by hosting film screenings, sharing movie titles on social media and launching online campaigns. In honor of the holidays, the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s virtual screening room will host a screening of restored shorts featuring American silent actor Harold Lloyd, presented by NSMD co-hosts Brandee Cox and Steven Hill and followed by a post-screening conversation between Hill and Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd. Working on the restoration and preservation of silent films over the past 15 years, Hill said he aims to involve the younger generations in the appreciation of these films through the NSMD.
âFor me, the main reasons for creating National Silent Film Day were first to give visibility to a neglected chapter of moving images to a larger audience and second, to give that particular audience a reason to. reassess silent film as an art form, âHill said. noted.
While silent films present storytelling from an increased visual and emotional angle, Hill said they are often overlooked due to the criticism surrounding the screenings rather than the stories themselves. Stereotypes surrounding their fast speed and goofy soundtracks when poorly projected have trumped the original luster and harmonious musical accompaniments they once displayed, he said.
âSilent cinema is the birth of cinema and you can trace the development of narrative storytelling through its very sophisticated forms,â Hill said. “When sound is introduced, it actually comes down to the development of the film itself due to the limitations of the equipment they had to use.”
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Throughout the event, NSMD attendees can browse silent film history, watch restored short films online starring Harold Lloyd and experience renewed musical accompaniments recorded for the Silent Treatment screening, Hill said. Despite misconceptions surrounding the sound of silent films, he said the sheet music performed by composer Cliff Retallick will be presented to reflect how films have been properly screened in the past with music.
Along with Hill’s planning for the NSMD, film programmer Paul Malcolm said that preserving and restoring silent films like Harold Lloyd’s requires a day of celebration to raise awareness of the art form. Promoting access to quality silent film screenings and encouraging global participation in funding and research are goals of the NSMD that can help shed light on an often overlooked genre, said Malcolm.
While the fundamentals of storytelling are ingrained in silent films, Malcolm said the sensitive nature of preserving the nitrate film stock and the disappearance of films from the theaters and studios distribution chain has led to a need critical to protect the remaining film. Harold Lloyd’s films are of particular interest to the preservation work of the UCLA Film and Television Archive because of their comic character, said Malcolm.
âWe restored so many important (Harold Lloyd) shorts and feature films that it looked like Harold would be a really great character and screen figure to highlight,â said Malcolm. “Harold represents an American dynamism, a young, eternal optimist on the rise, and his comedy is built entirely around that optimism and positive attitude.”
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Recalling Harold Lloyd’s impact on silent shorts, Suzanne Lloyd said her grandfather’s motivation was to deliver authentic comedy as a character played by a genuine person. Although a prop bomb and a cigarette explosion left the actor with missing fingers on his right hand, she said her grandfather remains determined to deliver comedy on a regular basis – despite the physical setback.
âHarold was very convinced that he had a character to build on and a second subplot rooted in romantic comedy,â said Suzanne Lloyd. “He always wanted realism in the way he connected with people in a scene.”
In her work teaching silent films to children, Suzanne Lloyd said the engaged responses she receives from young audiences are a hopeful reminder that her grandfather’s comedy and the fundamental impact of the genre have a continuing reach today. The warmth and sincerity that Harold Lloyd exudes onscreen is one reason audiences of all ages can root for him in the various situations he encounters in his films, she said.
âSilent film actors are like great designers or architects where you take the bones of what they’ve built and then you make a model of it,â said Suzanne Lloyd. “People need to find out where silent films come from and what sparked this kind of comedy and acting.”