«The idea was that silent films return to the public»
The third book edited by the Festival, "The Iron Horse”, was presented to the public. The occasion gathered two professionals of silent films restoration, who talked about the wonders of silent films, and about the prowess of rescuing these endangered master works.
Fernando Martín Peña –art director of the Festival- started the meeting in which the impeccable edition of the book "The Iron Horse” was presented. "In fact, it is a brochure, a handheld program. But the attractive thing is that it is a facsimile reproduction of the film by John Ford, in 1942”.
The feature by Ford was screened recently in this edition of the Festival, with live music by the Mar del Plata Symphony Orchestra. The publication includes the whole translation –that respects the original design-, with pictures and illustrations, and an added text that details questions of the shooting and historical facts, and complements the advertising intention of the original brochure.
In Taberna Room of Torreón del Monje, Peña talked with the historian Patrick Stanbury and with Rob Byrne- director of San Francisco Silent Film Festival-, in charge of restoring and screening the films of directors such as de D. W. Griffith, Rex Ingram, Yasujiro Ozu, and other works by Ford.
In addition, Stanbury and Byrne work in finding the ideal atmosphere for silent films screened at San Francisco, in which one of the most important factors is the experience of having live music.
It is defined as Live cinema, which is a combination between the screening of images and the live music composed exclusively for the screening. "It is a conjunction among opera, cinema and theater”, adds Stanbury. "You never know what can happen. It is a unique experience; never two functions are the same”.
Byrne tells that the silent films Festival of San Francisco started as an only event, and that the most important thing for them was finding a good auditorium, a high-quality projector, and an orchestra to put music to the evening. "We wanted to see if we had audience for silent films. We were pleasantly surprised; today the festival lasts 4 days, and we add special events”.
The program of the festival attempts to cover the total of the silent period, the first 30 years of films. The live orchestra creates an inseparable organic feeling. "Cinema and music are like the pairing wine and food. You have to choose them appropriately for an exceptional result”. For this pair work, the music part is as important as the film itself.
The selection for the festival by Stanbury and Byrne consisted of a simultaneous process: they choose the films and the music at the same time, because they must see what musicians match perfectly with a specific production. From an assembling to an orchestra, the possibilities are chosen in order to achieve the appropriate result.
Regarding restoration-the other parallel work- they say it is an intense work difficult to sustain. Works such as Sherlock Holmes -filmed in 1916- or Behind the door -screened in this edition of the Festival- have been recovered and restored with maximum quality. "We decided we had to work, spreading and showing films that had been lost for 100 years”, explains Byrne. "The idea of the festival was that silent films return to the public”.
One of his most gratifying works was preparing and screening Napoleón, by Abel Gance. "We had numerous challenges; problems with the rights, high costs because of its length, and all that was related to technical requirements”, explains Stanbury. The final screening lasted 8 hours- with three simultaneous projectors of 35 mm.- and with and orchestra of 55 musicians. It ended up in a standing ovation.
"If we had been told how much effort involved doing this kind of work, we would not have done it. But we climbed that mountain, reached the top, and it was wonderful”, remembers Stanbury.