Some news is too good not to share, even if the Atlantic Ocean makes this a little inconvenient for me, personally. If you can be in New York later this month and next, I urge you to attend a particularly excellent birthday party.
The Women Film Pioneers Project, an impeccable resource for early and silent film history, has reached its 10th birthday. The brainchild of Jane Gaines, and managed by Kate Saccone, the WFPP has been doing the good work of balancing the gender books of film history for 10 years now, and this calls for a celebration. One that takes the form of a film season, curated by Saccone with Dave Kehr at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The season, named After Alice, Beyond Lois, runs 25 October-10 November 2023 and endeavours to reveal the depth and breadth of the female contribution to silent film, taking the conversation beyond those well-regarded names. In the curators’ words:
“Because the films of Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber, Dorothy Arzner, Germaine Dulac, and Asta Nielsen, among others, have become more widely available to the public in recent years, this 15-program series aims to expand visibility around other women artists—some familiar names, many lesser-known—and to spotlight new archival discoveries and recent restorations, less familiar titles, and rarely screened films. Drawing primarily from the published essays on WFPP, this series puts just a small sampling of the richness of women’s contributions to early cinema on view.”
There is lots that I can recommend in this season, including the opening-night screening of Frances Marion-scripted The First Year (Frank Borzage, 1926 – more on which anon), The Peasant Women of Riazan (Olga Preobrazhenskaya, Ivan Pravov, 1927), Florence Turner in both the hilarious The Boatswain’s Mate (H. Manning Haynes, 1924) written by Lydia Hayward, and Daisy Doodad’s Dial (Florence Turner, 1914), plus Ellen Richter making a mockery of sexual hypocrisy in Moral (Willi Wolff, 1928).
I can’t forget two of my absolute favourites: Handë: Das Leben und die Liebe eines Zärtlichen Geschlechts/Hands: The Life and Loves of the Gentler Sex, Stella F. Simon, Miklos Bandy, 1928) and Musidora’s Soleil et ombre (Sol y sombra; Sun and Shadow, 1922).
I would also like to pick out of the programme a title I haven’t seen but sounds great, a Czech film called Adam and Eva (Václav Binovec, 1922), written by and starring Suzanne Marwille, who take the dual role of cross-dressing twins.
There’s so much more too. The programme is almost entirely silent film, with lots on 35mm, and the silents are accompanied by live music. Do go, even if you will make me jealous.