It may already feel like a long time ago, but 2021 was one heck of a year. We were online, we were in-venue, sometimes we were both. But we were all grateful for the films, and the music. Below, it gives me great pleasure to reveal your chosen favourites, and a selection of your insightful and amusing comments too.
Thank you for your votes. Here are your winners!
- Best real-world silent film screening of 2021
Your winner: Casanova (1927), accompanied by the Orchestra San Marco, conducted by Günter Buchwald, playing his new orchestral score
“Casanova at Teatro Verdi, by Gunther Buchwald. But I also want to mention: Shoes at the Frankfurt Schauspiele with Maud Nelissen trio and also Bett und Sofa at open-air Beykoz Kundura Istanbul with Korhan Futaci and his band.”
“I only saw one (down from pre-pandemic 30 or 40 a year). So that one wins! It was a goodie though. Pandora’s Box, 35mm, Hebden Bridge, with Darius Battiwalla. Well worth the terrifying road trip over icy moors!”
2. Best online silent film screening of 2021
Your winner: Prix de Beauté (1930), accompanied by Stephen Horne, HIppFest
“Prix de Beauté at HippFest accompanied by Stephen Horne was … gobsmacking. I’m still haunted by it.”
“Really enjoyed My Cousin with Enrico Caruso, from Bologna, music recorded by Daniele Furlati, François Laurent and Guido Sodo, the internet says. Loved John Sweeney playing up a storm in a true live stream, in Daring Deeds for the Kennington Bioscope, early in the year.”
3. Best real-world silent film festival of 2021
Your winner: Pordenone Silent Film Festival, by an avalanche
4. Best online silent film festival of 2021
Your winner: HippFest
“Bonn and Pordenone were fab (and how lucky are we to be able to visit them from our desktops?) but HippFest was the loveliest of them all. Grass, Micheaux, Pickford and Brooks … all awesome. And what warm introductions and beautiful explorations of the local area!”
“The Nederlands Silent Film Festival was so close to the beginning of the year that Pordenone and Bologna are more immediate in the memory, but it was a wonderful effort from a small team, excellent sound quality and well done to them for turning the renewed lockdown in the Netherlands which forced them to go without an in-person audience, into an opportunity for an international audience to join in with them. Enjoying the 2022 Festival now, and will look forward to voting for that next year!”
5. Best silent film venue of 2021
Your winner: Teatro Verdi, Pordenone
“The Cinema Museum in London for the Kennington Bioscope, so very pleased it’s been back in operation.”
“In my imagination, I visited the Cinema Museum many, many times. Sadly the reality is, I haven’t been since the last Bioscope screening in 2020.”
6. Best online silent film screening series of 2021
Your winner: The Silent Comedy Watch Party
Honourable mention: Kennington Bioscpe
“Kennington Bioscope. Addictive and SO varied. Bravo to Michelle, John, Cyrus and the gang – and to the BFI for supporting their programme so well.”
“Endless thanks to Ben & Steve for the Silent Comedy Watch Party”
7. Best silent film streaming platform of 2021
Your winner: Stumfilm.dk
“www.stumfilm.dk just amazing. Seriously, amazing.”
8. Best silent film Blu-ray/DVD of 2021
Your winner: Filibus: The Mysterious Air Pirate (1915), Milestone Films
“The Love of Jeanne Ney (Masters of Cinema). Almost had me believing I was back in the BFI at their wonderful Weimar season … what a magnificent film.”
9. Best silent film book of 2021
Your winner: Discovering Lost Films of Georges Méliès in fin-de-siècle Flip Books, 1896–1901 , by Thierry Lecointe, Pascal Fouché, Robert Byrne and Pamela Hutchinson (John Libbey)
Thanks, Silent Londoners, this means a lot!
10. Best modern silent of 2021
Your winner: Monsters, Inc, the silent remix cartoon
“Amsterdam during lockdown”
“A bit mainstream, but Only Murders In The Building, Episode 7 “The Boy from 6B”, it’s all from the point-of-view of a Deaf character, very interesting approach.”
11. Silent film hero of 2021
Your winner: Alison Strauss
Honourable mention: Jay Weissberg
“The wonderful Alison Strauss – for bring silent cinema to Scotland each year with such love (and this year, online)!”
“Anyone who kept going”
“John Sweeney: a marvellous technical player with great flair and who always puts the film first!”
“Valerio Greco: took pictures in the theater despite the danger of becoming infected”
“All the Pordenone musicians, but especially Frank Bockius who played wonderfully for so many of the in-person screenings”
“Ben Model (aside from the watch party, his blog posts prompted some NEW THOUGHTS)”
12. Silent film discovery of 2021
Your winner: Ellen Richter, by some margin!
“Ellen Richter. I only experienced Moral online but I wished I could have seen it with an audience and on a proper screen.”
“Fred Evans as ‘Pimple’ in the Kennington Bioscope livestream curated by Bryony Dixon. The surviving films on their own are so peculiar, seeing them in context and with the background information really showcased how good they are, would love to see more.”
“Fairly new to silent film so not a discovery for others I’m sure but I loved researching Louise Brooks after watching Prix de Beauté at HippFest and immersing myself in her wonderful world through old stills… Plus in that title she was just so perfect. So much empathy for that character who almost 100 years later still feels very ‘real’.”
“Fool’s Paradise, thanks to Pordenone Online. It was my first experience of watching a silent feature film that isn’t readily available. As someone who has never so far been able to attend a film festival in person, this felt amazing to me. And the film was so much fun!”
“Ham and Eggs at the Front (1927), you didn’t specify in positive or negative.”
“The awful boy blowing bubbles getting visions of his mother……that one.” Can anyone help me on this?
“Jane Gardner’s goats toenails percussion.” I think this refers to Gardner’s Häxan accompaniment – but I NEED to know more.
13. Best silent film restoration of 2021
Your winner: Jokeren (1928), by the Danish Film Institute
“Any restoration is impressive.” True, that.
14. Intertitles of the year.
It’s just for fun, but boy did you find some good ones this year!
“What kind of mister are you – a Miss mister or a Mrs mister?” Miss Lulu Bett
“Your trousers are in police custody.” Moral
“You’d better go with him – or he’ll quit you, too – for a French Poodle!” Fool’s Paradise
“The man who takes an eel by the tail or a woman at her word soon finds that he holds nothing.” OR: “Every woman will make a fool of some man at least once.” Phil-for-Short
“Quit honking, you devils! My duck is scared to death!” – unattributed
“No intertitle. Marion Davies dropping the F-bomb in Lights of Old Broadway.”
Thanks to everyone who voted, and congratulations to all the fabulous winners!
• You can read my essay on rediscovering Ellen Richter for the Criterion Collection here.
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