San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Thu May 28 - Mon Jun 1
Multiple locations
Movies, Film Festivals


The SF Silent Film Festival features a wonderful program of new discoveries and restorations; with extraordinary live musical accompaniment.


Thursday, May 28

All Quiet On The Western Front
7:00 PM (134 min)
Lewis Milestone’s filmed version of the classic antiwar drama All Quiet on the Western Front was the first to win Academy Awards for both Outstanding Production and Best Director. At its release the film was prepared both as a talkie and as a sync-sound “silent” version with title cards, orchestral score, and sound effects. But this version was lost until the Library of Congress discovered the alternate without dialogue and restored it for the anniversary of the Great War.

Opening Night Party
at McRoskey Mattress Company
9:00 PM (120 min)
Following the live cinema presentation of All Quiet on the Western Front, celebrate with good food, excellent drink, and live music in the top-floor loft of the historic McRoskey Mattress Company building at 1687 Market Street, San Francisco.

Friday, May 29

Amazing Tales from the Archives
10:00 AM (90 min)
Preservationist and raconteur Serge Bromberg, of Lobster Films in Paris, will share the entertaining story of finding Maurice Tourneur’s 1914 short FIGURES DE CIRE (HOUSE OF WAX). It took 15 years to unearth the film, and today it receives a long-awaited screening! Film restorer Robert Byrne will describe the meticulous process of reconstructing and restoring William Gillette’s SHERLOCK HOLMES—a film thought lost until a complete dupe negative was identified in the vaults of the Cinémathèque Française last year. Byrne’s presentation will include the technical, historical, and curatorial aspects of returning the film to a state as close as possible to that experienced by audiences almost 100 years ago. This is a free event. No tickets will be issued.

Cave of the Spider Women (Pan si dong)
1:00 PM (60 min)
Since so much of early Chinese cinema has been lost, the recent discovery of a nitrate 35mm print of Cave of the Spider Women in the archives of the National Library of Norway was cause for worldwide celebration. Cave of the Spider Women is a rare example of the magic-spirit film, a popular genre in ’20s Shanghai. The film set Chinese box-office records in 1927 but was considered lost until the discovery in Norway.

When the Earth Trembled
4:00 PM (48 min)
In 1913, early film mogul Siegmund Lubin decided that the time had come to begin producing films longer than the one or two reel (10-25 minute) films that were the norm. Keeping with his philosophy that “spectacles and disasters” were what audiences wanted to see, he went all-in with his first mega-production, a three-reel film titled When the Earth Trembled, or The Strength of Love, featuring the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire as its centerpiece. Now more than one hundred years after its original release, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has teamed with EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands to restore and preserve When the Earth Trembled and return it to the screen.

The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann)
7:00 PM (90 min)
In this, his greatest role, Emil Jannings plays the chief porter at a prestigious hotel, a position affording him respect and dignity.

The Ghost Train
9:30 PM (93 min)
Based on the hugely successful stage play by Arnold Ridley, The Ghost Train employs a variety of techniques from animation to superimposition that highlight Hungarian director Géza von Bolváry’s visual approach to storytelling.

Saturday, May 30

10:00 AM (85 min)
Harold Lloyd’s last silent film is classic Lloyd, replete with ingenious gags and hilarious set pieces -- the first takes him to the famous amusement park at Coney Island, the second to Yankee Stadium with Babe Ruth in tow!

Visages d'enfants
1:00 PM (117 min)
This moving portrayal of childhood grief is told with unwavering honesty and profound humanity. Preceding the screening, Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films will receive the 2015 SFSFF Award.

The Donovan Affair
4:30 PM (73 min)
Based on a play by the prolific Owen Davis (whose 1923 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Icebound is currently being revived Off-Off-Broadway). For this special screening at SFSFF, the lost Donovan Affair soundtrack will be recreated live, with the dialogue instantaneously dubbed by actors hand picked for their affinity to the acting style of the late ’20s and ’30s.

Flesh and the Devil
7:00 PM (112 min)
Clarence Brown’s superb direction and William H. Daniels’s exquisite photography are matched by brilliant performances. Garbo is at her most alluring here, and the growing off-screen passion between her and Gilbert permeates their on-screen chemistry.

9:30 PM (105 min)
This brilliant film adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning author Knut Hamsun’s famous 1894 novel Pan was scripted and directed by Harald Schwenzen, a talented young actor.

Sunday, May 31

The Amazing Charley Bowers
10:00 AM (75 min)
Almost forgotten in the US until Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films revived his oeuvre in 2010, Charley Bowers (nicknamed ‘Bricolo’ in France) directed and acted in masterpieces of live action and puppet animation in the late 1920s. In spite of being championed by André Breton and the Surrealists for his extraordinary vision. Films include: A WILD ROOMER (1926, 24 minutes), NOW YOU TELL ONE (1926, 22 minutes), MANY A SLIP (1927, 12 minutes), THERE IT IS (1928, 17 minutes)

Avant-Garde Paris
12:30 PM (60 min)
Two extraordinary films from Paris in the 1920s illustrate the artistic and intellectual ferment of the time when many of the world’s great artists and thinkers convened in the City of Lights. EMAK-BAKIA (d. Man Ray, 1927, 16 minutes) and MÉNILMONTANT (d. Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1926, 44 minutes). Written and directed by the Russian émigré Dmitri Kirsanov, who came to cinema as a cellist in a Paris movie.

Why Be Good?
2:30 PM (81 min)
Restored by Warner Bros. at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.

4:30 PM (86 min)
Director Per Lindberg includes an astonishing shot of endless rows of typists in a huge office space that predates similar more famous scenes in King Vidor’s The Crowd and Billy Wilder’s The Apartment by years. Restored by Swedish Film Institute.

Sherlock Holmes
7:00 PM (116 min)
The silent film version of Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette has been found! Long considered lost since its first release, the Gillette film is a vital missing link in the history of Holmes on screen. Directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by Essanay Studios in 1916, it was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française recently.

The Swallow and the Titmouse (L'Hirondelle et la Mésange)
9:30 PM (79 min)
This remarkable film spent 63 years on the shelf unedited before film editor Henri Colpi discovered more than six hours of André Antoine’s saga and trimmed the footage to an exquisite 79 minutes. Antoine’s pioneering film was depicted in an almost documentary style and his dazzling realism would take many years to catch on. Restored by Cinémathèque Française.

Monday, June 1

So You Think You Know Silents
1:00 PM (60 min)
Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s famed Film Forum, will host a challenging trivia quiz called “So You Think You Know Silents?” Free event. No tickets will be issued for this film.

The Deadlier Sex
3:00 PM (60 min)
Preserved by the Academy Film Archive from the only known surviving film element, a 35mm tinted nitrate print from the Archive’s Lobster Film Collection. Funding for the restoration was provided by The Louis B. Mayer Foundation.

100 Years in Post-Production: Resurrecting a Lost Landmark of Black Film History
5:00 PM (90 min)
At a challenging time of segregation in the fall of 1913, a virtuoso cast of African-American performers led by famed Caribbean-American entertainer Bert Williams (1874–1922) gathered in the Bronx to make a feature-length motion picture. Shot at locations in New York and New Jersey, the comedy centers on Williams’ efforts to win the hand of the local beauty, and boasts among its highlights a two-minute exhibition dance sequence and a cutting-edge display of on-screen affection between its black leads.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
7:00 PM (141 min)
Kevin Brownlow will appear on stage in conversation with Serge Bromberg directly preceding the screening! Restored by Photoplay and Turner Entertainment Company, the film will be shown with a soundtrack scored by Carl Davis.


Castro Theatre
429 Castro St
San Francisco, CA
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McRoskey Mattress Company
1687 Market St
San Francisco, CA
Event has passed



  1. Castro Theatre
    429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA
  2. McRoskey Mattress Company
    1687 Market St, San Francisco, CA