Silent Film fest Proves: Culture Has No Border
Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
“How do we link young people to their responsibility for development? A silent film festival is an entertaining way to think about how to take over responsibility, how to take care, how to engage and not all things are irrelevant. Musicians from the country can relate to films from other countries. It shows that culture has no border. Silent films as language and music are able to overcome borders,” said Goethe Institut Philipinen Director Dr. Petra Raymond.
Raymond is referring to the 8th Edition of the International Silent Film Festival to be held at Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall from August 28-31, 2014. This is the festival where Filipino musicians score silent films from different parts of the world live. This year will also feature a world-renowned pianist from France Hakim Bentchouala-Golobitch. The screenings are free and open to the public on a first come first served basis. Every year there are long queues so make sure to check listings and schedules.
USA-CITY OF LIGHTS starring Charlie Chaplin with RADIOACTIVE SAGO PROJECT (Aug 28), Germany-DER MÜDE TOD (Destiny) with MANILA COMPOSER’S LAB in cooperation with Dr. Pierre Oser (Aug 29), France-VERDUN: VISIONS D’HISTOIRE (Verdun:Versions of History) with pianist HAKIM BENTCHOULA-GOLOBITCH (Aug 29), Italy-MA L’AMOR MIO NON MUORE! (Love Everlasting) with Caliph8 & Soprano Fame Flores (Aug 30), Japan- CHUJI TABI NIKKI (A Diary of Chuji’s Travels) with KAAPIN (Aug 30), Spain- CURRO VARGAS with GLASS CHERRY BREAKERS (Aug 31), Philippines- ANG TIGMO SA AKING PAGPAULI (Riddles of my Homecoming) with KALAYO (Aug 31).
The silent film festival has been going on at the Shang Cineplex for 8 years. The event has hosted films contributed by embassies and is anything but profit driven. French Audio Visual Attaché Martin Macalintal said, “The local cost of organizing a film fest can be prohibitive. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Shang Rila Plaza for hosting the festival.”
The Film Development Council has been part of the fest for several years, sponsoring and organizing the Philippine entry. FDCP Executive Dir Teddy Granados adds, “I would like to congratulate organizers and the different embassies. We from the FDCP have told them the Silent Film Festival is the most difficult fest to organize. Looking for a suitable material is very difficult because you’re looking deep into your archives to look during the Silent film era in the 20’s or earlier. And it’s really difficult to find material that’s suitable for showing in a cinema. Especially if it’s already been restored. Finally another difficulty is getting the musicians to play in the festival.”
The Goethe Institut is one of the founding members of the fest. Dr. Raymond took over from previous director Richard Kuenzel since 2012. She goes on, “When I came to the Philippines years ago and I was inheriting the participation of the Goethe of this festival. I was asking myself what could we do with this to continue? Do we have enough silent films to present? That was my first question. I went back to the archive and thought ok Germany has a big archive. So this is not the problem.”
The next question is being able to justify the effort and expense. After getting to see the fest she sees the benefits are truly worth it, “I find the construction of this festival very convincing. It is unique it is experimental. It has connections to cultural heritage and traditions. We are able to target young audiences in the Philippines. In the Philippines most of the people are young so how do you connect young people with understanding history? We relate to a lot of issues. This year we commemorate the start of the First World War a hundred years ago. All of a sudden we see not so many things have changed. The world is again in danger.”
She hopes the fest will be an ongoing event for years to come, “I hope that we will find again next year a group of countries who would like to organize the 9th Edition. When Martin (Macalintal) presented his film & music and he was missing. That is also an invitation to other countries, always an open call who would like to join, participate next year. This is an experiment and is working out very well. Maybe we can have deeper relations than just diplomacy.”
The German film DER MÜDE TOD (Destiny) by Fritz Lang is accompanied by an orchestra using the work of Manila Composer’s Lab. Just like last year they consulted and worked with German composer Pierre Osser. Young composers include Pat Rodriguez, Mika Lopez, Marie Luise Caldero and Melita Cruz.
Manila Composer’s Lab Director Jonas Baes said, “The thing about writing music for film, you have to situate yourself in another space in another time. This particular film put us in this space-time limbo. Just as that happens I asked the composers to think 1921 but also think here and now. That was more complex because the film will happen in 3 settings: China, the Renaissance and Venice. All of those had to be manifested in the music.”
Baes added that there will be more instrumentalists this year, “Music will create this whole environment, in a way, which the film is trying to project. In a way we are in dialogue with a film. The film answers in a way that is more subtle. So that is what we have been doing in the past 3 months. It’s a long film, we have 4 composers and we have a little orchestra, a bigger ensemble than what we had last year. We have employed 12 musicians and a conductor.”