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 • Music premiere from Graeme Stephen for Lon Chaney’s The Penalty to go on tour

• Death-defying stunts from Baby Peggy (age 4) and Tony the Wonder Horse

• Uncovered archive films of Glasgow’s little-known Hollywood slapstick star Billie Ritchie

Today (Tues 6 February) Falkirk Community Trust launched its 8th Silent Film Festival programme at Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema The Hippodrome in Bo’ness.

Affectionately known as ‘HippFest’ this annual event (Wed 21 – Sun 25 March 2018) is Scotland’s only festival dedicated to silent film - recently scooping two accolades in the international ‘Silent London’ poll – bronze for ‘Best Silent Film Festival’ and joint silver for ‘Best Silent Film Venue’ year-round.

This year’s programme is packed with film gems from the silent-era, talks on early cinema pioneers and world-class live music. Multi-instrumentalist David Allison opens the Festival on Wednesday night with his new score written to accompany a rare screening of thrilling adventure film The Last of the Mohicans: the first film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel. Broadcaster and renowned musician/composer Neil Brand (BBC4 Sound of Musicals) playing live, accompanies romantic comedy The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg starring ‘the Queen of MGM studios’ Norma Shearer, and celebrated silent film accompanist and composer Stephen Horne and German percussionist Frank Bockius perform their live score for the BFI’s restoration Underground – a subterranean tale of love, jealousy, treachery and murder set in 1920s London.

International collaborations include: The Treasure (Der Schatz) a dark German fantasy about the corrupting power of greed with the world premiere of a new score written and performed by acclaimed German composer and musician Alois Kott, the European Premiere of Striving recently restored by the China Film Archive, and the BFI’s latest epic restoration of British-Indian-German co-production Shiraz: A Romance of India.

The programme also features a horror-double bill on Saturday night with the great American actor Lon Chaney as a tortured criminal mastermind and amputee in The Penalty accompanied by the premiere of a new score commissioned by HippFest and performed by Scottish jazz guitarist and composer Graeme Stephen and cellist Pete Harvey. Thanks to support from Film Hub Scotland, a member of the BFI Film Audience Network, this new commission will go on tour in 2018. Our late-night drama continues with the screening of a long-lost scare flick Seven Footprints to Satan a riotous and at times salacious movie directed by Benjamin Christensen also known for Haxan (1922).

Child performer Baby Peggy played by Diana Serra Cary age 4 – who is currently the oldest silent screen actor living in California, now age 99 stars in The Kid Reporter, and Tony the Wonder Horse – trusty steed to ‘the king of cowboys’ Tom Mix, stars in The Great K&A Robbery – seen galloping on the tops of trains in this thrilling western screened outdoors on the platform at Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway Station.

Other notable highlights include a talk on the little-known story of Scottish slapstick star Billie Ritchie who made over 70 films for Hollywood, pre-dating Chaplin but still relatively unknown; multi-talented Scottish singer-songwriter Gerda Stevenson performing her poetry and songs written to celebrate the work of Scottish filmmaker, botanist and writer Isobel Wylie Hutchison (Call of the North event); Laurel & Hardy’s final silent film the hilarious Unaccustomed as We Are which was also their first ever talkie; and Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life, a powerful trek through Persia in the 1920s directed by Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack who both went on to direct the first King Kong film.

In the Year of Young People, the Festival will premiere work by local schools in the Falkirk area played to a selection of silents from the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive. This event New Found Sound, is part of HippFest’s youth engagement programme which includes primary school workshops delivered by Into Film exploring Victorian camera tricks, workshops with local youth clubs and a short silent film produced by Falkirk’s Champions Board (young people who have been, or are currently in care) as part of Cashback for Creativity. This year for the first time the Festival is also collaborating with local creative writing group [Untitled] to present the work of Orcadian filmmaker Margaret Tait who celebrates her 100th anniversary this year. This special event will feature screenings of three of her films accompanied by spoken word and poetry from BAFTA winner Gerda Stevenson, Falkirk’s SAY Award nominee Adam Stafford and Cine Poet Lesley Traynor.

Organised by Falkirk Community Trust with key funding from Falkirk Council, HippFest is supported by BFI Audience Fund, using money from the National Lottery, through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund to engage more audiences across the UK with silent cinema.

Published on Tuesday, 6th February 2018

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