HippFest 2021: Silent era films – Classics and hidden gems

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival has announced its 10th festival programme, running Wednesday 17th till Saturday 21st March 2021.

The festival, affectionately known as HippFest, is usually housed in Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema The Hippodrome in Bo’ness. This year however, the full programme will go online for the first time, after being cancelled due to the covid pandemic.

The 10th programme is as varied as ever, featuring fan favourites and lesser-known classics from the silent era. Thanks to the new online format, you don’t even have to be in Bo’ness to join in; audiences can enjoy film and music from wherever they are across the globe, including accompaniment from acclaimed international jazz musician Wycliffe Gordon and the Graves Brothers from the USA.

And, as in previous years, the women of Hollywood are front and centre, with Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks and Mary Pickford all featuring in the star-studded programme.

Louise Brooks in Prix de beauté

The festival kicks off on Wednesday 17th March with Body and Soul (1925) a film by Oscar Micheaux – one of the most successful African-American film makers of the early 20th Century. Introduced by film historian and documentary film maker Professor Charles Musser, and accompanied by an 18-piece orchestral score written by American jazz musician Wycliffe Gordon.

Post screening, viewers can learn more about the history of jazz and its role in American film with a live Q&A, and listen to Wycliffe’s playlist at the end of the night. 

The Hippodrome, Bo’ness

Elsewhere there will be a behind the scenes tour of the beautiful pre art deco Hippodrome Cinema and a rare screening of thrilling documentary Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life (1925). This feature by the dynamic directing duo behind King Kong, tells the jaw-dropping story of a tribe of nomads in Iran and their epic trek with half-a-million animals across impossible terrain to reach summer pasture.

On the Friday, Festival favourite Neil Brand illuminates HippFest’s programme, with his orchestral score written for British drama Underground (1928), performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and introduced by the BFI’s silent film curator Bryony Dixon. Neil will also provide piano accompaniment for the Friday Night Gala presentation of The Eagle (1925), a sweeping historical romance starring Hollywood’s original sex symbol: Rudolph Valentino as a dashing Russian lieutenant who catches the lustful eye of Catherine the Great.  

On Saturday afternoon silent film historian and writer Pamela Hutchison introduces the French Prix de Beauté (1930), starring iconic star of the silent era Louise Brooks, with a brilliant score written and performed by multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne.

Saturday evening is a glamorous affair, with the much-anticipated presentation of the German silent The Woman Men Yearn For (Die Frau, Nach der Man Sich Sehnt) (1929).

The Woman Men Yearn For 

There’s loads more going on, best check out the festival website to keep up to date.

HippFest will run Wednesday 17th till Saturday 21st March 2021


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