San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event

I missed the big, three-day festival in July, and I’m determined to make this one.

On Saturday, December 12, the Castro will come alive with crowds, film, and live music with four feature films—one a 162-minute epic—for the 5th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event.

It will start at 11:30 with Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, an ethnographic feature shot in Siam by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack six years before they made King Kong. This is a far more realistic look at life in the jungle, part staged and part documentary. Donald Sosin will accompany Chang on the piano.

Then comes the real treat (and the only film on the schedule I haven’t seen): The complete version of Abel Gance’s 1919 anti-war epic J’Accuse has never played in the United States, and hasn’t been available anywhere else for a very long time. Now this recently restored epic gets its American premiere. Screening at 2:00, with Robert Israel performing an adaption of his orchestral score on the Castro’s Wurlitzer.

We’ll all need a long break after that, and a long laugh. So the festival will reconvene at 7:00 for Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., a comedy about movies themselves and the dreams they inspire. Sherlock Jr. isn’t quite feature length, so they’re showing it with one of Keaton’s best shorts, The Goat. Dennis James will accompany both on the Mighty Wurlitzer, with percussionist Mark Goldstein adding sound effects.

Finally, the close the day on a dark note, at 9:15 we’ll get to watch West of Zanzibar, a Tod Browning/Lon Chaney melodrama set in the jungles of Africa.

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