The Silent Movie Festival, the flagship event of the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, will be held on April 4-7 at the Iluzjon cinema at 50A Narbutta Street and the FINA headquarters at 3/5 Wałbrzyska Street. The star of this year's edition will be none other than Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes

Why Sherlock Holmes? In 2009, a small but very valuable collection of film tapes containing lost films from the silent movie era was discovered in a church basement in Sosnowiec. Among them was "The Hound of the Baskervilles" from 1929, directed by Richard Oswald. This movie, the last silent film based on a story featuring the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes, was restored by FINA in a partnership project with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. As a result, our collection now contains the only known surviving 35 mm print of the film. The premiere screening of this restored sensational find will open the 16th Silent Movie Festival.

The decision to present "The Hound of the Baskervilles" during this year's Festival was the starting point for us to plan a rich programme of other interesting films from that period, where the heroes are either Sherlock himself or detectives inspired by him. They include, among others, "Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Berthelet from 1916 (found in 2014), with the legendary William Gillette in the title role, and also "The Sign of Four" by Maurice Elvey from 1923 – the crowning achievement of the detective film genre.

Although this cinematic genre has already been featured at the Silent Movie Festival, this will be the first time that we have shown adaptations of the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and these films will also be supplemented with other references to the genre, pastiches and apocrypha. Particularly noteworthy are two films in which the main characters are women: "The Secret Castle" aka "Miss Clever versus the 'Black Hand'" by an unknown director from 1914 and "Filibus", directed by Mario Roncoroni, from 1915, which is something of a genre hybrid – this will be the World Sneak Preview of a recently restored version.

Serge Bromberg

A second important element of the Festival’s programme is the show created by Serge Bromberg, in which he showcases his carefully-chosen selection of interesting films. This French champion of silent cinema, known as the "Indiana Jones of Lost Movies", has been trying for decades to bring silent movies closer to cinema audiences, and he constantly surprises us with his innovative approach to the subject. He finds and restores films so that he can bring back to the public movies that had previously remained on the margins of interest of the film archives. Serge Bromberg is a truly versatile man: the founder of Lobster Films, producer, director (winner of a César Award for best documentary for "Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno") and curator. Now we can also get to know him as a compere, showman and accompanist. 

Although at his request we won’t be revealing the full programme until the day of the show, we can lift the veil of secrecy a little and announce that it will contain the most valuable films from the first years of the twentieth century: "After the Ball" (1897) and "The Fireman of the Folies Bergères" from 1927 featuring an uncredited Josephine Baker. Some of these unusually beautiful films were hand-painted and have never been shown before in Poland on the big screen in their restored versions. One particularly interesting part will be the screening of the only known public information film with a comedic tone ("Those Awful Hats") made by D.W. Griffith. These screenings – aimed at viewers of all ages – can also be an extraordinary journey into the past for younger viewers.

Movies From 100 Years Ago

This edition of the Silent Movie Festival will also see the launch of a new permanent cycle in the repertoire of the Iluzjon cinema, entitled simply Movies From 100 Years Ago. Throughout the year, and not just on ‘special festival occasions’, the cycle will present movies considered milestones in the development of world cinema, representing interesting restoration projects or films overlooked for years, which today can surprise us with their artistic value and modernity. One of these latter films is the 1919 movie which will open the cycle – "Behind the Door", directed by Irvin Willat.

Festival Guests

The screenings at the 16th Silent Movie Festival will be graced by distinguished guests from all over the world: scholars and curators, and also the specialists under whose care the archival and restoration work was actually carried out. In addition to the aforementioned Serge Bromberg, they will include: Professor Giovanna Fossati – head curator of the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, Professor Russell Merritt from the University of Berkeley and Robert Byrne – director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. All screenings will be accompanied by live music performed by outstanding Polish artists.

A Weekend with Sherlock Holmes at Wałbrzyska 3/5

The Silent Movie Festival has traditionally been held at the Iluzjon cinema. Since the merger which established FINA, however, we also have at our disposal the premises of the newly-established institution. And so this year, for our Festival weekend, we can also invite Sherlock Holmes fans to 3/5 Wałbrzyska Street for a wide range of interesting activities before the evening screenings at the Iluzjon. Together with the organisers of Sherlockon, we have prepared a programme of workshops, discussion panels, lectures, radio plays and film screenings, which means that even the most fastidious "Sherlockists" will find something of interest for them!


Sherlock Holmes

April 4 – 7