SWS Presents: Silent Women Film Pioneers

South West Silents are thrilled to announce a new strand of special silent film events. ‘Silent Women Film Pioneers’ is a major incentive to showcase the work of women behind the camera (whether producer, director, editor or writer) in the film industry between the dawn of film until the end of the silent era.

Spread over the course of the next few years, the ‘Silent Women Film Pioneers’ strand will launch a series of events each year highlighting the work of creative talents in the field. Each event will also include the best women commentators on the subject and live music (where possible) with the best women musicians in the country.

South West Silents is proud to present, in collaboration with F-Rating, Flicker Alley and Bath Festival 2018 Bath Film (Bath Film) the very first event of ‘Women Film Pioneers’ which highlights the work of producer and director Lois Weber (1879 – 1939).

THE-BLOT1520

Mon 5th Nov: Silent Women Film Pioneers: Revolutionary Director: Lois Weber
Chapel Arts, Bath / 6PM / Various Ticket Prices
Intro & Q&As with film critics and writers Ellen Chesire and Pamela Hutchinson
Live Music by Lillian Henley

One of the great writer-directors of early Hollywood, and the most renowned female director of her era, Lois Weber was at one time the highest-paid director in Hollywood. With a career that lasted over 25 years, during which time Weber started her own production company and directed over 40 features and hundreds of short films.

At a time when many remained wary of cinema’s cultural impact, Weber believed in the medium’s narrative and dramatic power. Among the first to produce complex feature-length narrative in the early teens, she sought to bring the same quality of artistry to the screen as flourished in other media. Her “ideal picture entertainment,” she once said, was “a well assorted shelf of books come to life” (“Lois Weber on Scripts”).

But for Weber, bringing refinement to the cinema went beyond highbrow subject matter to include films of social conscience. She often talked of using motion pictures as a means of achieving political change, aspiring to produce work “that will have an influence for good on the public mind” (Photoplay 1913, 73).

By the time Weber died in 1939, at the age of sixty, she was eulogized chiefly as a “star-maker,” a director notable only for fostering the talent of young starlets. Weber herself was “rediscovered” in the 1970s by historians like Anthony Slide, who dubbed her “the director who lost her way in history” (1996) and Richard Koszarski, who remarked that “the years have not been kind to Lois Weber” (1977).

It is now time to ask what a history rewritten with Weber’s legacy in mind might look like.

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Films within this first series of events on Lois Weber will include the following: 

SUSPENSE (1913): Weber stars as a young mother who is home alone when a tramp enters her house in this visually captivating and stylistically advanced thriller. The chase scene, the use of split-screen, and the shots of the tramp ascending into the house are all powerful visuals that proclaim Lois Weber’s skill as a film director.

THE BLOT (1921): Hailed as a masterwork, this intimate drama is a biting commentary on economic inequality. Through her portrait of the Griggs family—an underpaid college professor, his long-suffering wife, and their daughter Amelia, a young librarian—Weber reveals a society where “keeping up with the Joneses” is an issue of basic nutrition rather than material possession. Weber juxtaposes social classes through the varied stations of the three men vying for Amelia’s heart: an affluent college student, a middle-class “boy next door,” and an impoverished minister. Weber’s powerful command of language in her insightful inter-titles, as well as her use of close-ups and real locations, showcase her strengths as a writer and director.

More ‘Silent Women Film Pioneers’ events to come. If you are a venue or a group and would be interested in South West Silents hosting this Lois Weber event where you are then please do drop us a line: southwestsilents@gmail.com 

You can read more about Women Film Pioneers on Columbia University’s website dedicated to the subject.

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