South West Silents is a regional film organisation that specialises in screening films from the silent era. Born out of the volunteer organisation Bristol Silents, we are becoming established as a leader in screening silent film. With expert knowledge of pre-sound cinema, a diverse combined experience in archive film programming, and extensive contacts in both the global archive film networks including festivals, archives and musicians, we aim to be the first and best point of contact for all matters involving silent cinema in the region.
South West Silents’ aim is to celebrate the history of cinema and share our passion and enthusiasm for silent film with anyone and everyone, not only in the South West of England but in the wider UK and world. We want to keep silent film alive for future generations, inspiring as many people as possible with the wonderful world of silent film. Through providing high quality and innovative film screenings and events, educational programmes and restorations we aim to develop younger and more diverse audiences for this unique art form.
We intend to achieve this by ensuring:
Print quality: Archive films (particularly silent film) are more accessible than ever thanks to Youtube and other online ventures. Sadly the quality of these prints and transfers are consistently poor, leading audiences to assume that this is the standard for archive films. This is not the case, as institutional archives do incredible work to preserve and restore historic prints. Many silent films can be seen today in as good a quality as watching a modern film. We aim to screen our films to the highest visual standard possible, to showcase archive film at its very best.
Film Speed: many silent films are screened at the wrong speed, and sometimes even digital versions are recorded at the wrong speed. This means that the motion of the picture could appear too fast or too slow. It is common for silent films to be screened too fast, making the image and characters on screen appear comic and ridiculous, leading audiences to assume that this is how all archive films appear. We aim to show our films at the correct speed, and ensure best practices with projection.
Musical accompaniment: a score can make or break a silent film. Many silent films would have been accompanied by a live musical score (usually a pianist) in cinema’s all over the world in the early days of film. Some films were even accompanied by full orchestras at premiers. The art of musical accompaniment to silent film is still going strong today. However, many silent films are screened or released for home entertainment with scores which were not recorded for the film, or are just “added on” for the sake of having music. This can be detrimental to the enjoyment of the film. When a good score is composed and performed it can be the making of the film. And there is nothing like a live score being performed to a film. We aim to provide the best quality live musical accompaniment for our films screenings. And where a live accompaniment is not possible, we aim to provide the best recorded score available.
By matching films with a wider historical context and a sympathetic musical accompaniment, we hope to introduce new audiences to the heritage of cinema and screen culture.