Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Bay Area cinephiles have learned to speak up about their love for silent cinema. Not only did MovieMaker magazine recently include the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) as one of the 20 "coolest" film festivals of 2010—and not only did San Franciscans just experience Chaplin's comic antics, Marcel L'Herbier's L'Argent (1928) and King Vidor's La Boheme (1926) at SFSFF's Winter Event—but now the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) proudly partner with UC Berkeley's Department of Film and Media to host an international conference on silent cinema, Cinema Across Media: The 1920s, to be held from February 24 to 26.

As indicated at the BAM/PFA website: "At its core, the conference will examine cinema's institutional consolidation in the twenties, when practitioners were enlisted from many other fields such as architecture, design, painting, music, and vaudeville, resulting in a transformation of established media. Avant-garde cinemas borrowed extensively from a variety of artistic practices, while the 'cinematic' became the new standard for other Modernist aesthetics and popular culture. PFA welcomes film scholars Anne Nesbet, Gertrud Koch, and Paolo Cherchi Usai as well as the talented Judith Rosenberg on piano for these special presentations of films from the height of the silent era."

The full two-and-a-half-day schedule can be found at the conference's official website, which notes: "Today's multimedia environment brings cinema of the 1920s into new focus as the site of rich intermedial traffic, especially if the term 'media' encompasses not only recording technologies and mass media, such as photography, phonography, radio, and illustrated press, but also the physical materials used for aesthetic expression, such as paint, print, plaster, stone, voice, and bodies.

Cinema Across Media: The 1920s is a two-and-a-half-day conference that will include five plenary speeches, two plenary roundtables, eight concurrent panels, and a weeklong series of silent film screenings with live musical accompaniment at the Pacific Film Archive. The purpose of the conference is to gather scholars, archivists, and students from a variety of fields in order to assess international cinema from the 1920s as a dynamic center for adjacent media practices. The conference will feature an international group of scholars from a variety of disciplines, including music, architecture, literature, art history, theater, dance, and performance studies, as well as film archivists, curators, and researchers from archives, museums, and institutes worldwide."

I'm particularly excited to hear Thomas Elsaesser's closing speech on "Cinema Across Media: Expanding the Avant-Garde beyond the Political Divide" and the ensuing plenary roundtable where Elsaesser will be joined by Tom Gunning, Gertrud Koch, Paolo Cherchi Usai, and Anthony Vidler. I'm also looking forward to presentations by Luciana Corrêa de Araújo on movie prologues in Rio de Janeiro (1926-27); Laura Isabel Serna on ethnography, costumbrismo, and Mexican feature film production; and David Wood on performance in 1920s Mexican cinema.

With the exception of film screenings, which are subject to PFA's regular admission rates, all conference events (plenary speeches, roundtables, and panels) are free and open to the public. However, advance registration for the conference is strongly recommended.

Cross-published on Twitch.

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