Scotland's first silent movie festival kicks off

Country's oldest purpose-built cinema hosts weekend of classics

by Amber Wilkinson

Scotland’s first silent movie festival starts at the country’s oldest purpose-built cinema tonight, when the restored Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness hosts a weekend of rare and classic films, workshops, live musical performance and special events aimed at celebrating the magic of silent cinema and the Hippodrome’s place within Scotland’s great tradition of cinema-going.

The Festival features movies from stars of the early 20th century such as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy and the irresistibly charming Clara Bow.

The Opening Night Gala will be a glamorous affair with a screening of the film that defined the 1920s: It starring the sensational Clara Bow at the height of her career. Rarely seen in British cinemas, IT is a sparkling comedy in which Bow stars as the original ‘It’ girl who knows exactly how to use it. The dress code for the evening is 1920s glamour and the flapper style that defined a decade, so it’s a chance to dazzle and be dazzled.

One of the UK’s finest silent film pianists, Neil Brand will be coming to Bo’ness to host his critically acclaimed live show The Silent Pianist Speaks and to provide live improvised piano accompaniment to It, a programme of shorts entitled Another Fine Mess With Laurel And Hardy, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr, Never Weaken with Harold Lloyd and Scottish Screen Archive titles throughout the weekend.

Other highlights of the Festival include: a selection of comedy gems from the Scottish Screen Archive, Scottish theatre company Plutôt la Vie’s Slapstick Workshop for everyone over the age of 12, and New Found Sound – the world première of a specially commissioned soundtrack composed and performed by secondary school pupils from the Falkirk Council area.

The Closing Night Gala is a beguiling live performance by David Allison of The Island Tapes with F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu.

Festival Director Alison Strauss said: "The whole event is designed to celebrate the magic, glamour and pure entertainment of films from the silent era. Our programme and the supporting events include something for all ages and we’ve made sure that the wide appeal will involve a broad range of tastes, from cinephiles to anyone discovering early film for the first time.

"The setting for the Festival is wonderfully appropriate, with the rich history of Scotland’s oldest purpose built cinema adding to the Festival vibe and transporting audiences back to the time when movies were unrivalled in their popularity across the globe.

"The present-day notion of ‘stardom’ was born with the movie actors and actresses of the silent era, attracting astonishing levels of fan adoration. Seeing your favourite film star at the cinema was a regular part of millions of peoples’ lives and it’s going to be a real treat for audiences today to see those movie greats on the big screen again where they belong."

The full festival programme and ticket information are available from

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