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Silent magic in La Serena.

IN 1995, THE FILM industry will celebrate the first centennial of cinema as an artistic expression. But the city of La Serena--located 470 kilometers north of Santiago, Chile--has already begun the celebration with their First International Silent Film Festival. This unique event in Latin America is second in importance only to the International Film Festival in Pordenone, Italy, which is in its ninth year.

During the weeks of February, the beach resort of La Serena went back in time to the roaring twenties. Vintage cars rolled through the town; men, women and children were decked out in their grandparents clothes; mimes and jazz bands performed in the streets; and, of course, people watched and enjoyed a myriad of silent films.

The festival in La Serena is the end result of the vision, effort and dedication of its director, Daniel Sandoval, who besides being a film lover, is one of only two professional film restorers working in Latin America.

Sandoval conceived the festival with two objectives in mind. First, as a point of encounter for specialists in film restoration and preservation, the event offered an opportunity to share ideas and experiences. According to Sandoval new techniques, equipment and materials make possible the restoration and preservation of the majority of the films made between 1895 and 1930. And, he maintains, it is urgent to identify, catalog and restore this "cultural patrimony" before it disappears. The second objective was to celebrate the silent cinema and make it accessible to a new audience, young people who have not had prior exposure to this special film genre.

Rare films from around the world were screened during this nine day event at three different venues in the city: the Municipal Theater, the Plaza Gabriel Gonzales Videla in downtown, and the Costanera Avenida del Mar by the beach. Organized into six categories, such as "The Primitives", "The Classics", and "Great Comics of the Silent Era", the films represented a broad spectrum of works created between 1895 and 1927. "The Primitives" showcased films from the nascent years of the industry, including the oldest Chilean film preserved, "El Paseo a Playa Ancha", dating from 1903, Among the "Classics", which were shown with musical accompaniment by small local orchestras, were Charles Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" (1925), opening the festival. Other films in this category included, "Birth of a Nation" (1915) and "Intolerance" (1916) by D.W. Griffith; "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari" (1919) by Robert Wiene; "Metropolis" (1929) by Fritz Lang; and "La Edad de Oro" (1930) by Luis Bunuel.

"Great Comics of the Silent Era" featured films by Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Loyd, May Linder and others. These movies were presented in open air spaces at the Plaza de Armas and at the beach. Another successful series focused on Latin. American works, with movies from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Dedicated to the memory of George Melies, one of the fathers of cinema, the festival attracted luminaries such as Marie Helene Melies--great-granddaughter of the honoree and director of the Melies film archives--and Jacques Paithes, former musical director of the Folies Bergere and creator of the piano music for Melies' short films. As a homage, over 30 of Melies' films were shown, some accompanied by the veteran Paithes on piano.

La Serena's mayor, Raul Saldivar, who provided major support for this year's encounter, would like to see it become an annual event, tying the festival into the city's growing tourism industry. Plans have already begun for next year's encounter which will focus on the silent films of today.
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Title Annotation:silent-film festival in Chile
Author:Bisquertt, Francisco
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:591
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